How Dutch National Ballet is Cultivating the Next Generation of Choreographers
"Choreographers don't just pop up fully formed," says Ted Brandsen, artistic director of Dutch National Ballet. "It's a responsibility for us, as company directors, to create room for the new generations of dancemakers."
Knowing the challenges, both artistic and practical, of setting out on a choreographic career, Brandsen has announced a four-pronged strategy for nurturing new talent at DNB. Alongside the long-running choreographic workshop for company dancers, which Brandsen helped launch back in 1985, there is now a choreographer and composer exchange with the British contemporary company Rambert. Brandsen is also mentoring DNB's recently appointed Young Creative Associates, Juanjo Arques and Peter Leung. And there will be a new annual Choreographic Academy, beginning in May, inviting young dancemakers to spend three weeks in research and creation with Dutch National's junior arm, focusing on process rather than product. One of the first four choreographers to take part is San Francisco Ballet's Myles Thatcher.
While there are other companies worldwide taking a proactive approach in this area—New York City Ballet, The Royal Ballet and Stuttgart Ballet all have initiatives Brandsen admires—it is not a universal practice.
Brandsen's eyes are on the bigger picture. The Rambert collaboration was originally envisaged as a Europe-wide project, but to begin, the two companies are experimenting with a pilot. "Very often there is only one major ballet company per country, so the danger of navel gazing is always there," says Brandsen. "It's important for developing talent to be able to cross borders and see how other choreographers and companies work."
To actively open up a broader international exchange, DNB hosted the Positioning Ballet conference in February, looking at key issues facing ballet in the 21st century. "We need to be reflective of our times. We need to be part of the present generation," says Brandsen, otherwise you risk "becoming a museum." So are companies losing out on talent because there isn't support for young artists? "I think so," he says. "Choreographic talent is rare. Making choreography is a difficult thing. Talent needs to be nurtured."
Kidnapped and dishonored on the day of her wedding, Princess Amba swears vengeance on the man responsible and is reborn as the gender-shifting Shikhandi, granting her the opportunity to defeat him in battle. This is the legend behind Akram Khan's Until the Lions, his full-length work based on Karthika Naïr's poetic reinterpretation of the Mahabharata which approaches the epic from the perspective of its female characters. Performed in the round, the critically lauded work makes its U.S. debut in Los Angeles at The Music Center on Location, marking the only 2017 stateside performances of Khan. Oct. 18–21. musiccenter.org. The company also brings the piece to Stanford, Oct. 27–28, but Khan will not perform. live.standford.edu.
The dancers file into an audition room. They are given a number and asked to wait for registration to finish before the audition starts. At the end of the room, behind a table and a computer (and probably a number of mobile devices), there I sit, doing audio tests and updating the audition schedule as the room fills up with candidates. The dancers, more nervous than they need to be, see me, typing, perhaps teasing my colleagues, almost certainly with a coffee cup at my side.
Leta Biasucci is one of those dancers whose presence seems to attract the audience's eye with magnetic force. The Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist's seemingly impossible buoyancy and fiery spark have carved her out a place in a wide spectrum of roles, uninhibited by her small stature and natural inclination towards the soubrette.
We caught up with her for our "Spotlight" series:
When Katrina Lenk says her feet never touched the ground in her Broadway debut, as a replacement in Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark, she's not telling you how deliriously happy she was—though she was.
Lenk is being literal: Playing Arachne, the show's magical spider-woman, she was suspended in a gigantic web throughout. Her ability to fly and enjoy it—crucial to landing the role—was honed with a summer job "swimming" over the heads of the audience at Universal Studios. "You just never know where random experiences are gonna take you," she says.
There's something special about seeing New York City Ballet dance at Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Maybe it's the history: George Balanchine helped design the theater, and NYCB has called SPAC, which opened in 1966, its summer home for over 50 years. But over the weekend, SPAC announced that NYCB's 2018 residence will be shortened, according to Albany's Times Union.
Fall For Dance is always a huge talkabout here in the Dance Media offices. So after all the programs were performed this year, a few of the editors from Dance Magazine, Pointe and Dance Teacher got together on Google Hangouts this morning to share our thoughts. Here are excerpts from our convo:
"Do away with it."
"How about just plain old 'artist' or 'choreographer'?"
These are a few of the comments that popped up when, on a recent morning, I posted a query on Facebook fielding thoughts about the term "emerging"—as in "emerging choreographer." I can't remember when I first sensed disgruntlement toward the E-word. But in speaking with dancers and choreographers over the years, I've noticed that more often than not it elicits an eye roll, head shake, groan, sigh or shrug of "whatever that means."