A previous lab cycle. Photo by Evan Zimmerman/MurphyMade, Courtesy RRR Creative

Why Broadway Dance Lab Became Dance Lab New York

Choreographic incubator Broadway Dance Lab has recently been rechristened Dance Lab New York. "I found the nomenclature of 'Broadway' was actually a type of glass ceiling to the organization," says choreographer Josh Prince, who founded the nonprofit in 2012.


Though the original aim was to "stand among the Broadway community and outreach to a diverse range of choreographers to explore something that might eventually appear on a commercial stage," it's grown to embrace dancemakers for whom musical theater is not the goal. "It was always a place to try new things," he says. "The name change is to invite more types of choreographers to come through our doors."

DLNY's signature lab cycles, which provide selected choreographers with a company of 12 dancers and one week of free studio space without expectation of a final product, will continue, alongside newer additions like mentorship initiative DLNY Connect and the Broadway Choreography Intensive. Future plans include genre-specific labs—say, a cycle where the company comprises tap dancers.

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Luke Isley, Courtesy Ballet West

How Do Choreographers Bring Something Fresh to Music We've Heard Over and Over?

In 2007, Oregon Ballet Theatre asked Nicolo Fonte to choreograph a ballet to Maurice Ravel's Boléro. "I said, 'No way. I'm not going near it,' " recalls Fonte. "I don't want to compete with the Béjart version, ice skaters or the movie 10. No, no, no!"

But Fonte's husband encouraged him to "just listen and get a visceral reaction." He did. And Bolero turned into one of Fonte's most requested and successful ballets.

Not all dance renditions of similar warhorse scores have worked out so well. Yet the irresistible siren song of pieces like Stravinsky's The Firebird and The Rite of Spring, as well as the perennial Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, seem too magnetic for choreographers to ignore.

And there are reasons for their popularity. Some were commissioned specifically for dance: Rite and Firebird for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes; Boléro for dance diva Ida Rubinstein's post–Ballets Russes troupe. Hypnotic rhythms (Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel) and danceable melodies (Bizet's Carmen) make a case for physical eye candy. Audience familiarity can also help box office receipts. Still, many choreographers have been sabotaged by the formidable nature and Muzak-y overuse of these iconic compositions.

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