Meet Budding Choreographer (and ABT Corps Member) Gemma Bond
Gemma Bond's intelligence—and knack for detail—never fails to shine through her dancing. It makes sense, then, that the American Ballet Theatre corps members is also a budding choreographer. After making works for ABT's Innovation Initiative and New York Theatre Ballet, as well as for her own pickup ensemble, her name is beginning to pop up with increasing frequency in ballet circles. She just made her first work for Atlanta Ballet, and was invited to take part in a festival at New York City's Joyce Theater. Next season she will create a work for The Washington Ballet. Her latest piece will be unveiled during a festival organized by fellow ABT dancer Isabella Boylston in Sun Valley, Idaho, August 22–24.
How did you get the Ballet Sun Valley commission?
Isabella has put together a wonderful program for the festival and wanted to do one new work. She has always come to see everything I've done; she's hugely supportive. She just said, "I want you to do this."
What is the idea behind the ballet?
There is this solar eclipse happening in Sun Valley on August 21, and we decided to use that as inspiration. There are two groups of dancers; Marcelo Gomes is the leader of one group and Isabella is the leader of the other. I call them the sun and moon. Judd Greenstein wrote the score. It's really about gravity and the tension and suspense that happens when everyone is there waiting for the eclipse to happen. It seems to take forever and then it happens and it's gone.
What drives your choreography?
For me it's more about the intent behind the steps—Why are you running to the corner? What are you saying when you run to the corner? How fast are you running? I want the audience to get the feeling behind the steps without having to look at a synopsis. I think it's because when I was younger I was watching Kenneth MacMillan's ballets, and I loved that way of telling a story.
Gemma Bond. Photo by Jim Lafferty for Pointe.
And you use classical technique?
I always want my ballets to be much cooler and sophisticated that I actually am. [Laughs.] In the beginning I would say, "We're going to do this in socks," and then I'd be like, "Can you put your pointes on? Can you turn out?" It would always go back to what I know and love.
You recently made your first work for Atlanta Ballet.
Yes, Denouement [premiered in March 2017]. I used a Benjamin Britten sonata for piano and cello. It was a bit of a point of contention because it isn't the most melodic piece. Actually, Alexei Ratmansky helped me a lot because I went to him and said that I'm hearing a few doubts about my music selection, and he said to go with how you feel and if you believe in it, you'll make the work that you want to make.
Do you feel like you're getting the opportunities that you deserve?
Yeah. I feel really fortunate that originally Diana Byer of New York Theatre Ballet was there to say, "You're doing something interesting. I'm going to give you studio space and dancers." I was talking to Kevin McKenzie recently and saying that I don't particularly like it when people are like, "Why aren't you doing a piece for ABT?" I'm very happy with the way my career is going. I learn so much from each experience.
I was on my favorite treadmill when it happened.
My best running buddy was on my left. To my right, a total stranger with whom I'd suddenly become competitive. As the 15-person group headed into a two-minute push, the instructor got hyped, and the remix blasting Rihanna's "We Found Love" transitioned to "Smooth Criminal."