Afterjoining the Paul Taylor Dance Company in 2010, Michael Novak quickly became a critic's favorite for his quiet power onstage. But no one was more surprised than Novak when Taylor tapped him to be his successor last year, three months before the legendary choreographerdied. Dance Magazinerecently caught up with Novak during the company's appearances at the Orchestra of St. Luke's Bach Festival.
"A dancer should not be encouraged to stay in a trainee position for years if it is unlikely that they will move to the next level," says Julie Kent. Photo by Rachel Papo for Dance Teacher
One of the most crucial responsibilities of an artistic director is the development of dancers. Sharing the benefit of my experience through daily class and rehearsals is perhaps the most gratifying part of my work at The Washington Ballet. But artistic leaders also need to help dancers in the broader navigation of their careers.
Whether it involves difficult conversations with seasoned professionals or with teenagers coping with the anxiety of an uncertain career path, advising dancers is personal because our art is personal. Dancers create their art with their own bodies—not on paper, not with instruments made of brass or wood and strings, but with themselves. This highly intimate element of the job cannot be underestimated, and as a result, every conversation about the work essentially becomes about the person. Trust is not assumed nor is it given easily, as only time and shared experiences allow for it to grow.