Pod De Deux explores current issues and trends in the dance community through frank and relaxed conversations with dance-makers. Guests include dancers, choreographers, administrators, and anyone else with a firm connection to the dance world.
Returning to our recording studio, we had a great chat with Jenna Lavin, the newly appointed Principal of the Pre-Professional Division at Ballet Academy East (BAE). Jenna gave us a clear sense of how the BAE teaching strategy and philosophy uniquely prepares students to excel in a range of styles and techniques while cultivating a supportive, non-competitive atmosphere. We were particularly impressed to hear that BAE prioritizes not just technical prowess but also instilling students with a value system centered on human kindness and community. Jenna also spoke about her connection with the students as she nurtures their growth over the years. The advanced students perform several times a year, including an end-of-year program featuring a student-choreographed ballet in collaboration with Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. Make sure you’re following Pod de Deux for updates on performance dates!
Jenna Lavin danced professionally with the Chicago City Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, Los Angeles Ballet, and as a soloist with the Miami City Ballet under the direction of Edward Villella where she danced principal roles. She began her ballet training with Mme. Gabriela Darvash and Jody Fugate, and later graduated from the School of American Ballet where she studied with such teachers as Alexandria Danilova, Antonia Tumkovsky, and Stanley Williams. Jenna has worked with numerous choreographers, creating principal roles in ballets by Alonzo King, Lisa de Ribere, and Stanton Welch, to name a few.
The BAE Pre-Professional Division is celebrated for producing technically strong and artistically expressive dancers who are sought after for their professionalism and ability to adapt to a broad range of styles demanded of today’s dance professionals. Alumni include Ariel Rose and Petra Love (Miami City Ballet), Siobhan Howley (Pennsylvania Ballet), Hannah Marshall (American Ballet Theatre), and Erica Pereira (New York City Ballet), to name a few. The comprehensive ballet training is combined with professional-caliber performance opportunities.
Jessica interviewed choreographer Tere O’Connor leading up to his NYC premiere of Long Run at NYU Skirball (10/12 & 10/13). They talked about how Tere’s fascination with structure led to the multi-layered aesthetic he has become known for. Tere revealed some of the processes he uses to convolute movement phrases, focusing on rhythm, the mixing of dance techniques, density, and invalid structures. (Learn more about all of these in the interview!) Tere related his choreographic processes to the nature of the mind itself, which remains in and out of a constant episodic flow of consciousness.
Tere O’Connor is Artistic Director of Tere O’Connor Dance. His works bring formal and conceptual concerns into direct dialogue. Engaging the tension between the geometries of the rectangular stage, the organic forms of nature, and the vast terrain of human behavior, he reconsiders abstraction. O’Connor has created over 40 works for his company and toured these throughout the US, Europe, South America and Canada. He has created numerous commissions including works for Mikhail Baryshnikov, Jean Butler, and the Lyon Opera Ballet, to name a few. He has received three Bessie Awards and is a Center for Advanced Studies Professor in Dance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Visit tereoconnordance.org to learn more.
NYU Skirball will present the New York City premiere of Tere O’Connor’s Long Run, playing for two performances on Friday, October 12 and Saturday, October 13 at 7:30 pm. Long Run (2017) pushes the emotional content of O’Connor’s movement to new physical extremes, allowing time-based elements like polyrhythms, velocity and duration to become external forces in the work, overtaking the eight performers as they repeatedly struggle to bring their bodies into a state of calm. O’Connor’s score enhances the referential potential of the work and drives its rhythmic trajectory.
Jessica and Clara interviewed Tiler Peck leading up to the premier of her new documentary, BalletNow, which will be available for streaming on Hulu on Friday, July 20th. The film, directed by Steven Cantor (who directed Sergei Polunin’s DANCER) and produced by Elisabeth Moss, shows Tiler assume many roles as curator, artistic director, rehearsal director and dancer in preparation for a performance at the Music Center in Los Angeles last July. In the interview, Tiler revealed what it was like rising to the greatest challenge of her life in preparing for a production that included 15 ballets in three programs, all while dancing in eight pieces. Tiler spoke about her curatorial rationale for the performance, which featured choreographers Justin Peck, Christopher Wheeldon, Michelle Dorrance, Bill Irwin, and more. Beyond BalletNow, we talked about Tiler’s enthusiasm for stepping into a new role as choreographer this summer at Vail Dance Festival, how leadership at City Ballet is developing after the departure of Peter Martins, and how she has become known as “the ballerina who stops time.”
More about Tiler Peck:
Tiler Peck was born in Bakersfield, California. She began her dance training at the age of two at her mother’s dance studio, Bakersfield Dance Company. At the age of seven, she began studying privately with former Bolshoi Ballet principal dancer Alla Khaniashvili in Hollywood. At the age of 11 she began studying at Conjunctive Point in Culver City, California, with former New York City Ballet dancers Colleen and Patricia Neary. During this time she also studied with former NYCB principal Yvonne Mounsey at Westside School of Ballet in Santa Monica. At the age of 12, Ms. Peck entered the School of American Ballet, the official school of New York City Ballet, for most of the 2000-2001 Winter Term. She returned to SAB during the summers of 2002 and 2003, and that fall began as a full-time student. In September 2004, Ms. Peck became an apprentice with New York City Ballet. In February 2005 she joined the Company as a member of the corps de ballet. She was promoted to soloist in December 2006 and principal dancer in October 2009.
In this episode, Clara connects with fellow Minnesotan dancer Christopher LaPlante. We learn about Chris’ experience independently navigating the dance world, guided by his innate passion for dance. He talks about growing up in competition school, discovering break dance in his early 20s, and the magical way in which he achieved his dream of dancing with TU Dance (with former PDD guest Uri Sands!). Chris also expresses his philosophies of seeking intention in choreographic works, and bringing dance to public spaces where it can be seen by people who may not otherwise engage with the art form. We hope you enjoy the conversation as much as we did.
Christopher LaPlante was born and raised in St Paul Park, MN. After earning his BFA from the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis Dance Program, Chris danced with TU Dance, Twin Cities Ballet, Zenon Dance Company, Minnesota Opera, and ARENA Dances. He has also done projects with Colleen McClellan Ueland, Catherine Wright, and his colleagues Jessica Briggs and Nicolas LeMere. Chris has presented his own choreography at the 9×22 Theater in Minneapolis, the University of Wisconsin Riverfalls Dance Program, and at numerous venues for site-specific works. In New York, he has had the opportunity to dance with Abraham.In.Motion, to collaborate on a solo with Yoshito Sakuraba, and to dance in a commercial for Coca-Cola. We’ll also learn about Chris’ teaching endeavors and additional choreography.
In this interview with Andrea Miller, recorded at the Brooklyn home of GALLIM Dance, we dig deep into Andrea’s unique choreographic process and discuss her current residency at the Met Breuer. Andrea describes the way in which she and her dancers develop a distinct movement language for each new piece, and she shares a fascinating example of a piece for which they drew inspiration from prehistoric, non-human movement. We also touch on the historical-cultural significance of Andrea’s 2017-18 residency at the Met as a sign of dance being recognized as an art form in its own right. Finally, Andrea speaks to the experience and personal importance of building a family without interrupting her dance career. Andrea will premiere a new durational work at the Met Breuer this month, May 22–27, 2018. If you’re in New York, don’t miss it!
Andrea Miller is the Artistic Director and choreographer of Brooklyn-based company, GALLIM. A sought-after creator and collaborator in dance, film, theater, tech, and fashion, Miller was named 2017/2018 Artist in Residence at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, becoming the first choreographer to hold that distinction. Miller will culminate the residency with an installation at The Met Breuer (May 2018).
Miller’s highly acclaimed works and commissions have been performed worldwide, at the Frieze Festival, Carmina Burana at Lincoln Center and The Kennedy Center, BAM Next Wave, Jacob’s Pillow, Theaterhaus Stuttgart, and much more. Her choreography for GALLIM has also been commissioned and performed both nationally and internationally. In addition, Miller has collaborated with brands in the fashion world that include Hermès, VOGUE, Lacoste, Calvin Klein and others.
Miller’s educational programming is run from GALLIM’s Brooklyn home studio and has been brought to Universities and educational centers across the US, recently at Harvard, Juilliard, Barnard, NYU, Marymount, Wesleyan, and UCSB, among others.
In this episode, Jessica was in Havana, Cuba interviewing Marta Ortega, a dancer with Acosta Danza. Acosta Danza was formed in 2016 when international ballet star, Carlos Acosta retired from a highly regarded 30-year ballet career with the Royal Ballet and moved back to Cuba. The company commissions international choreographers such as Mats Ek and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui to create original contemporary works on its dancers. In 2018, Acosta Danza will perform in Havana and tour in the US, Europe and Singapore. Learn more at http://www.acostadanza.com/en/
Acosta Danza will perform at New York City Center April 25-27th as part of the ¡Adelante, Cuba! Festival. Get tickets here.
A Note from Jessica:
After my interview with Marta, she showed me a video of her and Carlos performing a recent piece by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui at Sadler’s Wells in London. It was clear that she is a versatile, powerful and natural contemporary dancer with a strong ballet foundation, stemming from her traditional ballet and modern dance training in Havana. The vibrant dance scene in Cuba is part of a prominent cultural tradition of contemporary art in Cuban society which can be seen in galleries, murals, street art, and institutions throughout Havana, including Fabrica de Arte Cubano, a contemporary arts venue presenting visual arts, live music, dance, and film screenings in a fun party-like atmosphere where one can drink, eat, wander around galleries, and then make their way to a DJ-dance floor.
Cuban performance artists are increasingly being shown in the U.S. Recently, the Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis presented a series of Cuban artists. After our interview, Marta expressed that there are a great number of talented dancers in Cuba and she wished there were more opportunities for them to be supported and presented. Unlike most Cuban dance companies, Acosta Danza receives external funding from private international donors (and a partnership with Sadler’s Wells) which allows the company to commission international choreographers and provide more opportunities to its dancers, like exposure and touring opportunities. It will be interesting to see how this international focus will influence Cuban choreographers in such an established and rich tradition of dance.
More about Marta Ortega:
Prior to joining Acosta Danza, Marta danced with Danza Contemporanea de Cuba. Hailing from Havana, Cuba Marta Ortega trained at the School of Ballet “Alejo Carpentier,” National Ballet School of Cuba and the National School of Art. In 2006 she participated in international cultural exchanges in Italy and the Netherlands. In 2008 Ortega won first place in her specialty at the National Contest of Schools of Art. In that year she graduated with honors and joined Danza Contemporánea de Cuba. In this company, led by maestro Miguel Iglesias, she reached the rank of principal dancer, and danced in Casi Casa by Mats Ek; Equation, Carmina Burana, MeKniksmo, Mambo 3XXI,Identity- 1, Matria Etnocentra by George Céspedes; Demo-N / Crazy by Rafael Bonachela, Folia and Compass by Jan Linkens, Sombrisa by Itzik Galili; Horizons by Pedro Ruiz; Reversible by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa;Tocororo, Cuban fable by Carlos Acosta; Cuban tangos by Billy Cowie;Capricis by Angels Margarit; Crystal and Mercury by Julio César Iglesias and Transire. Not wanting to look back by Norge Cedeño. As part of the cast of The equation, by the Cuban choreographer George Céspedes, in 2010 she won the Audience Award at the 24 Internationaler Wettbewer fur Choreographen in Hannover, Germany. She graduated from the University of the Arts in Cuba (ISA) with Golden Title Bachelor’s of Art in Dance, specializing in Contemporary Dance. Since 2015 she has been part of Acosta Danza where she has danced Alrededor no hay nada, by Goyo Montero; De punta a cabo, by Alexis Fernández (Maca); and Carmen, by Carlos Acosta.
Marta spoke Spanish during the interview. Read her fully transcribed interview in English and Spanish here.