Tag Archive | "young choreographer"

Lindsay Nelko is Living the Dream

By Stephanie Wolf.

Canadian native Lindsay Nelko was born with the dance gene. Her mother was a dancer with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and Nelko’s first years were spent in her mother’s dance school, Shelley Shearer School of Ballet. According to the fledgling choreographer, her mother “inspired [her] love of dance.”

Now, with choreographic accolades like The Pulse’s “Featured Choreographer of the Year,” assistant choreographer for Fox’s The X Factor and most recently, a debut piece on Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance under her belt, Nelko has some serious momentum in the industry. And she’s showing no signs of slowing down.

Finding her voice in the profession

Nelko grew up dancing at her mother’s school, training in ballet, pointe, jazz, hip-hop, tap, musical theatre and modern. She then went on to further her performing arts education at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and University of California Los Angeles’ Performing Arts Department.

Lindsay Nelko SYTYCD choreographer

Lindsay Nelko

Claiming she never had the facility for classical ballet, Nelko sought out performance opportunities in film, television and theater while she attended college. “That is where I discovered my passion in creating and wanting to share my personal experiences and express them,” said Nelko. “While I loved dancing and could express myself through movement, dancing wasn’t fulfilling from a creative perspective.”

This love for creating and inspiring others fueled her desire to choreograph. She got involved with the dance convention The Pulse on Tour and entered her work to “receive feedback from well-known professionals in the industry.”

From 2010 to 2012, she won four “Choreographer’s Pick” awards at the convention and, in July 2012, she was awarded the “Featured Choreographer of the Year” award at the New York City finale. Since receiving this honor, she has enjoyed choreographic stints with Fox’s The X Factor, the NBC/Universal movie American Girl: Saige Paints the Sky, as a top finalist for the 2013 Capezio A.C.E Awards in Manhattan, and represented Canada at the International Dance Organization World Dance Championships in Germany and Poland.

Nelko now calls Los Angeles home. However, her schedule keeps her traveling constantly. She says she loves working in her native country and New York City, and adds that theses places have “a special place in my heart.”

Lindsay Nelko choreographs for X Factor

From left, Tessandra Chavez, Lindsay Nelko, Brian Friedman, Tucker Barkley and Tiana Brown at ‘X Factor.’

She says all of her pieces are driven by a narrative and have an emotional core. Aspiring to touch people through dance, she says, “I never want to create steps. I want to create movement to express a feeling and emotion.” Her style is varied and theatrical, but still deeply rooted in ballet, modern and jazz techniques. Ultimately, she strives to constantly challenge herself as an artist, finding unique ways to express human emotions and create movement.

Dreams do come true

At the end of 2012, Nelko received her U.S. working VISA, allowing her to submit her work to SYTYCD. Desmond Richardson, co-artistic director of Complexions Contemporary Ballet and a mentor of Nelkos, recommended her to the show—Nelko has been incredibly grateful for his support. Shortly after, her agent at MSA sent in her choreographic submission to the reality competition series.

“The show’s producers took a liking in my work,” said Nelko. “I had the opportunity to present my pieces live to them and the rest is history.”

History, indeed…Nelko made her SYTYCD choreographic debut to great aplomb on July 9, 2013. Judge Nigel Lythgoe commended her for the emotionally driven duet between Season 10 finalists Mackenzie Dustman and Paul Karmiryan, saying she was a “true asset to this show.”

Lindsay Nelko is with The PULSE on Tour

Lindsay Nelko with mentor Brian Friedman after winning PULSE Choreographer Award.

It was a moment she will never forget. “I am so humbled and grateful,” Nelko said of the experience. “The feedback from the judges was unbelievable. It still feels like I am living in a dream.” She also received an outpouring of positive reinforcement from social media, demonstrating how strongly the piece about loss and acceptance affected people.

But she remains humble. “Paul Karmiryan and Makeznie Dustman brought my piece to life and danced with such passion and beauty,” she says. “I am so proud of them.”

The journey continues

Since showing her work on SYTYCD, Nelko says she is exploring many different opportunities within the profession. “The industry is forever changing,” she says. “Rather than getting my hopes set on any particular job, I want to be open and prepared for any opportunity that comes along.

One thing for sure is that Nelko hopes to continue to choreograph, teach and judge for The Pulse on Tour. “I love sharing my knowledge and passion for dance with this next generation of dancers,” she says in regards to her future in the field. She aims to use dance as a medium to inspire and motivate others the way it has inspired and motivated her.

Photo (top): So You Think You Can Dance Season 10 finalists Paul Karmiryan and Mackenzie Dustman with Lindsay Nelko, center, after live performance. Photos courtesy of Lindsay Nelko.

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ABT and Friends: Performance Promotes New Choreographic Voices Within Company

By Laura Di Orio.

This summer, dance fans will be given the opportunity to see new works by new choreographic voices within the ranks of American Ballet Theatre (ABT). The performance series, ABT and Friends, will be held at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts on Friday, August 9.

The event’s founder, former ABT and New York City Ballet dancer Anna Liceica, says she feels that “it is our duty as artists to promote new works and fresh talent that will take our art form into the future.”

The series had its first run last summer when dancers from ABT and guest artists performed at the Southern Vermont Performing Arts Center. This year, ABT and Friends will present an evening called Classical Moves with works by ABT dancers Gemma Bond, Mikhail Ilyin, Zhongiing Fang, Daniel Mantei and Vitali Krauchenka. There will also be excerpts from legendary ballets like Le Corsaire, Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, Paquita and Carmen.

ABT and Friends to present "Classical Moves" program

Gabrielle Johnson and Luciana Paris in ABT dancer Gemma Bond’s “Manner.” Photo courtesy of Anna Liceica.

Liceica says that she was first inspired to produce such an event during her own experiences performing as a guest on touring groups established by Heather Watts and Damien Woetzel and also Angel Corella. She also saw great potential in ABT’s now defunct Innovation Initiative, which gave young choreographers within the company the chance to show their work.

An opportunity arose for Liceica last year, when she was able to organize the first of her series. “This year, knowing I had started a good thing, I went ahead and took the initiative of calling the Lake Placid Center for the Arts, where I have danced in the past. The timing seems to have been right, as they were looking to cast another dance program this summer,” she says.

Although Liceica says the process of organizing the event and dealing with budget constraints is stressful at times, the final product is something she finds rewarding and satisfying.

“Nevertheless, I do make it work somehow, and I wish to continue this program and mission, not only to promote new works by young choreographers from the ranks of ABT, but also to bring ABT talent out to theaters and audiences that do not normally get to see these extraordinary dancers on a regular basis,” Liceica adds. “I hope this will continue to evolve, expand to new places and theaters throughout the U.S., as time and budget allow.”

To purchase tickets to this summer’s Classical Moves – An Evening of Dance with Members of ABT and Friends, visit http://www.lakeplacidarts.org/Calendar-of-Events.html.

Photo (top): Dancers perform in ABT dancer Vitali Krauchenka’s Knaack Feat. Photo courtesy of Anna Liceica.

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Kate Ladenheim: A Machine of Perpetual Motion

By Leah Gerstenlauer.

By habit, dancers crave approval. A parent’s proud applause, an instructor’s silent nod of appreciation, a critic’s sparkling write-up — such external approbation is food for a dancer’s soul. But for choreographer Kate Ladenheim, a discouraging remark or a skeptical review is just as desirable as the highest of praise.

“I love getting people to talk about my work, even if they hate it,” she said. “It’s like when you go to a museum and see a beautiful landscape right next to a canvas painted yellow… Everybody talks about the canvas painted yellow because they think it’s really weird. But that yellow canvas made them think. I want to be that yellow canvas.”

At the age of 23, Ladenheim has yet to face any terribly scathing reviews. Though she has met with her fair share of rejection, she speaks about her work with remarkably easy self-assurance and conviction, characteristics that other artists spend their entire careers cultivating. And indeed, she has no need to doubt her creative capabilities. Within a year of her graduation from Boston Conservatory’s undergraduate dance program in 2011, Ladenheim had formed her own project-based company, The People Movers, with which she began to present her work at festivals and venues throughout the Northeast. Her desire to “be that yellow canvas” — to attract notice, engage minds and elicit strong responses — has her in perpetual motion, and she shows no sign of slowing down.

The People Movers dance company

The People Movers perform ‘Bee Stings in My Bedroom’. Photo by Megan Cignoli

As Ladenheim’s dancers can attest, her energetic career path is a direct reflection of her choreographic philosophy. “Dance is physical,” the young dance-maker asserted. “I feel very strongly about that. I’m not good at stillness… I’m interested in the physical act of dancing. I’m interested in athleticism. I’m interested in exhaustion and how the body deals with that.”

Dancer Andrew Trego, also a Boston Conservatory alum and Ladenheim’s frequent dance partner, copes with this intense creative atmosphere by taking to the studio, the gym, the yoga mat — anything that will help him to keep pace with his energetic friend. “Kate is a magnificent machine,” Trego reported. “Her choreography demands endless energy, both physical and emotional, but I love the challenge.”

Equally valuable to Trego is the work environment that Ladenheim generates: “She trusts us and asks for our input. If something isn’t working, I let her know and we fix it together. Dancing for Kate is not just business, it’s personal.”

The pair’s sturdy creative partnership will prove useful in the coming months as Ladenheim continues to construct Pillars of Salt, a powerful duet that will premiere at the experimental New York performance space Dixon Place on April 2. Inspired by the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, the project began as a physical exploration of love, loss and regret.

Pillars of Salt by Kate Ladenheim and Andrew Trego

Kate Ladenheim and Andrew Trego in ‘Pillars of Salt’. Photo by Nir Arieli

“I was thinking about what it means to miss someone so much that you would brave the perils of the land of the dead to bring that person back,” she explained. “We’ve all missed someone like that. We’ve all lost something that we desperately wish we could get back.”

Not content merely to imagine the lovers’ plight, Ladenheim asked a friend with expertise in Greek mythology to write a script for her characters, to tease out what words the ill-fated pair would exchange had they had a chance to speak in the aftermath of Orpheus’ tragic mistake. But rather than clarify her artistic vision, this collaboration infused Pillars with a new depth. By the time the piece previewed in Boston and New York last year, Eurydice had become the biblical figure of Lot’s wife, and the focus of the work had shifted from a mere reflection on lost love to a statement on the gender politics of guilt — the variety of provocative, potentially controversial, subject matter Ladenheim loves to address. “If I feel that an idea generates movement, then I’ll work on it,” she said, even if that idea is not exactly easily digestible fare for her audience.

Yet as much as Ladenheim relishes challenging her viewers’ minds and her dancers’ bodies, she seems to savor opportunities to push her own limits much more. Near the end of 2012, she braved her greatest feat to date: sharing the creative reigns with artists outside of her tight-knit group. When commissioned to craft a piece for composer Peter Lane and the Juventas Music Ensemble last fall, Ladenheim found herself choreographing on a theme and to music not of her choosing for the first time. Anxious about the logistics of the project, but truly honored by the request, she dove into the making of Hackpolitik with an open mind. She said she ended up enjoying the process immensely.

“I knew that if I didn’t connect with the music for this piece, it would’ve been impossible,” she said, especially given the rather unusual topic — the true stories of Anonymous, an enterprising group of young computer hackers. “There’s a lot of movement written into the music Peter Lane created, a lot of nuance, and I actually think my choreography complements his score very well. It was never a struggle to come up with the next thing.” Ladenheim will expand Hackpolitik into an hour-long piece for its official world premiere in the latter half of 2013.

Busy as she is with her two current choreographic endeavors and a part-time job that helps to keep her and her company financially afloat, Ladenheim rarely rests in her search for more festivals, projects and possibilities to pursue.

“I work really hard — it’s not easy or cheap to do this. But I’m just not someone who gives up,” she said. “I moved to New York City so that I can have all of this dance and all of this art around me; so that I can be constantly inspired and shown something better than me and be pushed to improve in that way.”

If we’re lucky, maybe she’ll bring us along for the ride.

To learn more about Kate Ladenheim, visit kateladenheim.com. For more about The People Movers, visit peoplemoversdance.com.

Top photo: Kate Ladenheim by Jesse Weiner

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Have choreography?

Opportunities to show your work in New York.

By Katherine Moore.

Living and working as a dancer in New York City can be quite a challenge, especially if you’re new to the city. Young dancers arrive in the Big Apple full of dreams, but often with very little concrete information about how to begin their dance careers.

This task can be even more daunting for aspiring choreographers looking for venues to show their work. In many cases, young choreographers have just graduated from college dance programs, where they had unlimited space, resources, mentorship, and guaranteed venues and performances to demonstrate their burgeoning creative talent. Making the big leap to showing work in New York can be extremely challenging for a multitude of reasons, but for emerging artists and for those who hope to gain an MFA in dance and enter higher education, choreographic experience outside of undergraduate work is an essential component of a career in dance. 

Luckily, the dance scene in New York is vast and varied in its opportunities for young artists. With a little pre-planning and organization of application materials, choreographers can find themselves performing and showing work all over the city in venues specifically designed for emerging artists and new work. These venues allow choreographers to gain exposure, feedback, and networking opportunities with their peers. For some dancers who have been unlucky in their search for dance employment, these venues give young artists the ability to take their performance career under their own control by creating opportunities to be seen doing what they love most: dancing.

These opportunities take creativity, organization, and initiative to bring to fruition, and in an effort to make the task more manageable for our inspired readers, we have compiled a listing of some choreographic opportunities suited for emerging dance artists and works-in-progress in New York. Each has its own set of requirements and dynamic character, some requiring fees and extensive documentation, but with a little pre-planning and, of course, some talent, young dance artists could be performing all over the city before they know it.

The Steps Performance Lab


 Green Space

-Fertile Ground Performance Series

-Take Root Performance Series


Dance New Amsterdam

-RAW material


-Works in Progress


Movement Research

-Open Performance


-Movement Research at Judson Church


Danspace Project

-Draft Work


Amalgamate Dance Company

-Amalgamate Artist Series


Williamsburg Art neXus



Chen Dance Center



Jennifer Muller/The Works

-HATCH Presenting series 

Dance Theater Workshop

 -Fresh Tracks 


Harkness Dance Center, 92nd Street Y

-Fridays at Noon 


-Sundays at Three


Photo:  © Patrick J Hanrahan | Dreamstime.com

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