Breeanne Saxton on Investing in Her "True, Intense, Gritty Passion"
Breeanne Saxton isn't afraid of taking risks. Last spring she left her comfortable contract with Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company to pursue a freelance career performing and choreographing in Berlin. The bold decision has turned out to be an auspicious one: Within just a few months of moving, she had a piece accepted into the popular Artlake Festival in Lichterfeld, Germany. No matter where she's living, Saxton's clean, intentional movement and avant-garde choreography are turning heads.
Saxton with Brian Gerke in Nichele Van Portfleet's Stranger Kin
Dat Nguyen, Courtesy Saxton.
Hometown: Salt Lake City
Training: Rowland Hall independent school, Bountiful School of Ballet, University of Utah (BFA in modern dance)
Early dance education: Saxton spent most of her childhood as a gymnast before she transitioned into competitive cheerleading and theater at age 11. It wasn't until middle school that she was introduced to dance, but her late start didn't hold her back. "Gymnastics was huge for my development," she says.
Her path to Ririe-Woodbury: Shortly after Saxton graduated college, Daniel Charon, Ririe-Woodbury's artistic director, who'd worked with her as a student, asked her to fill in for an injured dancer. Thus began a sporadic guest artist relationship before Saxton joined full-time in 2018. Aside from performing works by Ann Carlson, Joanna Kotze, Doug Varone, Raja Feather Kelly and Charon, she also danced Alwin Nikolais' pioneering choreography. "His work is so profoundly interdisciplinary," says Saxton, "and I often think back to Nikolais as I make my own work."
On moving to Berlin: Having an affinity for the progressive, theatrical performance trends found in Western European dance, Saxton was drawn to Germany. "There's a lot of risk associated with choosing to leave a company and work for myself, but I am cultivating a body of work that I believe in," she says.
Saxton's ACKNO wledge & accept
Danny Brown, Courtesy Saxton
Breakout moment: In August, Saxton's ACKNO wledge & accept, a piece that uses live animation and puppetry to depict mass hypnosis, was presented at Germany's interdisciplinary Artlake Festival. "Every time someone says yes or validates your hard work, it's a new breakout moment," she says. "I'm really investing in the true, intense, gritty passion that I have inside of me."
Dream collaborations: Saxton would love to work with choreographers Wim Vandekeybus and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, as well as the Brussels-based dance-theater troupe Peeping Tom. She also hopes to eventually start her own company.
What her former boss is saying: "Breeanne approaches work from a singular point of view," Charon says. "Hiring her was a no-brainer, and I was sad to lose her. I think she will make a real impact on the world with her choreography."
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
We knew that Ivo van Hove and Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker's production of West Side Story would challenge our preconceived notions about the show.
But a recent Vogue story gives us a taste of just how nontraditional the Broadway revival will be. Most notably, van Hove is cutting "I Feel Pretty" and the "Somewhere" ballet, condensing the show into one act to better reflect the urgency of the 48-hour plot. (The choice has been approved by the West Side Story estate, including Sondheim, who has "long been uncomfortable" with some of the "I Feel Pretty" lyrics.)
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.