Posts Tagged ‘ballerina’

Photo: Likolani Arthurs Bro.
“Likolani Brown Arthurs [with her father, left] danced with the New York City Ballet for 15 years. Now, she’s moving to a new stage, NYU Langone’s operating theater,” says the New York Post.

Talk about planning ahead! This ballerina knew that dance would be a short career for her and wasn’t inclined to spend the rest of her life teaching ballet or creating choreography. She went to medical school instead.

Hannah Sparks reports at the New York Post, “Likolani Brown Arthurs, 36, spent 15 years dancing with the New York City Ballet. Now, she’s moving to a new stage: NYU Langone’s operating theater, where the retired ballerina will begin her surgical residency.

“With her 6-month-old son, Kaipo, on her hip, in a room full of hospital-bound hopefuls at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, Arthurs opened her Match Day letter during the nationwide annual event, when medical students across the county learn where they will launch their careers as resident doctors.

“ ‘I realized a lot of the things I love about ballet exist here,’ she told the Post of her desire to enter the medical field, spurred by personal tragedy when she lost her father to cancer.

“Arthurs, also mother to 2-year-old Bronson, may have struggled with some imposter syndrome during her uncommon career change. ‘I came in questioning if I would fit in.’ …

“Her transition from the ranks of one of the world’s most storied dance companies to the roster of world-class heath-care providers in NYC was never in step with the Hawaii-born daughter of an activist and a lawyer. ‘Not everyone comes from these “doctor families,” ‘ she said of her entry into medicine. …

“Arthurs set out at 16 to join the ranks of NYC’s prestigious School of American Ballet — just weeks before the attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

She recalled being told that ballet practice would go on as scheduled even after the first tower had been struck. ‘I remember riding the elevators up to change and seeing only one tower still standing. And then when I came down, after changing, both towers were down. That’s when they canceled everything and we took some time off,’ said Arthurs. …

“It was a ‘very special place,’ she said of her experience at SAB, which culminated with her landing a coveted spot — one of 10 placements — with the New York City Ballet. … After a yearlong apprenticeship, she scored a contract with the company’s corps de ballet, making it official.

“ ‘I turned down Harvard,’ the self-described math and science geek told the Post. ‘I knew I could only dance when I was young.’ … Her successful tenure included dancing some of her dream roles, including all three of ballet legend George Balanchine’s ‘Jewels’ … as well as the ‘mysterious’ Arabian dance solo of ‘The Nutcracker.’ …

“ ‘I always thought ballet would be it for me,’ she remembered, but couldn’t shake the feeling she had more to do. … An inclination toward STEM led her to believe she should go pre-med at Columbia University, which she credited with guiding her to the right coursework in her spare time ‘when the theater was dark.’ …

“She could see parallels between medicine and dance during her early days as an emergency room volunteer. ‘I saw a lot of teamwork,’ she said. ‘A lot of creativity and artistry there.’ And the rush she got ‘was similar to what I felt on the stage during a live performance.’

“At NYU, she would eventually land on her calling in general surgery, guided in part by the untimely death of her father due to a slow-growing sarcoma that, at the time it was discovered 18 years prior, required an incredibly invasive open-chest surgery to access. Unfortunately, close monitoring of his disease ‘fell through the cracks.’ By the time he began to show advanced symptoms, his condition was no longer treatable.

“ ‘I just felt that if a surgeon had attended to him earlier in his course, especially with the new advances … things could have been different for him,’ she said.”

More at the New York Post, here. (Lovely ballet photos. No firewall.)

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Photo: Russell Haydn
Kitty Lunn, New Orleans ballerina who refused to let paralysis stop her.

Lately, I’ve seen a number of articles about incorporating more artists with disabilities into the theater and dance worlds. Ballerina Kitty Lunn didn’t set out to be an advocate in that movement, but after a paralyzing accident, she took charge of her future in way that helps others.

As reporter Erika Ferrando says at 4WWL television in New Orleans, “A ballerina embodies grace, control, and beauty. It takes years of practice and few are ever able to dance as a profession. For dancers, that’s the dream.

“What if that dream was achieved, then stolen? What if it no longer seemed possible for a dancer to dance? That’s what happened to Kitty Lunn and it’s been her mission ever since to overcome.

‘Life is a choice. We can either live while we’re alive or wait to die,’ said Lunn, who is now almost 70-year-old.

“Life is full of choices. Lunn always chose to dance even when it seemed she had no choice but to give up her dream. …

“Lunn trained in her hometown of New Orleans until she was 15, when her work here led to a scholarship with the Washington Ballet. She was living her dream. …

“She was 36-years-old, preparing for her first Broadway show when it all changed. …

“Lunn slipped on ice and fell down a flight of stairs, breaking her neck and back. The accident put her in a wheelchair for the rest of her life.

” ‘I was very depressed because I had been a dancer since I was 8-years-old. I had to find a way,’ Lunn said.

“She had just started dating the man she would marry, Andrew. …

” ‘Andrew said, spoken like a true non dancer, said if you want to dance, who is stopping you? I was stopping me, fear was stopping me,’ Lunn said. …

 Photo: Dan Demetriad


” ‘I went back to class I put my money on the table. They had to let me in, I had the ADA behind me,’ she said. …

“Surrounded by world class ballet dancers, she was forced to break down barriers.

” ‘They said ‘well you can come in, but you’re on probation. If anyone complains, you’ll have to leave. Many people have complained and I didn’t leave,’ Lunn said.

“In 1995, Lunn founded Infinity Dance Theater in New York. It’s a non-traditional dance company featuring dancers with and without disabilities. The company performs all over the world. …

“Kitty Lunn visited New Orleans this month to help launch a program that keeps veterans moving. The New Orleans VA partnered with the New Orleans Ballet Association for ‘Freedom of Movement’ classes. The program is for veterans, wheelchair-users or not, teaching them to keep moving and dancing.

” ‘It helps me move joints that are a little difficult to move,’ veteran Tina Boquet said. ‘Although I may not be able to do things like I did before my accident, I am still able to move.’

“Now Lunn travels the world teaching others to move, despite anything trying to hold them back.

” ‘I learned that the dancer inside me doesn’t care about this wheelchair. She just wanted to find a way to keep dancing,’ she said. “I think I’m living the life I was born to live. That was an accident, this is a choice.’ ”

More at 4WWL, here, and at Infinity Dance Theater, here.

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Photo: Jorge de la Quintana
A ballerina admired impoverished acrobats performing at Lima, Peru, traffic lights and decided to offer them a better opportunity. In the photo, members of her D1 Dance Company rehearse.

Once upon a time, a privileged young lady, a ballerina with an international reputation, saw the face of aspirational poverty on acrobats performing in traffic and decided to offer them an opportunity.

Dan Collyns writes at the Guardian, “Vania Masías vividly remembers the first time she saw acrobats somersaulting at a traffic light on a visit to her home city in 2004. She was at the peak of an illustrious career as a ballet dancer in Europe – but before long, she would leave it all behind it to nurture the raw talent she found in the streets of the Peruvian capital. …

“She was so inspired by the abilities of the teenage acrobats she encountered in Lima she set up a pilot project to teach them to dance – not ballet, but hip-hop. …

“It began on the self-taught gymnasts’ home turf in Ventanilla, a tough neighbourhood near the city’s port. Masías arranged to meet them on the shanty’s sand dunes where they practised their flips. The response was overwhelming.

“ ‘I thought I was going to meet with three kids,’ she said. ‘When I arrived, there were more than a hundred kids.’ …

“In 2005 Masías formed the D1 Cultural Association: part dance school, part non-profit organisation seeking to create young leaders and promote positive social change through the arts.

“D1’s social arm, which is 85% self-sufficient thanks to the school’s private classes, works with 7,000 children and young people in the capital and has schools in the Peruvian cities of Ica and Trujillo. More than 100,000 children have passed through the programme over the years, says Masías.

“Among them is Eddy Revilla, who at 13 became his family’s breadwinner somersaulting at traffics lights in downtown Lima.

“ ‘I was earning 300 soles a week [£66/$92] and here in Peru – that’s money! I could help my family and they started to thank me,’ says Revilla, now 25.

“But after blacking out in mid-air doing a somersault, Revilla auditioned for D1, and is now a member of the group’s professional dance company.

“ ‘When we started nobody thought that you could make a living from dance. Now it’s an amazing opportunity for young people,’ says Revilla, who also teaches hip-hop to paying students at D1’s dance studio. …

“Masías acknowledges that only a few of the young students will eventually follow a career in dance, but she says that the act of dancing itself gives them the confidence to transform their circumstances. …

“Masías has encouraged her dancers to embrace their provincial roots through fusing traditional Peruvian and urban styles.

“ ‘It’s in their blood, in their veins,’ she says. Dancers who had been ashamed of their origins ‘now fight to say where they come from,’ she says.”

More at the Guardian, here.

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Pamela Boykoff at CNN has a nice story about a ballet school in the Philippines and the hope it offers children from very poor families.

“Jessa Balote is 14-years-old and training to be a professional ballerina in Manila,” writes Boykoff.

“It is a task that takes enormous amounts of dedication for even the most determined of young women, but Balote’s challenge is nothing compared to life outside the dance studio where she has to support her entire family.

” ‘I’m the only one they expect to bring the family out of poverty,’ she says.

“Balote is one of 54 students enrolled in ‘Project Ballet Futures,’ a program run by Ballet Manila to provide free ballet training to children from some of the city’s most deprived neighborhoods.

“Balote lives in Tondo, a slum built next to a major waste dump in Manila. Her parents make what little money they have by selling trash. If Balote was not involved in the dance program, she says she wouldn’t be able to eat everyday.

” ‘They want to earn money to be able to survive,’ says Lisa Macuja-Elizalde, founder of the program and the Philippines’ first prima ballerina. She believes in her students, personally paying for their lessons and uniforms.

“Macuja-Elizalde’s goal is to help these children become professional members of the company with incomes to match. They are among her most focused students, she says, not afraid to work hard and to push themselves and their bodies.”

Read more.

Photograph: CNN

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ArtsJournal.com sent me to this article describing a ballerina posed on the Wall Street bull. The article suggests that one of the many tipping points that led to the Occupy movement was this image of a dancer. I like to think that the arts can spark a movement, although I think the Arab Spring played a bigger role in this case.


“When Vancouver-based Adbusters presented the idea to the world, it did so in the form of a poster that featured a dancer posed on the shoulders of the Wall Street bull statue, a foggy clamour of demonstrators behind her. The poster asked the question, ‘What is our one demand?’ Activist groups seized on it, as did the hacktivist group Anonymous, and a collective began to form. …


“To hear tell from [Vancouver-based] Adbusters founder and editor Kalle Lasn now, the question of that one demand still needs to be answered concisely and directly. But as the movement overspills Wall Street, he describes it as the most successful in the 22 years he and his magazine have been advocating ‘culture jamming.’ ” Read more. The Kalle Lasn interview is at Seattle’s Crosscuts.com  (“news of the the great nearby,” whatever that means).


As intrigued as I am that a ballerina poster could have been a tipping point for a movement, I think the question, “What is our one demand?” is even more intriguing. I would like to spin off from that and ask, “What is the one thing you want (in general, not public policies necessarily)?” Could you name the one thing? I think this is different from making a wish and blowing out candles. But maybe not. I will give it some thought myself.


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