ABT Is Getting Serious About Female Choreographers
Claudia Schreier has been commissioned to choreograph on the ABT Studio Company next season. Here, with Ballet Academy East students. Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy Schreier.
American Ballet Theatre is putting more women in charge of its ballets.
Today, artistic director Kevin McKenzie announced that the company is launching a multi-year initiative called the ABT Women's Movement.
ABT will hire at least three female choreographers each season. The idea is that, in general, one woman will create a new ballet for the main company, one will make a work on the Studio Company, and one will workshop with dancers from either group for a choreographic residency without the expectation of a final product.
Lauren Lovette, choreographing here in the NYCB studios, created a ballet on ABT Studio Company last year. Photo by Erin Baiano, courtesy NYCB.
The launch will be celebrated this October during ABT's Fall Gala. That program will be devoted entirely to work by women: a premiere by Michelle Dorrance, Lauren Lovette's Le Jeune for the ABT Studio Company and Twyla Tharp's iconic In The Upper Room, which has been in ABT's rep since 1988.
The fall season will also include a premiere by Jessica Lang, her third for ABT. And both Claudia Schreier and Stephanie Batten Bland will create new works for the Studio Company's 2018-2019 season.
"The ABT Women's Movement takes inspiration from the groundbreaking female choreographers who have left a lasting impact on ABT's legacy, including Agnes de Mille and Twyla Tharp," McKenzie said in a press release.
This project builds on an earlier one that started in 2016 as the Women Choreographers Initiative, which supported works by Lang, and funded Lovette's Le Jeune as well as a Studio Company piece by Dana Genshaft, plus a main company residency last November with modern choreographer Pam Tanowitz.
No details were given about how many years this will run. But we're hoping it will last for as long as it takes until initiatives like these don't need to be a thing.
Tony Testa leads a rehearsal during his USC New Movement Residency. Photo by Mary Mallaney/Courtesy USC
The massive scale of choreographing an Olympic opening ceremony really has no equivalent. The hundreds of performers, the deeply historic rituals and the worldwide audience and significance make it a project like no other.
Just consider the timeline: For most live TV events like award shows, choreographers usually take a month or two to put everything together. For the Olympics, the process can take up to four years.
But this kind of challenge is exactly what Los Angeles choreographer Tony Testa is looking for. He's currently creating a submission to throw his hat in the ring to choreograph for Beijing's 2022 Winter Games.
In a studio high above Lincoln Center, Taylor Stanley is rehearsing a solo from Jerome Robbins' Opus 19/The Dreamer. As the pianist plays Prokofiev's plangent melody, Stanley begins to move, his arms forming crisp, clean lines while his upper body twists and melts from one position to the next.
All you see is intention and arrival, without a residue of superfluous movement. The ballet seems to depict a man searching for something, struggling against forces within himself. Stanley doesn't oversell the struggle—in fact he's quite low-key—but the clarity with which he executes the choreography draws you in.