Photo via Kristin Sudeikis Instagram

In The Studio: Kristin Sudeikis On Why She Loves Electric Dancers

If you've ever taken class with Kristin Sudeikis you know that she is as much a motivational speaker as she is a choreographer. Her approach to teaching is rooted in the idea that there should be a conversation between the dancer and all the elements that make up the dance: the music, the movement, and most importantly their connection to the other dancers in the room. Same goes for her company members when they are diving into the process of creating work.

We stepped into the studio with Sudeikis and her company to get an inside look at one of their rehearsals and chat with the dancemaker about her process:


Your energy, both when choreographing and teaching, is so electric. Do you look for people with that same energy when it comes to building your company?

There's that inexplicable quality in certain artists that just pulls you in. What's interesting about being in a class as opposed to holding an audition is one's work ethic. I truly believe how a dancer is in class is how they will be on stage, on tour, in rehearsal. And that's something I talk about a lot in class and try to teach. I like the rawness of the classroom experience and keeping my eyes open for if someone is supposed to move with us in the company. They also need to have an openness for the process. I have an idea, a very very tight clear idea and then I think of it as a conversation. What are they bringing? What am I bringing? All we have is right here and right now. We're gonna create. We're gonna stay open to what could happen.

Photo via Kristin Sudeikis Instagram

What is typically the jumping off point for you when choreographing?

A lot of the time it will be music that gives me a visceral feeling or the chills. I'm so fascinated by the chills—something that overwhelms me or overcomes me. I tend to steer away from things that are very dramatic though. That stuff kind of numbs me.

How do you continue to move forward in rehearsal when you find you've hit a roadblock?

Switch it up. First of all, I visualize not everything closing in, because that's natural, but rather everything creating space. Lift up, lift out, expand and something will drop in. If something's not working I'll play with different music or I'll focus on a different movement and use that as the jumping off point. But I don't really think of it as getting "stuck," I just see it as a sign to move in a different direction.

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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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