ballet

WE WANT THEM TO BE THE BEST HUMANS THEY CAN BE: Jenna Lavin

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Returning to our recording studio, we had a great chat with Jenna Lavin, the newly appointed Principal of the Pre-Professional Division at Ballet Academy East (BAE). Jenna gave us a clear sense of how the BAE teaching strategy and philosophy uniquely prepares students to excel in a range of styles and techniques while cultivating a supportive, non-competitive atmosphere. We were particularly impressed to hear that BAE prioritizes not just technical prowess but also instilling students with a value system centered on human kindness and community. Jenna also spoke about her connection with the students as she nurtures their growth over the years. The advanced students perform several times a year, including an end-of-year program featuring a student-choreographed ballet in collaboration with Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. Make sure you’re following Pod de Deux for updates on performance dates!

Jenna Lavin danced professionally with the Chicago City Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, Los Angeles Ballet, and as a soloist with the Miami City Ballet under the direction of Edward Villella where she danced principal roles. She began her ballet training with Mme. Gabriela Darvash and Jody Fugate, and later graduated from the School of American Ballet where she studied with such teachers as Alexandria Danilova, Antonia Tumkovsky, and Stanley Williams. Jenna has worked with numerous choreographers, creating principal roles in ballets by Alonzo King, Lisa de Ribere, and Stanton Welch, to name a few.

The BAE Pre-Professional Division is celebrated for producing technically strong and artistically expressive dancers who are sought after for their professionalism and ability to adapt to a broad range of styles demanded of today’s dance professionals. Alumni include Ariel Rose and Petra Love (Miami City Ballet), Siobhan Howley (Pennsylvania Ballet), Hannah Marshall (American Ballet Theatre), and Erica Pereira (New York City Ballet), to name a few. The comprehensive ballet training is combined with professional-caliber performance opportunities.

THE MUSIC TAKES OVER AND DRIVES ME: Tiler Peck

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Jessica and Clara interviewed Tiler Peck leading up to the premier of her new documentary, BalletNow, which will be available for streaming on Hulu on Friday, July 20th.  The film, directed by Steven Cantor (who directed Sergei Polunin’s DANCER) and produced by Elisabeth Moss, shows Tiler assume many roles as curator, artistic director, rehearsal director and dancer in preparation for a performance at the Music Center in Los Angeles last July. In the interview, Tiler revealed what it was like rising to the greatest challenge of her life in preparing for a production that included 15 ballets in three programs, all while dancing in eight pieces. Tiler spoke about her curatorial rationale for the performance, which featured choreographers Justin Peck, Christopher Wheeldon, Michelle Dorrance, Bill Irwin, and more. Beyond BalletNow, we talked about Tiler’s enthusiasm for stepping into a new role as choreographer this summer at Vail Dance Festival, how leadership at City Ballet is developing after the departure of Peter Martins, and how she has become known as “the ballerina who stops time.” (more…)

NEVER LET THAT LIGHT BE EXTINGUISHED: JOSHUA THAKE

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Eugenia Repelskii as Henriette in Raymonda’s Wedding

Jessica and Clara had a lively chat with Joshua Thake, ballet dancer of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (better known on stage as Eugenia Repelskii and Jacques d’Aniels).  Josh revealed what it is like to prepare for roles and travel all over the world with the Trocks.  We discussed why their brand of humor works so well and how the Trocks use certain themes and elements of humor to bring ballets to life.  Naturally, we slipped into a dialog about what qualities make a great dancer connect with their audience.

Visit www.trockadero.org to find where the company is performing in a city near you.

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WHO ARE YOU DANCING FOR? : Clara Cantor

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In a rare solo interview, Clara of Pod de Deux talked to Clara Cantor, thirteen year-old student at the School of American Ballet (SAB) and PDD’s youngest interviewee yet! (The interview took place at the New York apartment where Clara lives with her family, so you’ll hear some city background noise.) At a crossroads in her life, Clara spoke of the decision she faces, going into high school, between academics and pursuing ballet full-time. She also discussed how she  currently balances school and dance, as well as her experience performing with the New York City Ballet as an SAB student. (more…)

I ALWAYS HAVE A CHARACTER WITH A REALLY STRONG PASSION: Steven Cantor

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We recently joined Oscar nominated filmmaker Steven Cantor in the West Village office of Stick Figure Productions to talk about his new epic documentary, “DANCER.” Centered around the once-notorious “bad boy of ballet,” Sergei Polunin, this character-driven documentary instead reveals a charming and multi-dimensional dancer of prodigious talent who has a complicated relationship with his craft. In conversation with Steven, we delved further into the nature of his latest subject as well as his process of creating character-driven documentaries in general. Don’t miss “DANCER” if you haven’t seen it yet (Amazon, iTunes), and stay tuned for Stick Figure’s latest documentary (also dance-related!), “Step,” premiering at Sundance this coming January. (more…)

NOW IT’S A COLLABORATION: Prince Credell

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We were lucky to catch Prince Credell of Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT) at City Center during a busy day of rehearsal for the compay’s appearance at Fall for Dance. (NDT will be back for a full engagement in November! Get tickets!) Prince talked to us about his experience working with the exciting range of contemporary choreographers who come through NDT, learning to dance as a character, and some of his proudest moments as a teacher of dance. Speaking with Prince was an absolute pleasure, and we can’t recommend more highly seeing him perform with one of the most impressive and innovative dance companies of today at City Center Nov 16th-19th. (more…)

FINDING COMMON GROUND: Troy Schumacher

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Credo: Ike Edeani


Jessica and Clara visited choreographer and founder of BalletCollective, Troy Schumacher (and his cute dog Shallot), at his sunny apartment in NYC. We learned about Troy’s collaborative approach to creating ballets by integrating artists who work in different mediums, such as music and photography, into the process and presentation of work. We also discussed his current aesthetic interests and were impressed by his ability to balance the demands of multiple roles: choreographer, director of a contemporary ballet company and not least of all, ballet dancer with NYCB.  We had the pleasure of seeing BalletCollective perform last fall and we look forward to seeing the company again on October 27th and 28th at NYU Skirball Center in Manhattan. Buy tickets before they sell out! Oh, and if you too are curious to see the “World’s Greatest Victory Dances” that Troy choreographed for PlayStation, check out the playlist on YouTube. (more…)