Tag Archives: New American Talent/Dance

NAT/D Dancer Preview #2

Improvisation, “ugly” movements and commands. James Fuller discusses Loni Landon’s choreography style.

Loni Landon started her choreographic residency at Ballet Austin by asking me and the other dancers in her piece to close our eyes and explore our feet. I turned my feet out and in, rolled my weight onto my heels and then onto to the tops of my arches and crossed my feet so far that I could barely move. In ballet class, all of these positions would have been horribly wrong, but Loni wanted us to find ways of moving that would normally feel awkward or ugly. She explained that movements that feel awkward and ugly can be fresh, interesting and beautiful in ways that traditional steps can’t.

From our feet, we moved up gradually into our knees, hips, torso, head and finally arms. After giving each part of our body its due, we started to work with each other, first in pairs and then as a group. One of us would call out a command like “freeze”, “collapse” or “rescue”, and the other dancers would respond. We soon discovered that much of Loni’s choreography was like these commands: very specific but also open to many interpretations.

The last exercise Loni gave was to perform a short solo about ourselves. She encouraged us to both speak and dance. Everyone was nervous, but the results were magical. We danced and talked about our childhoods, our years of training, our relationships and our quirks. In just a few minutes, I learned things about my coworkers that I would never have dreamed. Loni gave us this assignment because she wanted to get to know us. She wanted our personalities to be part of her piece.

For the next few days, we learned phrases and created short group dances. I found this part of the process difficult both because of the volume of material and because Loni’s approach to movement is very different from ours. Loni approaches movement holistically, and wanted us to grasp her material’s shape, dynamic and intent simultaneously. At Ballet Austin, we usually approach movement more analytically. We break down the mechanics of each step, figure out when each step happens, and after all that work is done, we think about intent. I found it very hard to break myself out of this pattern. Loni would ask me to perform her movement with full dynamic and intent before I had had a chance to break it down and assimilate it.

Fortunately, as the piece gradually came together, I started to feel more comfortable in Loni’s movement. The piece is dark and smooth, but I can see glimpses of our jagged improvisations and cheerful solos in it. It’s fascinating to see two weeks of improvisation, tension and sharing woven into a piece.

Tickets on sale now for New American Talent/Dance.

Press Feature: Art of Nurturing New Choreographers (CultureMap Houston)

Photo by Tony Speilberg

A huge thanks to Nancy Wozny for highlighting our Artistic Director Stephen Mills in CultureMap Houston’s “The art of nurturing new choreographers: It’s not sexy, but it’s the only way to move.” The article quotes Stephen:

“My belief is that art in the 21st century centers around illuminating the world in which we live. Simply linking existing steps together is not rigorous enough to accomplish that task. In selecting choreographers, our team seeks to identify those people who are working to create new movement vocabularies; we look for artists who challenge dance structure as we understand it today.”

Ballet Austin’s New American Talent/Dance competition is Feb 17-19. It’s a great way to catch new works from three of the nation’s best up-and-coming choreographers and help choose the winner yourself.

For the full article, visit CultureMap Houston.


Announcing our 2011/12 Season!

To purchase season tickets or for more information, click here.

The Mozart Project
Sep 30-Oct 2, 2011
The Long Center
Choreography by Stephen Mills
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

The 49th Annual Production of
The Nutcracker
Dec 3-23, 2011
The Long Center
Choreography by Stephen Mills
Music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

The 4th Biennial
New American Talent/Dance
Feb 17-19, 2012
The Long Center

Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project
Mar 23-25, 2012
The Long Center
Choreography by Stephen Mills
Music by Steve Reich, Evelyn Glennie, Michael Gordon, Arvo Part, Philip Glass

Romeo and Juliet
May 11-13, 2011
The Long Center
Choreography by Stephen Mills
Music by Sergei Prokofiev


New American Talent/Dance Recap

Nelly van Bommel’s Fanfarnèta. Photo by Tony Spielberg.

Thanks to everyone who joined us for New American Talent/Dance, our biennial choreographic competition, over its two week run. It was an incredible experience showing three world premiere works from three immensely talented choreographers (KT Nelson, Nelly van Bommel, and Dominic Walsh). I was behind the scenes counting the audience votes and it was riveting every time—hope you enjoyed it as much as I did! And if you weren’t able to join us, check out more pictures below.

This year’s judges (Alicia Adams—Vice President of International Touring, Kennedy Center, Julie Nakagawa—Artistic Director/Co-founder, DanceWorks Chicago, and Paul Vasterling—Artistic Director, Nashville Ballet) joined us Saturday, March 27 to cast their votes, divvying up the $15,000 purse with equal $6,000 prizes going to Nelly van Bommel for her piece Fanfarnèta and to Dominic Walsh for his The Whistling. KT Nelson rounded out the winnings, receiving $3,000 for her work When Love is Hard.

But the audience had the final say each night, texting votes to decide the winner of a nightly $500 audience prize. For the first time in New American Talent/Dance history, all three choreographers won at least once. Here are the winners of the audience vote from each night:

Thursday, March 25, 7pm Dominic Walsh
Friday, March 26, 8pm Dominic Walsh
Saturday, March 27, 8pm Nelly van Bommel
Sunday, March 28, 3pm Dominic Walsh
Thursday, April 1, 7pm KT Nelson
Friday, April 2, 8pm Dominic Walsh
Saturday, April 3, 3pm Dominic Walsh
Saturday, April 3, 8pm Dominic Walsh
Sunday, April 4, 3pm Nelly van Bommel

KT Nelson’s When Love is Hard. Photo by Tony Spielberg.

Dominic Walsh’s The Whistling. Photo by Tony Spielberg.

Dominic Walsh’s The Whistling. Photo by Tony Spielberg.

Nelly van Bommel’s Fanfarnèta. Photo by Tony Spielberg.