Dancers Reflect on the Year that Was, Is and Will Be

By Leah Gerstenlauer of Dance Informa.

The end of 2013 is nigh, dear readers! With the New Year in sight, it’s high time to take the pulse of the dance nation. Not ready for a cross-country trek? Not to worry. Eight artists hailing from companies throughout the United States have shared their reflections on the current dance season with us, and you’re invited to sit back, relax and enjoy the read.

Jim Nowakowski, Houston Ballet

“This season, I am most excited for Houston Ballet’s tour to Paris. I have never been there, and it is a huge honor that a select few of us have the opportunity to perform a new creation by our director [Stanton Welch] at the Theatre des Champs Elysees. I am also looking forward to a mixed repertory program called Modern Masters that consists of works by [Jiří] Kylián, [William] Forsythe and [George] Balanchine. I am hoping to perform in the middle, somewhat elevated, which is one of my favorite ballets. The movement feels so natural to me.”

“Also, I am looking forward to other great things [Houston Ballet] has in store: hopefully more tours, more company members, new creations and world premieres — and hopefully being promoted to soloist one day…”

Shoshana Rosenfield, Intermezzo Dance Company

“I have always enjoyed dancing and working on the many plot-less ballets we were fortunate enough to perform at New York City Ballet. I loved being able to dance and just have the music, you and the steps. The piece I recently worked on for Intermezzo required telling a story. To me, this is a more foreign concept and slightly intimidating territory. It forced me to really commit to being a character and try to embody a whole different being and persona that does not come naturally to who I am as a person and as a dancer. This is what I love about dance. It always pushes me.”

“This new dance company has pulled together dancers and choreographers from very different backgrounds and at very different points in our lives and allowed us to collaborate… we put everything aside as we stepped into the studio to rehearse, dance, laugh and create. Working with this great group and getting to know them as artists and as people has been a very exciting and rewarding experience. “

American Contemporary Ballet

Amy Gilson of American Contemporary Ballet. Photo by Lauren Ward.

Amy Gilson, American Contemporary Ballet

“I’m part of a newer company that presents original contemporary classical ballets in Los Angeles. It has been exciting to be involved in the creative process of producing original choreographic works that, though rooted in the tradition of classical ballet, continue to build on it. This season, we’re partnering with The Da Camera Society, a chamber music organization, to present ballets with live music, and it has been a privilege to perform with [them]. Many larger ballet companies don’t have the resources to fund musicians, so when a smaller company is able to present their work with live music, it is a unique opportunity. It’s also something that I, as a Juilliard-trained musician (I play the harp and piano), have a keen appreciation for. My two worlds are colliding in a beautiful way!”

Mark Krieger, Louisville Ballet

“We started the season off with Swan Lake, which is the first ballet I ever performed in. It was when I first started dancing, and I remember that I was in the hunting party. No dancing – just me and a crossbow. It was exciting [to revive] because it’s one of my top five favorite ballets.”

“Also, I’m psyched to perform in La Sylphide, which I’ve never done before. And my director is Scottish, so I think the work atmosphere will be very entertaining — not to mention that the ballet is beautiful.”

Cynthia Harada, Houston Metropolitan Dance Company

“I am really looking forward to working with some of the new choreographers who are coming in from around the country this year. I think it is so important to be constantly challenged with new work as a dancer and artist. Also, HMDC has moved and we are very excited about the changes this will bring to the company. We are trying to become nationally recognized and I think this year will be a big jump for us… I’m also getting married! So I’m hoping to be able to divide my time well – juggling the dancing, teaching and wedding planning.”

Jamal Rashann Callender, Ballet Hispanico

“This season at Ballet Hispanico is going to be very special. Entering my third season with BH, I am extremely happy to still be exploring new territory within the organization. Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro has created a great program this season, including five world premieres. I look forward to continuing to work on Nacho Duato’s Jardi Tancat, and on Sortijas, an intimate duet by Cayetano Soto that I enjoy dancing. Also, I’ve performed three pieces by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, and I’m thrilled to finally have the opportunity to be in a creative process with her in a new work.”

“Also, I am looking forward to seeing the New York City dance scene grow and thrive. Many think that the concrete jungle is missing performing arts, and dance especially, in the community. It’s there! It’s here! I believe that we need to find creative ways to get to the audience. Many companies have great outreach opportunities — not just for kids, in an educational [context], but also in festivals, at events and in circles where dance usually isn’t seen. I look forward to those random encounters with new audience members.”

Ballet Hispanico dancer

Jamal Rashan Callender of Ballet Hispanico. Photo by Maryana Hordeychuk.

Shannon Quirk, Madison Ballet

“From the classic Nutcracker to the return of Dracula: A Rock Ballet, Madison Ballet is presenting a wide variety of work this year. I’m most looking forward to our two repertory shows at the end of the season. Mixed repertory can push your dancing to places it has never been, and I find that incredibly intoxicating. The opportunity to work with new choreographers and be part of the artistic process is always an exciting challenge, and there is so much opportunity for growth in the variety of dancing. I can’t wait to get started!”

Katherine Crockett, Martha Graham Dance Company

“We were at [New York] City Center and SUNY Purchase last month, and now we’re off to Beverly Hills to perform at the new Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. We’re also involved in Performa 13 in New York, which is new for us. The theme is surrealism and we’re performing Spectre 1914 and Herodiade at our Westbeth studio. Herodiade is a duet for two women and I play the character called the attendant. Originally, Graham called the piece Mirror Before Me and she talked about looking into a mirror and seeing her own death… This woman’s journey can have many interpretations and can expand into so many different layers and impressions about looking deep inside oneself and about one’s own mortality.”

“This is my 21st season with the Graham company, and it’s always nice to have new things to work on. For the spring season in NYC, I’ll be dancing Clytemnestra, which is one of my favorite roles to play. She’s quite a spirit, and it’s an intense and consuming piece. What’s fabulous is that at the end of the work, Clytemnestra is redeemed; she journeys on. That didn’t happen in the myth… The beauty of Graham is that she rarely tells linear stories. She tells them circularly, which is how our brains work. I hope that each individual viewer of a performance feels an impression of the story left on his or her soul.”

Photo (top): Shoshana Rosenfield of Intermezzo Dance Company. Photo by Sarah Sterner.

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