Choreographer Sidra Bell, Photo courtesy David Flores Productions

What Makes Sidra Bell's Dancers "Artist Citizens"

Sidra Bell is one of those choreographers whose movement dancers are drawn to. Exploring the juxtaposition of fierce athleticism and pure honesty in something as simple as stillness, her work brings her dancers to the depths of their abilities and the audience to the edge of their seats.

We stepped into the studio with Sidra Bell Dance New York as they prepare for their upcoming season at New York Live Arts.


The tasks that you throw out to the dancers are really interesting. Is that something you have ever considered keeping in the structure of the performance?

Every now and then we talk about what it would feel like if I was present in the space. There have been times when I've used recordings of myself and laced some of that text into the music of the piece. I've always been very verbal and language is my love so I've always used it as a way of creating portals into movement ideas.

SBDNY performer Sebastian Abarbanell, Umi Akiyoshi Photography

Did you ever struggle with your identity as a non-performer or has it always felt clear to you to be the dancemaker?

It was really clear to me. I always had this sensibility of being the maker and I stepped out of the idea of performing in my work very early. I've always had a connection to physical research but I really love team-building and that has created a fullness for me. Now I feel more full in my movement and it's because I've continued researching through my body with the dancers in the creative process.

SBDNY performer Misa Kinno Lucyshyn, Umi Akiyoshi Photography

You have a pretty eclectic group of dancers that you work with. Is there anything specific you look for when creating an ensemble?

It's a truly intimate process. I've been thinking a lot about company culture. It's really important for me to be able to foster and nurture each of the dancers. So the size of the company is really important to me because I feel I can speak to each of them individually. In the process of creating ensembles—I've had three or four transitions of having a company—the one thing that binds them all is that they all move with purpose. They bring not only a really strong sense of physicality but honesty, rigor, curiosity and they are unafraid. I talk a lot about "artist citizens" and I feel like that is something that is consistent with all the dancers I've worked with.

It's important to me to have my dancers feel like they have a strong voice in the room. That doesn't always manifest into actual dialogue, but it's the ability for them to have agency in the work. It feels like it brings a currency to the work. So I try to let myself evolve through them.

Latest Posts


Matthew Murphy, Courtesy DKC/O&M

MJ The Musical Casts Its Michael

MJ The Musical has found its Michael Jackson: Ephraim Sykes.

If there's anyone who's up to the task, it's easily Sykes. The Tony-nominated triple threat has proved his mettle time and again in six Broadway shows. No stranger to the soul and pop genres, he was in the casts of Memphis and Motown The Musical, and is currently starring as David Ruffin in Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations.

GO DEEPER SHOW LESS
Ailey II artistic director Troy Powell teaching an Ailey Workshop at NYCDA. Courtesy NYCDA

NYCDA Is Redefining the Convention Scene Through Life-Changing Opportunities

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:

GO DEEPER SHOW LESS
Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB

Dance Magazine Award Honoree: Sara Mearns

Sara Mearns is a force. There is a monumentality to her dancing that was apparent even as a young corps member of 19, cast in her first Swan Lake with New York City Ballet. She threw herself into the role heart and soul, stretching each shape to the limit, trusting the music to carry her to a deep place (and her partner to save her should she go too far). In the 13 years since, her dancing has gained in power and focus, while never losing that edge of risk.

GO DEEPER SHOW LESS
contest
Enter Our Video Contest