The Creative Process
Snow Scene in Val Caniparoli's The Nutcracker for Louisville Ballet. Photography by Wade Bell

Choreographer Val Caniparoli started his ballet career by performing in Lew Christensen's The Nutcracker with San Francisco Ballet in 1971. Today, he still performs with SFB as Drosselmeir, in the company's current version by Helgi Tomasson.

It takes Caniparoli a lot of concentration to stick to the choreography.

"I have the four versions that I choreographed of the role in my head, plus the original I danced for years by Lew," he says. "That's a lot of versions to keep straight."

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Dancer Voices
Kelsey Grills in rehearsal for ABT Incubator. Photo by JJ Geiger, courtesy ABT Incubator.

"Is everyone okay?" was my most used sentence during my time with American Ballet Theatre. There I was, leading world-class ABT dancers through my own choreographic process. I knew that it was unlike anything they'd ever experienced, but I think half of the time I was asking that question, it was really directed to myself.

ABT Incubator is a two-week choreographic program created by principal dancer David Hallberg. Supported by The Howard Hughes Corporation, this process-oriented lab gave me and four other choreographers the opportunity to generate ideas for the work we have been inspired to create.


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The Creative Process
Margaret Selby with client Michelle Dorrance, photo by Todd Burnseed

Margaret Selby never dreamed that her passion for dance would lead her everywhere from working on live TV specials like the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade to producing hip-hop musical Jam on the Groove, from Columbia Artists Management, Inc., to public TV's "Great Performances: Dance in America."

Now, through her company Selby/Artists MGMT, she helps clients like Dorrance Dance, MOMIX and Pacific Northwest Ballet navigate the behind-the-scenes elements that get their work onstage, like booking tours, marketing and planning upcoming seasons.

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The Creative Process
Photo by Earl Wilson, courtesy Macaulay

During his tenure at The New York Times, Alastair Macaulay has not been accused of being timid. Or boring. As the newspaper's chief dance critic, he has probably been the most talked-about writer in the dance world. His raves and his pans have become their own news; his words have led to as much chatter backstage as on social media.

At the end of this year, he's passing the baton along to a new critic. (His replacement hasn't yet been announced.) Although he'll still contribute to the Times' dance section through 2019, he says he wants to spend more time in his native UK, and work on a wider variety of projects, including several books.

Before he departs from his post, we took the opportunity to ask him a few of our most burning questions, and he agreed to respond over email.

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The Creative Process
Cherkaoui is happy dedicating his time to projects he's invested in. Photo by Koen Broos, courtesy Michelle Tabnick PR

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui is a busy man. These days, when he's not directing Royal Ballet of Flanders or his contemporary company Eastman, he's working on a new duet with Irish dancer Colin Dunne, creating a premiere for the Göteborg Opera, or choreographing on Beyoncé like it's NBD.

Next week, he's also taking a trip to New York City to perform in Sutra, his hit collaboration with a group of 20 Shaolin monks. In the 10 years since its premiere, the work has been performed in 60 cities across 28 countries to rave reviews and sold-out audiences. The New York performances at the White Light Festival mark a homecoming to the same festival where the piece received its US premiere.

We recently caught up with Cherkaoui to hear his thoughts on performing on the opening night of the run, what he's learned from the monks and how he manages to juggle so many projects at once.

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The Creative Process
Shankman on the set of 2007's Hairspray. Photo by Daniel James, courtesy Shankman

Adam Shankman came into the spotlight in 2007 when he choreographed and directed the movie-musical Hairspray and made his first appearances on the "So You Think You Can Dance" judging panel. But he was already more than a decade into his career as a choreographer and budding director. Today, Shankman is a Hollywood mainstay who has worked on scores of movies, TV shows and commercials, including dance classics like the Step Up franchise, which he produced. Next up: Directing the film What Men Want, which opens in January.

He recently spoke to Dance Magazine about his path to Hollywood and why the dance studio remains his favorite place.

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The Creative Process
Reggie Wilson uses his dances to process ideas. Photo by Aitor Mendilibar

With a blend of postmodern and black aesthetics, Reggie Wilson's work explores connections between secular and spiritual cultures of the African diaspora in the Americas. Audiences are drawn to his unique synergy of formal rigor, playfulness and depth.

The Milwaukee-raised award-winning choreographer formed Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel Performance Group in Brooklyn in 1989 after dancing for Ohad Naharin. Most recently, he curated the 2018 Danspace Project's Dancing Platform Praying Grounds: Blackness, Churches, and Downtown Dance.

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The Creative Process
Ezra Hurwitz has created a successful second career in film. Photo by Erin Baiano, courtesy Hurwitz.

Ezra Hurwitz's dance trailers are tailor-made for going viral. His fast-moving shorts highlight not only the glamour of dance but also the grit, with a stylish Millennial sensibility.

The former Miami City Ballet corps member has been tapped by everyone from San Francisco Ballet to The Kennedy Center to Broadway's Chicago. He's also done commercials for non-dance companies like WeWork and Opening Ceremony, and collaborated on a music video for The National with Justin Peck. But no matter who's in front of the camera, his dancer's eye is always behind it.

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The Creative Process
Orr at a rehearsal of Power Up. Photo by Nancy Mims, courtesy Forklift Danceworks

Austin renegade Allison Orr doesn't use traditional performers. With her Forklift Danceworks, she has created dances featuring everyone from sanitation workers (The Trash Project) to power linemen (PowerUP), urban forestry department members (The Trees of Govalle) and food service employees (Served).

Orr has a BA in anthropology and calls her process "ethnographic choreography." Using the movements of everyday workers, she crafts large-scale extravaganzas that have included more than 75 performers (and sometimes trucks), audiences of 2,000, and a deep research process that may involve her learning how to scale a power-line distribution pole or riding with a sanitation worker at 4 am.

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The Creative Process
Arlene Shuler is currently prepping for City Center's 75th anniversary celebration. Photo by Stephanie Berger, courtesy City Center

When Arlene Shuler performed at New York City Center as a young Joffrey Ballet dancer, she never imagined that she would someday become the theater's president and chief executive officer.

After a short dance career—four years with The Joffrey—she decided she wanted to experience college. That led to law school, and, eventually, arts administration.

With this mixed background, Shuler, who came to City Center in 2003, has redefined the venue. Her biggest accomplishment is the popular Fall for Dance Festival, a mixed bill of performances at $15 a pop. As the theater prepares to celebrate its 75th-anniversary season, Shuler is looking to keep building the City Center brand with new commissions and expanded audiences.

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The Creative Process
Crystal Pite rehearsing at National Ballet of Canada. Photo by Karolina Kuras, courtesy NBoC

Crystal Pite is a busy woman.

While her company, Kidd Pivot, toured the globe recently performing Betroffenheit—its acclaimed collaboration with Jonathon Young and fellow Canadians Electric Company Theatre—Pite herself launched three productions at three of the world's foremost dance companies: Nederlands Dans Theater (The Statement, February 2016), the Paris Opéra Ballet (The Seasons' Canon, fall 2016), and London's Royal Ballet (Flight Pattern, spring 2017).

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The Creative Process
Brandon Sterling Baker never tries to make it a "light show." Photo by Lora Robertson, courtesy Baker

He may not be a household name, but you probably know Brandon Stirling Baker's work. The 30-year-old has designed the lighting for most of Justin Peck's ballets—including Heatscape for Miami City Ballet, and the edgy The Times Are Racing for New York City Ballet—but also Jamar Roberts' new Members Don't Get Weary at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and a trio of Martha Graham duets for L.A. Dance Project.

He's been fascinated by lighting ever since he attended a public performing arts middle school in Sherman Oaks, California, where he had his first experiences lighting shows. He also has a background in music (he plays guitar and bass) and in drawing. Both, he says, are central to the way he approaches lighting dance.

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The Creative Process
Screenshot via Instagram @theiterationproject

As most creativity/productivity/goal-achieving advice columns will tell you, accountability is key to success—it helps you show up and do the hard work on the days when you really, really don't want to. But what if you're, say, a choreographer who doesn't live in a major dance center and therefore don't have that built-in community support?

Cue The Iteration Project, an online platform that delivers weekly prompts and shares responses from artists working in any medium, anywhere, and its recently announced TIP Partner Program.

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Career Advice
Donald O'Connor and Gene Kelly in Singin' in the Rain. Photo Courtesy DM Archives

At one performance of David Parker's Nut/Cracked in 2005, three-quarters of his audience walked out prematurely. But the same moment that caused the offense—a duet between two men with their thumbs in each other's mouths—earned Parker hearty laughs from the remaining crowd, and eventually an enthusiastic standing ovation.

Humor is subjective, and it can be tough to get right. Though there are many moments of brilliant comedy in dance, there are also so many failed attempts that, well, it's not even funny. There's no exact formula for grabbing a laugh. But experimenting with these ingredients can help you tap into your funny.

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