Tag Archives: Pontus Lidberg

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.