In the theater with NYIBC

Sitting alone with Cynthia Gregory last night in the Rose Theater for the first NYIBC stage rehearsal, I realized we speak the same language. Not that I had any doubt, but it is always nice for your efforts to be validated. On both sides. As couple after couple filtered on for their allotted spacing of Raymonda, she whispered to me how no one knew how to use the floor. Amen! Exactly the skill I have been trying to elicit from this diverse group of dancers for two weeks. “Plie will save you” has been my mantra. There is absolutely no way to succeed in Paul Taylor’s work without giving in to the floor and utilizing your deepest plie. And I can bet that was Ms. Gregory’s secret to her legendary balances! What goes down—must go up?

Seems Cynthia and I see the same things in the dancers. Dance is dance; technique and artistry translate across genres. I was pleased to see that the dancers that stood out in Raymonda were the same ones who had embraced the Taylor work. Shows that true versatility is the name of the game. To go from classical to grounded, these dancers have to do it all—and well! Lets face it—medals and accolades aside..they want jobs!! That is why they are here. To be seen in a variety of styles and settings. Several artistic directors (Kevin McKenzie included) have already dropped in on classes and rehearsals over the past weeks. Tonight will be the culmination of their hard work—the first night of competition. The first hurdle to surmount.

Last week, in individual coaching sessions, I was able to learn a lot more about these couples. Who had met before, where they are from, whom they train (or trained) with, or what companies they already have jobs with. There are several dancers from the Colorado Ballet, some from Eugene, Idaho, English National Ballet, Estonia, Joffrey, two heading to the Tulsa Ballet, and one to Dresden. Some graduating from universities and private arts schools. One from my home town—Honolulu!

I am amazed at how many couples had never worked with their partners before. Seems an awful disadvantage, yet obviously not uncommon in the professional world. My longtime partner, Patrick Corbin, and I met our first day on the job at Taylor. Within minutes we were learning a love duet—looking longingly into each other’s eyes and tumbling over each other’s bodies. Most of performing is acting anyway. We aren’t born “athletes of god.”

I am fascinated to see who will go on to round II and dance Paul’s work. Who will have to dance with their partner even though they have been eliminated. (Seems cruel, but also a part of life and the rules of this competition to be judged individually.) I can’t wait to see what solos they have brought with them. An indication of how they best want to represent themselves.

To quote Martha Graham again….“Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion.” I hope their passion shines forth tonight in all their individual glory.

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San Francisco Ballet in Petrouchka with the Moor (left) in blueface. Photo by Erik Tomasson, courtesy SFB

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