Category Archives: Ballet Austin

Creative Ballet and Executive Function

by Joan Wolfe, Creative Ballet Curriculum Director

Is my child over scheduled? Not doing enough? Should we add gymnastics or soccer to their list of activities? It can be confusing, but ultimately we all want to offer our children the most beneficial and balanced extracurricular experience possible.

The latest research in developmental psychology—the study of neural, cognitive, and socio/emotional human development—points to creative movement as sort of one-stop-shop for healthy growth and learning. For over 25 years I’ve been refining my Creative Ballet curriculum. Now, more than ever, research is reinforcing what I’ve known all along; interactive, fun and child-centered movement experiences are essential to a child’s growth.

Specifically, creative movement enhances a child’s executive function, which is their capacity to learn and achieve goals. It directly influences the life skills children need for optimal learning and growth socially, emotionally, and cognitively.

According to MindInTheMaking.org there are several essential life skills every child needs in order to enhance executive function. I’ve outlined these below along with how your child’s dance class experience influences this learning.

 Making Connections and Critical Thinking

Creative Ballet Curriculum Director Joan Wolfe with a group of Creative Ballet students.

Creative Ballet Curriculum Director Joan Wolfe with a group of Creative Ballet students.

Making connections is at the heart of learning—figuring out what’s the same, what’s different and sorting these things into categories. Making unusual connections is at the core of creativity. In a world where people can google for information, it is the people who can see the connections who can go beyond knowing information to using this information well. Critical thinking is the ongoing search for valid and reliable knowledge to guide beliefs, decisions and actions. – Mind In The Making

To prepare our bodies and minds we begin each class with the BrainDance. I then introduce our “magic word” for the day. The magic word is the concept that ties the class together. It creates meaning and focus. Concepts can include levels, time, shape, line, energy, relationships is space, etc. Students learn about these ideas through seeing and saying the written word, then experiencing it in action. These concepts translate to all areas of their lives so the learning continues outside of the dance room. Creative Ballet helps us think outside the box and make connections.

 Focus and Self Control

Creative Ballet Class

Creative Ballet Class

Children need this skill in order to achieve their goals, especially in a world that is filled with distractions and information overload. It involves paying attention, remembering the rules, thinking flexibly and exercising self control. – Mind In The Making

For children it all comes down to motivation. Children instinctively want to play. It’s no surprise that this is how they learn best. Creative Ballet engages children through fun and challenging dance activities and games. Because of the playfulness of my classes children are naturally motivated to focus, listen and respond with original ideas and movement vocabulary. Creative Ballet is child centered and self directed.

Perspective Taking

Perspective taking involves figuring out what others think and feel, and forms the basis of children understanding their parents’, teachers’ and friends’ intentions. Children who can take others’ perspectives are also much less likely to get involved in conflicts. – Mind In The Making

Every class includes time for observation and reflection. We respectfully watch our friends dance then we take time to offer positive feedback. Creative Ballet develops empathy and understanding.

 Communicating

Communicating is much more than understanding language, speaking, reading and writing—it is the skill of determining what one wants to communicate and realizing how our communications will be understood by others. It is the skill that many teachers feel is most lacking today. – Mind In The Making

Every activity I present requires students to listen carefully and interpret my instructions. I have a saying in class, “We listen, learn and have fun.” We are also aware of each other’s personal space and are often reminded how to respectfully ask for what we need. Creative Ballet enhances our ability to communicate thoughtfully and effectively.

Taking on Challenges

Creative Ballet student showing how he can jump!

Creative Ballet student showing how he can jump!

Life is full of stresses and challenges. Children who are willing to take on challenges (instead of avoiding them or simply coping with them) do better in school and in life. – Mind In The Making

Through out class I use the phrase “Show me how you can…” These are prompts that meet the child on their level. Students also get the benefit of seeing the movement vocabulary as I demonstrate different ideas. Learning by example and being given the opportunity to try and try again creates a self-assured and confident child. Creative Ballet is empowering.

Self-directed Engaged Learning

It is through learning that we can realize our potential. As the world changes, so can we, for as long as we live—as long as we learn. – Mind In The Making

In a nutshell, teacher guided and self-directed learning is my approach to dance education. It involves listening, interpreting, trying new ideas and repetition. It involves novelty, play, thinking outside the box, observing and reflecting. Creative Ballet engages the whole child.

To see the learning in action, please join us for Parent Watch Week during your child’s regular class time, February 22–27.

6 Things You Should Know about the Director’s Choice Choreographers

By Pei-San Brown,  Community Education Director

Director’s Choice 2016 is fast approaching and Artistic Director Stephen Mills is excited to introduce two extraordinary choreographic talents to local audiences, while presenting two of his favorite works. One of the most interesting aspects of Director’s Choice is the breadth of movement ideas and music used for the different pieces. Before you join us Valentine’s Day weekend, here are the top 6 things you need to know about our presenting choreographers.

1. Pontus Lidberg, the choreographer

Pontus Lidberg holds an MFA in Contemporary Performative Arts from the University of Gothenburg / Faculty of Fine, Applied and Performing Arts. He trained at the Royal Swedish Ballet School, and after graduating, he danced with The Royal Swedish Ballet, The Norwegian National Ballet, Le Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève, and The Göteborg Ballet.

Choreographer Pontus Lidberg. Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert.

Choreographer Pontus Lidberg. Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert.

2. Pontus Lidberg, the filmmaker

Lidberg’s most recent dance film, Labyrinth Within (2011)—featuring former New York City Ballet principal dancer Wendy Whelan, and a score by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang—received the Court Métrange du Jury prize at the Court-Métrange Film Festival in Rennes, France (2011) and won Best Picture at the Dance on Camera Festival in New York (2012).

Pontus and Wendy, Photo by Adrian Danchig-Waring

Pontus and Wendy, Photo by Adrian Danchig-Waring

3. Pam Tanowitz, the Guggenheim Fellow

Pam Tanowitz holds an MFA in Dance from Sarah Lawrence College, where she was mentored by former Merce Cunningham principal dancer Viola Farber-Slayton. She received a 2009 Bessie Award for Be in the Gray With Me, was awarded a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship in 2011, and was a 2013/14 Hodder Fellow at Princeton University.

Pam Tanowitz, Photo by Brad Paris

Pam Tanowitz, Photo by Brad Paris

4. Pam Tanowitz, the critic’s favorite

Pam is lauded by dance critics everywhere. Alastair Macaulay of the New York Times wrote in February 2014, “Some of the dance steps, phrases and constructions by the choreographer Pam Tanowitz are among the finest being made anywhere today. They feature memorable footwork, strikingly elegant and witty combinations of lower- and upper-body movement, and complex, subtle, fascinating uses of stage space. And yet she’s an eccentric… Much of her dance vocabulary is taken from ballet and from Merce Cunningham technique, both of which she employs in ways that should often impress devotees of either genre.”

Maggie Cloud and Melissa Toogood in Pam Tanowitz's Passagen at the Joyce Theater, Photo by Andrea Mohin

Maggie Cloud and Melissa Toogood in Pam Tanowitz’s Passagen at the Joyce Theater, Photo by Andrea Mohin

5. Stephen Mills, the musician-turned-dancer

Stephen Mills is a classically-trained musician who studied piano and composition at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. He took his first dance class at the age of 18, and went on to dance with The Harkness Ballet and The American Dance Machine in New York.

He revealed in a 2013 interview with ATX Man, “When I was 8, I had encephalitis, and I was in a brief coma. The fact that I was able to walk in the end was miraculous. So sports were not part of my life. When I went to college and I learned that I could use my body like this, it was a revelation… The second I stepped into the studio, I knew that was what I wanted to do.”

Stephen Mills, Photo by William Russell

Stephen Mills, Photo by William Russell

6. Stephen Mills, the award-winning dance maker

Stephen began his career at Ballet Austin as a dancer. He later became Resident Choreographer, and then eventually Artistic Director of the company. He was the choreographer chosen to represent the United States through his work, Ashes, at Les Rencontres Chorégraphiques Internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis in Paris (1998). His ballet, One / the body’s grace, was awarded the Steinberg Award, the top honor at Le Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur International Choreographic Competition. One of Stephen’s crowning achievements is the ballet Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project, which in 2006 was awarded the Audrey & Raymond Maislin Humanitarian Award by the Anti-Defamation League.

Ballet Austin's Stephen Mills in his work Ashes (1998). Photo by Lucia Uhl.

Ballet Austin’s Stephen Mills in his work Ashes (1998). Photo by Lucia Uhl.

Don’t miss your chance to see these extraordinary artists at their best for Director’s Choice!

New Year, New Work: Working With Pontus Lidberg

By Oliver Greene-Cramer, Company Dancer

Let me start by saying Happy New Year! With the first month of 2016 drawing to a close, we are putting together the final touches on Director’s Choice.

We are about three weeks out from the performance and have just finished learning all of the choreography for the final two ballets—there are four total dance works being performed during Director’s Choice. With this blog post, however, I’ll be looking back at the process and choreography of Pontus Lidberg’s Stream. Pontus first came to set his work on us in October, just before Ballet Austin’s tour to West Palm Beach, and will return to Austin two weeks before Director’s Choice.

Swedish choreographer Pontus Lindberg.

Swedish choreographer Pontus Lindberg.

An internationally acclaimed choreographer and filmmaker, Pontus is originally from Sweden but is currently based in New York City. Given his body of work with companies such as the Swedish Royal Ballet and Royal Danish Ballet, we were extremely excited to learn that we would be working with him.

Stream was originally choreographed on Oregon Ballet Theatre in 2013 so the process was one of resetting existing movement on our company dancers. The ballet is set to an original score by composer Ryan Francis. With gorgeous swells and ethereal melodies the music helps to guide the pulses within the movement.

Though Stream had already been choreographed, Pontus was interested in altering and modifying certain aspects so that we, as dancers, felt more natural in the movement. Therefore, instead of having us mimic a video, he took time to encourage individuality in fulfilling the steps.

Choreographer Pontus Lindberg setting his work Stream.

Choreographer Pontus Lindberg setting his work Stream.

From the first day in the studio Pontus’ aesthetic and intention was clear. Though very intricate in terms of partnering and spatial patterns, the flowing movement demands an organic and effortless mindset. Much of the choreography is connected by off balance steps or even an intentional fall. While the piece is full of floor work and complex partnering, Pontus’ desire is that everything flows naturally while working in the context of the movement vocabulary. Nothing looks forced or random; everything seamlessly connects to the next step. Though his choreography is firmly rooted in classical line, Pontus wants more than just technical cleanliness in a dancer. The choreography demands an expressiveness from the dancers that requires precision without severity.

Company dancers Oliver Greene-Cramer and Ashley Lynn Sherman.

Company dancers Oliver Greene-Cramer and Ashley Lynn Sherman.

Next week Pontus returns to continue coaching Stream in the weeks leading up to the Valentine’s Day Weekend performances. As with all of the other pieces in Director’s Choice, we look forward to sharing Pontus’ beautiful work with Austin.

new-year

Looking Forward To 2016

By Christi Cuellar Lotz, Director of Development

You’ve made our YEAR! And by “our”, I mean the city of Austin.

Undoubtedly, you have received multiple emails from various non-profits asking for your support in 2015, and Ballet Austin has also done our share of asking. As we start a new year, I’d like to take the opportunity to say Thank You. Whether you are supporting Ballet Austin, or any other Austin non-profit organization, Thank You.

You help make Austin the incredible city it is, and you are the reason for our amazing growth and development. These are exciting times in our wonderful city, and the fabric of this town is made up of the threads of those who go above and beyond to give and make it a better place.

Whether you’ve volunteered for The Nutcracker School Shows, or helped serve meals in a soup kitchen, or purchased tickets to one of the city’s many arts productions helping keep the performing arts alive in Austin, or if you simply decided to write a check in 2015 to an organization you support and trust, Thank You.

And, if, indeed, you have included Ballet Austin in your 2015 giving, we could not be more thankful for you! With your support, we look forward to making 2016 just as special and magical as 2015, THANK YOU!

And here is just one of the many reasons we are thankful for YOU. Cheers to a fantastic 2016!

IN PICTURES: Behind The Scenes of The Nutcracker

By Molly Morrow, HR & Accounting Associate

Ballet Austin’s 53rd annual The Nutcracker is an Austin holiday tradition, and the longest running production of The Nutcracker in Texas. Even if you’ve seen it every year, I hope these behind-the-scenes images shed a new light on the production.


There are people who like the ballet, and then there are people who like tattoos of the ballet tattooed into their flesh. We let you find out which kind of person you are with these fun temporary nutcracker prince tattoos.

We revamped The Nutcracker with brand new costumes and sets in 2013, and it shows. The costumes for these waltz-of-the-flowers dancers are lovely, even when you pass them outside of the dressing room under cold fluorescent lighting. Onstage under warm spotlights they are mesmerizing.

These particular flowers (Ballet Austin II dancers Nicole and Abby) are laughing and just generally goofing around while they wait for the second act to start, an exceedingly common occurrence backstage.

A photo posted by Molly Morrow (@mrmollymorrow) on

This life-size Ballet Austin nutcracker is a fun photo op for ballet goers. But it has blossomed into so much more. His head is the size of my living room and he is easily a foot taller than me. He calls me Moll Doll, I call him Mr. Nuts. :-)

I hope you enjoyed my look at The Nutcracker from behind the curtain and I hope that you get to create your own magical experience at the Long Center for this year’s The Nutcracker, running from December 5–23.

The Dark History of The Nutcracker

By Pei-San Brown, Community Education Director

Many of us take for granted the sweet, snowy concoction that we call The Nutcracker ballet. Yet, few know that the ballet actually has a very dark origin.

200 Years Ago

Almost 200 years ago, a German writer named E.T.A. Hoffman published a book called The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. Hoffman was an author that liked to write spooky stories that crossed the border between reality and fantasy. In his stories, inanimate objects would come alive and the imagination would run wild. The original tale of The Nutcracker has been described as bizarre and dramatic, very much like the tales from the Brothers Grimm. In fact, Hoffman’s 1816 story was written around the same time as the Grimm Brothers’ Fairy Tales.

E.T.A Hoffman, Author

E.T.A Hoffman, Author

One of the largest differences between the Hoffman tale and the ballet we see on most stages today is the missing story within a story, or as Hoffman named it, “The Story of the Hard Nut.” In Hoffman’s Nutcracker, Marie (or Clara as she is known in some versions today) wakes up in her bed after the battle with the mice. She is not feeling well. Her Godfather Drosselmeyer tells her the following story about her beloved toy, the nutcracker, to make her feel better.

Maurice Sendak's illustration of The Story of the Hard Nut

Maurice Sendak’s illustration of The Story of the Hard Nut

The tale within a tale centers on Princess Pirlipat and her family and the feud they have with a family of mice that lives in the palace. The mice offend the king and are driven from the palace, but not before they threaten the princess’ life and then actually turn her from a beautiful baby into a gruesome nutcracker. The court wizard, who coincidentally is also named Drosselmeyer, is tasked with curing the princess. In consultation with the court astronomer, Drosselmeyer discovers that the cure is for the princess to eat the sweet kernel of the nut Krakatuk, and that this hard nut would have to be cracked in the presence of the princess by the teeth of a young man who had never shaved nor worn boots. After cracking the nut, the young man would have to hand her the kernel with his eyes closed and take seven steps backwards without stumbling.

Maurice Sendak’s illustration of Princess Pirlipat

Maurice Sendak’s illustration of Princess Pirlipat

For 15 years, the wizard and astronomer traveled the world in search of the nut Krakatuk. They eventually find the nut in Drosselmeyer’s native city of Nuremberg, and in, of all places, his own cousin’s house. It also turns out that the cousin’s own son is the young man who is to crack the nut. Drossselmeyer, the astronomer, and Drosselmeyer’s nephew speed back to the castle, the young man cracks the nut and the princess becomes a beautiful girl again. However, before the nephew can take seven steps back, he stumbles over the Mouse Queen, who has returned to prevent the princess’ transformation back into a human. This time it is the young man who is cursed and becomes a nutcracker. The astronomer predicts that the nutcracker will become a human again when he kills the Mouse King. And that is The Story of The Hard Nut.

Maurice Sendak’s illustration

Maurice Sendak’s illustration

Modern Times

Approximately three decades later after Hoffman penned his Nutcracker, Alexandre Dumas, the author famous for writing The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo wrote The Nutcracker of Nuremberg, a French adaptation of Hoffman’s book, simplifying the storyline and making it much lighter and sweeter. This revised story was the basis for the libretto of the original ballet version of The Nutcracker with choreography by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, and with music by Peter Tchaikovsky. The Dumas adaptation is also most like the children’s tale we see performed Nutcracker ballets of today.

Photo from the original Nutcracker ballet (1892), St. Petersburg, Russia

Photo from the original Nutcracker ballet (1892), St. Petersburg, Russia

Are you ready to see the Stephen Mills’ version? Purchase your tickets today and compare today’s tale of The Nutcracker to it’s dark past!

The Clara Diaries

By Jessica Pino, Senior Manager of Audience Engagement & Marketing

Ballet Austin has a total of 186 dancers performing The Nutcracker every year. This includes 44 professional, apprentice & training dancers, and 142 student dancers from the Ballet Austin Academy. A role that many little girls dream of dancing is that of Clara. Meet Madeline Casas, a Ballet Austin Academy student, who is dancing the role for the second year in a row as she talks about what it’s like dancing this role alongside Ballet Austin company dancers.

Iconic Thriller Re-awakens “The Dancing” Dead

By Guest Blogger, Laura Bond Williams, Butler Center for Dance & Fitness member

In 2008, and Ballet Austin’s Butler Center for Dance & Fitness had re-awakened me to the possibilities of becoming a dancer—at age 38. That fall I took a thrilling step forward as a dancer and performer when I joined 800+ other local dancers to participate in “Thrill the World” at the Long Center, joining tens of thousands of movers worldwide to set a Guinness World Record for simultaneously dancing Thriller. That experience—and several more over the last seven years—are why I appreciate and celebrate Thriller as a way for people to connect with their bodies, channel their creativity and claim dance for themselves.

thrill-the-world-tibbygirl

Image from 2008’s Thrill the World at the Long Center. Photo Credit tibbygirl via Flickr CC.

That day, lying flat and “playing dead” on the warm concrete plaza of our city’s performing arts center, we waited for the opening notes and footsteps that mark the beginning of Michael Jackson’s legendary song. Together—women and men of all ages and races—we slowly rose to life, our bodies play-fighting against gravity. Acting our roles as stumbling, bumbling living dead, rising from our graves and ready to…dance. Thriller’s famous fanfare brings us to our feet, and we stare straight ahead, enlivened by the music. The beat drops, and we walk, slowly. Right. Pause. Left. Pause. Right. Pause. Left. Pause.

One of my favorite Broadway dance teachers often quips “if you can walk, you can dance.” (Please note: walking is not even a prerequisite for dancing, as beautiful dance troupes such as Austin’s Body Shift dancers demonstrate.) As we stumbled right-left-right-left across the Long Center plaza, I realized this truth: when we are moved by music, we are dancing.

If you were alive and young in 1984, then Thriller connects your present body to your past. Perhaps you watched Friday night music videos while sitting next to your VCR, waiting for the Thriller video to air so you could tape it and watch it over and over. Thirty-one years later, Thriller still stirs the same reactions.

But you don’t have to be middle-aged to be excited by Thriller. This year, I taught Thriller to a group of young dancers, and we performed it at as a flash mob at an Alamo Drafthouse movie theatre. I gave them only two pieces of advice on costumes: Find some mud and some blood, and if your costume is too clean or too cute, it’s not a zombie.

People of all ages dressing as zombies for Thriller. Photo Credit

People of all ages at Ballet Austin dressed as zombies for Thriller. Photo Credit Laura Bond Williams

These 9–13-year-olds—and many of their parents—channeled ghastly princess and cheerleader zombies and night-of-the-living-dead zombies in white t-shirts, flannel and jeans, drizzled in dirt, leaves, mud and fake blood.

For adults, learning and performing Thriller is a way for us to claim our identity as dancers. For most of us “flash mobbers,” our identity as dancer may fall behind our roles as spouses, parents, and/or professionals. But the identity is no less dear. Last month I met a successful nonprofit executive whose career is a model and inspiration for many. Our conversation spanned many personal and professional subjects, and when we touched on the topic of dance, we went to a whole new shared space and she shared with me that she was starting Ballet Austin’s Thriller workshop. Her enthusiasm and excitement for tackling this iconic dance was palpable.

Photo Credit Laura Bond Williams

Photo Credit Laura Bond Williams

In less than six minutes—from a creaky door to an evil cackle—Thriller brings us back to life, living in our bodies, channeling our creativity and declaring our love of dance. As Vincent Price reminds us in rap: “For whosoever shall be found without the soul for getting down, may stand and face the hounds of hell and rot inside a corpse’s shell.”

Ballet Austin offers Thriller workshops every year! And with Halloween around the corner… Go ahead dancers. Thrill the world.

Join Ballet Austin In Celebrating Breast Cancer Awareness Month

By Christi Cuellar Lotz, Director of Development

Many in Austin may not realize the depth of Ballet Austin’s offerings. For example, The Pilates Pink Ribbon Program is something we take a lot of pride in. This post-operative exercise program is offered for women recovering from breast cancer surgery. Ballet Austin currently covers the entire cost of the program with the help of outside donations.

Post-Rehabilitative Breast Cancer Exercise Specialist Vlada Sheber working with a survivor.

Post-Rehabilitative Breast Cancer Exercise Specialist Vlada Sheber working with a survivor.

The program was started 6 years ago by certified Pilates instructor, Vlada Sheber for women such as Emily featured in the video below. Emily attends the workshop and says it’s been an integral part of her recovery. That it’s helped her regain her strength, energy and quality of life. Having practiced yoga for over 10 years, she knows what a difference movement makes in her general health and included it in her daily routine. Now, she calls it her “medicine.”

Other participants talk of Vlada’s compassion and sense of humor, in addition to her expertise, and tell about the sense of community the Pilates Pink Ribbon Program brings to them. Currently, we are able to offer this program during the lunchtime hours on Tuesday. But we can do more. More women can include this program as part of their recovery journey if evening classes were available.

Vlada Sheber

Post-Rehabilitative Breast Cancer Exercise Specialist Vlada Sheber during a Pilates Pink Ribbon Program class.

This is where you come in! As we move into the month of October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, show your support for these special women and join us for Pink Tuesdays every Tuesday in October. Wear pink to Ballet Austin—whether you’re taking a class or dropping off a child—take a selfie and post to social media to let everyone that you support Breast Cancer Awareness month! Don’t forget to tag #PinkTuesdayATX and #BalletAustin. And, if you’re inclined, make a gift of support to help us expand our reach of the Pilates Pink Ribbon Program. Know that every single dollar makes a difference.

Ballet Austin Company Dancer Shares What It’s Like Working With New Choreographers

By Oliver Greene-Cramer, Ballet Austin Company Dancer

Company dancers Christopher Swaim, Jaime Lynn Witts and Oliver Greene-Cramer in the studio learning a new piece by Pam Tanowitz (Photo by Anne Marie Bloodgood)

Company dancers Christopher Swaim, Jaime Lynn Witts and Oliver Greene-Cramer in the studio learning a new piece by Pam Tanowitz (Photo by Anne Marie Bloodgood)

Working with a new choreographer is often a very rewarding experience for a dancer. We get pushed and inspired in new ways while working in the familiarity of our own studio. As with many companies, at Ballet Austin we have the pleasure of working with multiple guest choreographers during the season. This season being no exception, Pam Tanowitz and Pontus Lidberg will be setting work on us for the Director’s Choice performance in February.

There are many different ways that choreographers choose to work with the company. From playing games to get to know us all the way, to just setting already choreographed steps. It’s always interesting to work in new ways. Even if you don’t end up being featured in the piece there are still opportunities to discover something new in the audition.

Working With Pam Tanowitz

Choreographer Pam Tanowitz in the Ballet Austin studios (Photo by Anne Marie Bloodgood)

Choreographer Pam Tanowitz in the Ballet Austin studios (Photo by Anne Marie Bloodgood)

One the most interesting processes came to us this week with Pam Tanowitz and her assistant Melissa Toogood. Based in New York, Pam is quite aesthetically similar to Merce Cunningham. Her almost pedestrian intention and love for chance echoes many of Cunningham’s methods. The piece that Pam set on us, Early that Summer, had already been created, but instead of merely giving us steps Pam wanted to work with us on changing and modifying the piece so it felt natural for our bodies. Both Pam and Melissa spoke to us about adhering to technical purity, while also fulfilling the steps in our own way. Any piece becomes far more interesting for the dancers with that kind of collaboration. Pam also spoke about how much she loves to discover new things in an old concept.

Another distinct aspect of this particular piece is that Pam didn’t choreograph to specific counts. Instead of adhering to a strict musicality, she instead encouraged the dancers to find the natural rhythm of the group, as well as our own individual movements. As a ballet company, this is a very foreign concept for many of us because so much of what we do is very defined with unison and formations. While being scary at points, it is very exciting and liberating to find such freedom, as well as making personal choices.

Limited Studio Time

Pam Tanowitz sets choreography for upcoming debut in Director's Choice. Company Dancers Christopher Swaim and Oliver Greene-Cramer pictured. (Photo by Anne Marie Bloodgood)

Pam Tanowitz sets choreography for upcoming debut in Director’s Choice. Company Dancers Christopher Swaim and Oliver Greene-Cramer pictured. (Photo by Anne Marie Bloodgood)

In the case of Pam we only had one week to put this piece together, and for most guest choreographers we only have a few weeks. Regardless of how brief the process is, it is really wonderful to connect with the new work.

Next up is Pontus Lidberg who we work with for three weeks in October before Ballet Austin travels to Florida to perform Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project and before the fourteen performances of The Nutcracker.

We look forward to sharing all of these with you and hope you enjoy the works from Pam Tanowitz and Pontus Lidberg featured in Director’s Choice as much as we do.