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By Jennifer Stahl
Artistry isn’t something you can build simply by showing up at the barre every morning. It’s a mysterious, elusive quality, one of the most difficult to master in dance. And yet it’s the ultimate goal of every dancer. So, how do you get it?
As we put together our first Artistry Issue, I reached out to a friend, Batsheva’s supremely quirky Ian Robinson. He’s the kind of dancer who disappears into roles as though he’s traveled to another world. I wanted to know how he does it—where does his artistry come from? “I think it has to do with being mindful about the way you see the world,” he told me. “Mindful about experiences, or habits, or weaknesses—and how you combine all that into your craft.” He thinks of his creativity like a muscle, and strengthens it by seeking out other kinds of art, by stepping outside, by paying attention to the idiosyncrasies of the people around him.
Photo: “Sometimes my approach to choreographing is like, ‘Mark, come in at the wrong time.’ ” —Doug Elkins. Deborah Lohse, Kyle Marshall and Mark Gindick rehearse Doug Elkins’ Hapless Bizarre.
Every dancer has to find their own way of working their creativity muscle. Throughout this issue, we asked a number of dance artists to share their tactics. For choreographer Doug Elkins, it’s about staying open to mistakes, seeing where “the mess-ups” might lead. In our “In Training” column, Helen Pickett talks about teaching students to dance in silence to help them dig deeper inside themselves for inspiration.
Ironically, the dancers who often have the biggest challenges developing their artistry are the ones who’ve earned acclaim for their preternatural abilities from the time they were students. Our cover story profiles one of the latest, Catherine Hurlin, who’s just joined American Ballet Theatre as an apprentice. The 18-year-old prodigy seems to have been born with charisma and stage presence. But how will she deepen her artistry now that she’s a professional? Naturally, we turned to former ABT prodigy Paloma Herrera, among others, for her advice: “It has to come from within yourself. You want to keep growing. You have to really love what you do and always want to make it better. I’m always happy to be on the stage and working. That fulfills my soul.”
Editor in Chief
Photos from top: Kyle Froman; Nathan Sayers