grad school, it’s about process-based research. It’s about digging,”
says Evans. “It’s not about the finished product.” He knows he’ll need to
learn more about switching gears between projects, and gain perspective
on how to think about an audience of critics, future funders and artistic
directors. He’s hopeful Soto will be able to shed some light on the process:
“How does it feel to walk into a country where dancers maybe don’t
speak your first language, and produce a work in two or three weeks?
How do you deal with the different directors, the different pressures?”
San Francisco Ballet corps dancer Myles Thatcher says he gained
a new appreciation of the challenges of running a rehearsal through a
yearlong mentorship with choreographer Alexei Ratmansky, sponsored
by the Rolex Mentor & Protégé Arts Initiative. “There’s politics and
keeping dancers happy, and dealing with critics and reviews,” he says.
One of the benefits of getting to observe Ratmansky at work, he adds,
was seeing someone “respect the work, but not let it consume him or
take priority over his family or his loved ones.”
Some companies manage to create internal mentorships organically. Tatge
points to Nederlands Dans Theater as an example of a company that has
produced a disproportionate number of professional choreographers
from its ranks of performers. When she asked company dancers why that
is, they told her it was the climate in the studio: Former longtime artistic
director Jiří Kylián inspired them to feel that they could create as well
as perform. “The visioning of a hugely gifted choreographer can be so
encouraging to dancers to make that transition,” Tatge says. The company now also guides selected dancer-choreographers in creating work
for NDT 2. In recent years, NDT dancers have organized themselves to
produce Switch, a program of work made and performed by their peers.
Hubbard Street is another company that has helped propel the
choreographic careers of several dancers, including Alejandro Cer-
rudo, Robyn Mineko Williams, Penny Saunders and Alice Klock.
Edgerton points to its Choreographic Development Initiative, which
offers several on-ramps for budding choreographers, from festivals to
workshops. “These programs allow us to incrementally increase the
stakes and resources for these artists,” Edgerton says, “so that they’re
continually challenged and supported.”
Former Smuin Ballet dancer Amy Seiwert says the full support
of her director, Michael Smuin, played a major role in advancing her
choreographic career. “My career would not be where it is without
his belief in me,” she says. But when first starting out, she never had
the benefit of a structured process for developing her choreographic
muscles. “No one ever wrecked my work or challenged what I was
creating,” says Seiwert, now artistic director of her contemporary ballet
company, Imagery. She sought guidance through CHIME, with men-
tor Julia Adam. “I was looking for a road map for how to survive as a
dancemaker,” she says. Later, she informally asked choreographer Rob-
ert Moses and Smuin ballet master Amy London for feedback. They
responded with questions that helped clarify her intentions.
Thatcher attests to the transformative power of a mentor’s investment.
When the Rolex opportunity came up two years ago, he says, “I was
creating work, and I was kind of happy with it, and ready to be challenged
in a new way.” Ratmansky came in to watch one of his rehearsals, and,
seated on the marley, took notes throughout all five hours. Afterwards,
over coffee, they talked about what worked and what needed greater
clarity. “He tried to get inside of what I wanted to say,” Thatcher says.
“Finally, someone was asking me the questions that might have been hard
to hear, but that helped me articulate what I wanted to do.” n
Josie G. Sadan, a dancer with ODC/Dance, has written for The New
York Times, Smithsonian and The Atlantic.
NDT 2 performs in
frayed edges, by
Bryan Arias, one of
incubated at NDT.