Ballet in Sneakers

Avant Chamber Ballet’s Juliann McAloon on dancing in Katie Cooper’s new work Sisterhood, part of the company’s Fascinating Rhythms program this weekend.

published Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Photo: Brian Guilliaux
Dancer Juliann McAloon 

Dallas — “It’s probably my favorite of all the ballets Katie has created,” says Avant Chamber Ballet (ACB), seven-year-veteran dancer Juliann McAloon about Artistic Director Katie Cooper’s new balletic work Sisterhood, part of the company’s Fascinating Rhythms program May 3-4 at Moody Performance Hall in Dallas. The performance also includes Paul Mejia’s Café Victoria and George Balanchine’s crowd pleasing Who Cares?. The evening also features live music provided by Baumer quartet and a freelance chamber orchestra conducted by Brad Cawyer.

For Cooper’s latest creation, McAloon says it starts with all of the women onstage and then breaks away for a trio followed by an adagio section featuring McAloon and a finale where all the dancers come out wearing sneakers. “Dancing in sneakers is really fun,” McAloon says. “We are still doing neo-classical movement, but our feet are in parallel instead of turned out and flexed instead of pointed when we jump.”

She says the mood of the ballet is mostly fast and upbeat except for the adagio section, which she says is more somber. “My character really lives in her thoughts. I start off walking out on stage just nice and simple while looking down and you can kind of see her thoughts just going by. And there are moments where I fall down the other dancers pick me back up, and that is the slowest movement in the ballet.”

We are used to seeing McAloon in more spirited roles such as the Dew Drop Fairy in Cooper’s Nutcracker: Short and Suite and the White Rabbit in Cooper’s rendition of Alice in Wonderland. But McAloon proved she can also handle more emotionally-driven roles such as the lead in Cooper’s The Little Match Girl Passion last December and in Christopher Wheeldon’s pas de deux from The American in March, which she says she was inserted into at the last second.

“If it weren’t for the circumstances of The American I probably wouldn’t have been cast in that role because everyone knows me as sprightful, whippy, turny and jumpy. But afterward Michele Gifford said that it was really nice to see me in a different role and I also really enjoyed doing it.”

Gifford has gotten to know each one of the dancers as she has been restaging Balanchine works for ACB for many years now. “I have worked with a lot of repetiteurs throughout my career and Michele is definitely one of the nicest,” McAloon states. “She is so knowledgeable and very honest and really wants the best for us and the company. And because of her connections we have a rep that is just as good as all the other professional companies that we all have danced for in the past.”

Originally from Cornwall, New York, McAloon started dancing at Dance Design School where she completed her Royal Academy of Dance Exams and earned her Solo Seal award in Toronto Canada. During the summers McAloon trained with The Rock School, Boston Ballet and New York State Summer School of the Arts on scholarships.

She earned a B.S. in ballet and an outside field in exercise science at Indiana University. During her time at college McAloon trained with world renowned artists, including Cynthia Gregory, Victoria Simon, Helen Starr and Mimi Paul. She performed lead roles in ballets ranging from Twyla Tharp’s Sweet Fields and Agnes de Mille’s Rodeo to Balanchine’s Serenade, Valse Fantasie, Four Temperaments and Who Cares?. McAloon danced with Sarasota Ballet from 2010-2012 before moving to Dallas and joining ACB.

McAloon says she is also excited to reprise her roles in Who Cares? this weekend. She first danced the parts to George Gershwin’s “Embraceable You” and “My One and Only” when the company performed the work as part of a dual program with Dark Circles Contemporary Dance in 2016. This time around McAloon, along with Melissa Meng and Shannon Quirk, will be partnering with Ronnie Underwood, a principal dancer and ballet master from Oklahoma City Ballet.

“He is very high energy,” McAloon says about working with Underwood. “He is very easy to work with and has danced this role a lot so if something wasn’t working he was willing to put a different flair on it.”

Going into this performance of Who Cares? McAloon says she really wanted to focus on her character. “The first time I was thinking a lot about the technique, but this time I really wanted to play with the character more and have more fun with it.”


» Katie Dravenstott is a freelance writer and dance instructor in Dallas. Visit her blog at Thanks For Reading

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Ballet in Sneakers
Avant Chamber Ballet’s Juliann McAloon on dancing in Katie Cooper’s new work Sisterhood, part of the company’s Fascinating Rhythms program this weekend.
by Katie Dravenstott

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