For this month’s “Budding, Not Yet Blooming” series we profile New York-based choreographer and Artistic Director of CONTINUUM Contemporary/Ballet, Donna Salgado. Salgado’s company, founded in 2010, has already gained significant attention for their highly technical work and boundary-defying ideas of contemporary ballet. Their notoriety has continued with high-profile performances at the 92nd Street Y, DanceNOW, and multiple summers on the famed Jacob’s Pillow Inside/Out stage. Next month, Salgado will showcase her work for the Columbia Ballet Collective at the Manhattan Movement and Arts Center. Excerpts of her interview with Dance Informa’s Tara Sheena are below.
What originally drew you to choreography? Do you have any early influences you can recall?
Pursuing an artistic life can begin in the most simple way— mine was a desire to create beautiful things. At an early age I took great interest in coloring and painting, sketching fashion designs, perfecting my signature, and making all sorts of arts and crafts. My favorite aspect of creating was discovering ways to improve my projects and make them look better or more interesting. Meanwhile, as a child, I was taking dance lessons and freely dancing in my parents’ home because I loved the feeling of my body moving through space to music. It was inevitable that these two ideas would cross paths.
Donna Salgado, Artistic Director of CONTINUUM Contemporary/Ballet. Photo by Michael Darling.
How would you describe your aesthetic and style to someone who has never seen your work?
Collage-like, elegant, movement oriented, soulful.
What is the biggest challenge for emerging choreographers in NYC right now? What are the strategies you’ve employed to navigate that challenge?
All art professions are challenging, however, as my Dad says, “If you are going to shine, you are going to shine no matter what.” Just make art. That is the only strategy worth following.
What are the next steps for you and your company?
Last spring, we welcomed resident choreographer, Juanjo Arques, from the Dutch National Ballet, and took great pleasure in experiencing a new and different process. After such a positive experience, [we are] making collaboration a major priority. This month, we will be working in the studio with [New York-based choreographer] Emery LeCrone. We also recently created the Understanding Dance blog at understandingdance.tumblr.com.
Right now, I am really excited to be creating a premiere for the Columbia Ballet Collaborative. The performances are on November 22nd and November 23rd at Manhattan Movement & Arts Center.
Divided by so much distance, it’s easy for American dance communities to disconnect with one another and forget that there is stimulating dance happening all over the nation. My professional dance career took me from the East Coast, to the West Coast, and in between, where I encountered a spectrum of incredible dance. Here are 5 American choreographers making artistic waves across the US.
Emery LeCrone's "With Thoughtful Lightness" by dancers Gabrielle Lamb & Thomas Forster. Photo Matt Murphy
Emery LeCrone New York City, NY
At only 24, Emery LeCrone already has several major choreographic commissions. She grew up taking dance with her two older sisters and joined North Carolina Dance Theater after graduating from North Carolina School of the Arts in 2005. NCDT exposed Emery to the dynamic work of William Forsythe, Alonzo King, and Dwight Rhoden, which would eventually influence her own choreography.
For Emery, choreographing is “an ever-evolving process.” She attributes her movement vocabulary to her classical roots, improvisation, and contemporary notions, incorporating “lots of spirals and interesting use of space”. Every ballet has its own process, affected by a number of variables such as music or allotted time.
What’s on the horizon for Emery? In 2012, Emery joins Andrea Miller and Shen Wei, as fellows for the New York City Center’s inaugural choreographic residency. City Center gives each talent 200 hours of free rehearsal space and the chance to show work in the 2012 Fall for Dance Festival. She will also continue to serve as the resident choreographer for NYC based New Chamber Ballet and Columbia Ballet Collaborative. In March, Colorado Ballet premieres her new ballet Archetypes.
Divergence, created for the Oregon Ballet Theater, premiered on April 22, 2010
Penelope Freeh presents "Pilgrim". Photo Sean Smuda
Penelope Freeh Minneapolis, MN
After performing in NYC, Penelope Freeh moved to Minneapolis in 1994 to join the James Sewell Ballet. She had a gut feeling she would connect with James’s work, but had no idea Minneapolis would become ‘home’ and lead her to a new passion … creating movement.
Her first choreographic opportunity came in 1999. A friend was presenting work in the Minnesota Fringe Festival and had extra time on her program; she offered the space to Penelope. Despite no prior choreographic experience or inclination, Penelope accepted. “It was such a no brainer … to say ‘no’ would have been stupid.” The moment was a revelation. “I [felt] like I unlocked some big life secret … It was really exciting!”
She describes her movement as “theatrical and poetic,” yet “athletic”. With no set choreographic process, Penelope strives to let movement evolve organically, avoiding the “predictable” and allowing it to “unlock and open”.
Already, 2012 looks to be a big year. In January, she’ll present two pieces at Minneapolis’s Red Eye Theater and a piece commissioned for the St. Paul Conservatory of the Performing Arts. Next fall, she’ll collaborate with a local composer and NYC choreographer Patrick Corbin for a production at the Southern Theater. Additionally, Penelope will choreograph Wonderful Town for the Skylark Opera.
With each ballet, Penelope finds new depth. “I could [choreograph] for the rest of my life and it would make me really happy”, she says.
Simple Folk , premiered on the James Sewell Ballet in February 2009 at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis Dancers Featured: Nicolas Lincoln, Sally Rousse, Chris Hannon, and Stephanie Wolf
Brian Enos working with dancers in the studio. Photo courtesy of Mystic Ballet, Photo by Glenn Goettler
Brian Enos Chicago, IL
The transition from dancer to choreographer wasn’t difficult for Brian Enos. After performing with the Houston Ballet and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, he was ready for the next phase in his life. “I’ve never been the kind of person who has to be onstage … I enjoy working in the studio”, he explains.
Brian discovered a knack for choreographing while attending the Houston Ballet Academy. The academy’s summer intensive gave him a chance to create and exposed his raw talent to artistic director Ben Stevenson. Impressed by what he saw, Ben asked Brian to choreograph on the professional company – at the time, Brian was only 18 and still a student in the academy.
It’s impossible for Brian to describe his work and process in a few select words. “I haven’t thought of my pieces as a body of work [because] each is so individual”. He says the music and his dancers inform his choreography. “Usually, I spend the first [rehearsal] playing around with material, getting to know the dancers … to see how they work and move”.
His next project takes him South, to work with the Nashville Ballet. Now that he is no longer performing, Brian looks forward to exploring choreographic opportunities and further developing his artistic voice.
Three, created for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Featured Dancers: Shannon Alvis, Jamy Meek, and Ana Lopez
Catherine Cabeen and Karena Birk. Photo Tim Summers
Catherine Cabeen Seattle, WA
As a child, Catherine Cabeen made dances in her backyard, but her true choreographic voice emerged while she was performing in NYC with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. Along with several other BTJ/AZ dancers, she showed work at small festivals, allowing choreography to be an outlet for emotions she could not express openly as a dancer.
Catherine describes her style as “aggressive, classically informed and therefore iconoclastic …” She likes dance to inhibit space and assimilates the sensation of choreographing or dancing as “trying to feel the wind in my hair …” Her work is a collaboration with not only her dancers, but with “interdisciplinary artists” as well.
Currently, CCC’s roster has six diverse dancers. In 2013, CCC will premiere a “large-scale work” in Seattle. Simultaneously, Catherine will create a new repertory show to be performed locally and nationally.
A montage of Catherine Cabeen and Company repertoire Dancers Featured: Catherine Cabeen, Michael Cepress, Bo Choi, Echo Gustafson, Sarah Lustbader, Kane Mathis, Julian Martlew, Jay McAleer, and Connie Yun
San Francisco choreographer Amy Siewert has been creating dances since high school. “I made my first piece when I was 16 [as part of Cincinnati’s School of Creative and Performing Arts curriculum]… it’s something I grew up doing,” she explains.
From Ohio, Amy ventured west to dance with the Sacramento Ballet and San Francisco’s Smuin Ballet. She received her first big commission in 1999 for the Carolina Ballet. From there, her choreographic resume developed in conjunction with her performing career.
Amy credits her classical upbringing for the backbone of her movement and harbors no intentions to ever detach herself from it. “I am fascinated with classical technique … I like to take [the basics] and split them open … I follow the physics [of movement], the way ballet follows physics, but try to use it in a way traditional ballet doesn’t.”
Now, Amy is the resident choreographer for Smuin Ballet and has several exciting premieres to look forward to. This spring, she’ll choreograph for the Colorado Ballet. She’ll also create a collaborative work for BalletMet, featuring software artist Frieder Weiss. Her busy spring concludes with a premiere on Oakland Ballet. Amy also choreographs on her own contemporary ballet troupe Imagery.
Dear Miss Cline, premiered on the Smuin Ballet in May 2011 at the Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco Dancers Featured: Terez Dean, Jonathan Dumar, Jared Hunt, Shannon Hurlbert, Jane Rehm, Susan Roemer, John Speed Orr, Christian Squires, Erin Yarbrough-Stewart
Requiem, premiered on the Smuin Ballet in May 2011 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco – the ballet was created in memory of the late Michael Smuin Dancers Featured: Travis Walker, Susan Roemer, Erin Yarbrough-Stewart, and Jonathan Powell
Top photo: Choreography by Amy Siewert. Dancers Katherine Wells and Ben Needham Wood. Photo by David DeSilva