Siobhan Burke is a dance writer based in New York City. She contributes regularly to The New York Times and Dance Magazine. She has also written for The Brooklyn Rail, The Performance Club, Pointe, The Columbia Journal of American Studies and Hyperallergic. She was a 2013 USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Fellow.
As a dancer, Siobhan has performed with New York-based artists Jillian Sweeney & Jeffrey Cranor, Rebecca Warner, Hadley Smith, and RoseAnne Spradlin, among others. She grew up studying traditional Irish dance and toured the U.S. and Canada with the North American company of Riverdance.
Siobhan holds a degree in American Studies from Barnard College, where she is now an adjunct lecturer in the Dance Department. She was a mentor with Girls Write Now and has been a guest speaker in classes at Princeton University, University of Virginia, University of Florida, Hofstra University, and New York University. She has read her work at Sarah Maxfield's Now and Then series and the Poetry Project.
Her unexpected post-Batsheva path has led to both solo shows and film work. Photo by Jayme Thornton
Even when marking a move in rehearsal, Bobbi Jene Smith seems to dance with her whole being. "It comes from the pelvis," she says while directing a few of her fellow dancers in an undulating phrase. Her lower body spirals, pulling her torso behind it in one swift, visceral motion. "Always keep a bit of groove somewhere in your body," she says during another, more improvisational section.
Dance audiences might be most familiar with this side of Smith: the heart—and the guts—that she brings to her dancing. But in the four years since she returned to the U.S. from Tel Aviv, where she spent a decade performing with the Batsheva Dance Company, she has achieved a balancing act of creative roles: dancer, choreographer, teacher and budding actor.
The scene she's rehearsing is one of 10 she choreographed for Aviva, an independent feature film directed by Boaz Yakin, best known for his 2000 blockbuster Remember the Titans. She also plays a main character in the movement-driven story, as part of a cast of more than 30 dancers that she helped to select—including 20 of her students from Philadelphia's University of the Arts.
Cloud in Beth Gill's Catacomb. Photo by Brian Rogers, Courtesy Gill
Some dancers move to New York City with their sights set on a dream job: that one choreographer or company they have to dance for. But when Maggie Cloud graduated from Florida State University in 2010, she envisioned herself on a less straightforward path.
"I always had in mind that I would be dancing for different people," she says. "I knew I had some kind of range that I wanted to tap into."
Ballez class staples include no mirrors and barres arranged in a circle. Photo by Elyssa Goodman, Courtesy Pyle
A flock of polyamorous princes, a chorus of queer dying swans, a dominatrix witch: These are a few of the characters that populate the works of Katy Pyle, who, with her Brooklyn-based company Ballez, has been uprooting ballet's gender conventions since 2011.
Historically, ballet has not allowed for the expression of lesbian, transgender or gender-nonconforming identities. With Ballez, Pyle is reinventing the classical canon on more inclusive terms. Her work stems from a deep love of ballet and, at the same time, a frustration with its limits on acceptable body types and on the stories it traditionally tells.
Will Rawls in The Planet-Eaters: Seconds. Photo by Darial Sneed, Courtesy Rawls
"Do away with it."
"How about just plain old 'artist' or 'choreographer'?"
These are a few of the comments that popped up when, on a recent morning, I posted a query on Facebook fielding thoughts about the term "emerging"—as in "emerging choreographer." I can't remember when I first sensed disgruntlement toward the E-word. But in speaking with dancers and choreographers over the years, I've noticed that more often than not it elicits an eye roll, head shake, groan, sigh or shrug of "whatever that means."