New Moves Opens Thursday!

Dancers Enrico Hipolito and Elysa Hotchkiss rehearse Emily Mistretta's "Prism Break" | Photography by Elizabeth Stehling
Dancers Enrico Hipolito and Elysa Hotchkiss rehearse Emily Mistretta’s “Prism Break” | Photography by Elizabeth Stehling

Kansas City Ballet performs their annual New Moves program at the Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity this week (March 28-31, 2019).

The show features brand new choreography by Gary Abbott (Associate Professor of Modern Dance from UMKC), Haley Kostas (local dancer, choreographer, and dance educator), Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye (Northwest Arkansas Ballet Theatre Artistic Director), Price Suddarth (Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist), and current company dancers Courtney Nitting, Emily Mistretta and James Kirby Rogers.

We sat down with company members Emily Mistretta and Courtney Nitting to find out more about their choreographic process.

EMILY MISTRETTA

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY ABOUT CREATING NEW WORK?

Last year was my first time trying to create a piece.  It was a little daunting at first. I probably enjoy it the most when it all comes together and starts to look like something.  For me it’s ambiguous for a long time and then at one point it clicks and I can start to see it form. That is a very exciting feeling.

WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART ABOUT CHOREOGRAPHING?

The hardest part is deciding where I want it to go.  I can see movement and a trajectory in front of me, but the options are literally endless.  Sometimes you want something specific and other times you’re open to see where the momentum of the piece or any given movement will take you, its hard to be calm and let things unfold instead of trying to take control. It’s a balance between what you envision and what wants to happen organically. My process is me by myself in the studio improving and seeing what comes out.  From there I kind of string together steps or a sequence and then it sparks my mind for what else is about to happen.

WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR INSPIRATION?

My inspiration usually comes from the music.  The music dictates the way that I want to move at any given moment and I try to take my cues from that.  Sometimes there is a certain theme or feeling I want to evoke and I’ll try to keep that in the back of my mind as I’m moving.

LAST YEAR YOUR LEAD FEMALE DANCER WAS INJURED ON OPENING NIGHT. YOU HAD TO STEP IN TO PERFORM IN YOUR OWN WORK FOR THE REMAINING PERFORMANCES. WHAT WAS THAT LIKE?

It was really fun to perform in my own piece! I want my work to feel good and to be fun to do. Being a dancer, still sometimes it’s odd to be on the other side. You have this impulse to want to dance even if it’s in the work you’re creating.  So, yes, it was super fun. Though I think it helped that I had never planned on dancing it, I think it’s even trickier to choreograph yourself into a piece.  Of course, just because I choreographed it did not mean I knew the steps whatsoever.  Especially when a dancer takes it and makes it their own, it’s not really what it was initially anymore. So, I had to learn it and figure it out and improve myself back into it.  It gives you an insight into what you’re making someone else do and then you apologize for making them do the step that way because now you know how it feels.

 

COURTNEY NITTING

WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH CHOREOGRAPHING?

It started when I was a student at SAB. They have a program called Student Choreographic Workshop and I thought, “Why not try it?” I love all aspects of dance. I love being creative. So I thought I might as well try choreographing since I have been given the opportunity. I did that for two years and actually had small reviews written on them and they were liked. I thought maybe this is something I can keep in my back pocket. Then last year at Pennsylvania Ballet, they do a program called ‘Shut up and Dance’. It’s a performance that raises money for Manna (a food service for people with serious illnesses who need nourishment to heal). My piece opened the show and went over really well. So when coming to Kansas City Ballet and learning about New Moves, I thought I’d give it another go.

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY ABOUT CREATING NEW WORK?

I enjoy being in the studio with the dancers and seeing it come together. Sometimes the steps or movements you create in your head don’t work. But when it does, it’s like a magic moment. Seeing what you had pictured in your head or written on a piece of paper come to life is extremely gratifying.

WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR INSPIRATION?

I get my inspiration from the music. I always try and continuously listen to my music to the point where I know every sound and note and see what it tells me to create. I like to think of the quote by George Balanchine “see the music, hear the dance.” This is what I hope people get when they watch my piece.

WHEN YOU DECIDED TO CHOREOGRAPH YOU WERE A BRAND NEW MEMBER OF THE COMPANY. WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO THROW YOUR HAT INTO THE RING?

Deciding to choreograph for New Moves as a brand new company member I knew was a risk. No one knows me, I don’t know the dancers, and it’s extra work and pressure. However I like to think that I face risk situations like this head on. For me it’s important to not only come into a new company and show myself as a dancer, but all the other interests I have. I don’t want to be a one trick pony; I want to show that I have much more to offer.


New Moves opens this Thursday, March 28 and runs through Sunday, March 31. A few tickets are still available here or by calling the Ballet Box Office at 816.931.8993.

2018-19 Dancer Profile: Courtney Nitting

Please welcome new Kansas City Ballet, Company Dancer Courtney Nitting.

Q: WHAT DOES JOINING kcb MEAN TO YOU?

A: Joining KC Ballet this year as a new dancer officially makes my dream come true. Though I have had experience as a professional dancer prior, I never could personally call myself a professional. I didn’t feel as though I earned that title, not receiving a main company position. However, this year I have now accomplished what my 3-year-old self has been waiting for. I’m so appreciative for this opportunity and very excited to now say that I am a professional ballerina with my one of my biggest dreams in life accomplished.

Q: TELL US WHY YOU BECAME A DANCER.

A: I became a dancer because…well, the story is a bit out of the ordinary. I was 3 years old and told my mom I wanted to go to a real ballet school. I had never really seen ballet or knew what dance was but something inside me said this is what I was going to do; this is what I wanted to be when I grew up. From that moment on, ballet has always been my main focus and my true passion; the more I learned and got challenged in the art, the more I fell in love with ballet. I just knew it was my calling; it’s my air, my heart, and my soul.

Q: wHAT’S IT LIKE BEING A PROFESSIONAL DANCER?

A: Being a professional dancer with a professional company is a dream. It’s the greatest feeling to call what I love most in life my career. Not many people can say they love their job and that they’ve achieved one of their biggest aspirations in life; I am lucky to say I have. From daily class every morning, to rehearsals that run all hours of the day and finally ending with a performance for the public to enjoy, are experiences I wouldn’t change for the world. It doesn’t feel like work because you are living in every moment. Each of these moments make everyday being a professional dancer a gift.

Q: WHAT QUESTION DO YOU GET ASKED A LOT AS PROFESSIONAL DANCER?

A: The question I get asked most about my job as a dancer is if our toes hurt from being on pointe. The answer to this is quite simple: YES! Dancers feet hurt all the time and most of the time. We get blisters, bruised toe nails, aches and pains like all other athletes. The difference is that while we are in this pain, we have to look like we are walking on clouds; effortless and calm. However, while we might look like beautiful fairies on top, our insides could be screaming with boiling pain. On the contrary, this pain doesn’t stop us from dancing our hearts out because the moment that curtain goes up, all your pain goes away. Its the magic of the stage that sweeps us off our feet; sometimes quite literally.

Q: WHAT IS ONE THING MOST PEOPLE WOULDN’T KNOW ABOUT YOU?

A: One thing most people wouldn’t know about me is that I wear two different sizes in pointe shoes; one for each foot. I have always had one foot bigger than the other for as long as I can remember. I have tried for so many years to wear one size but I would always go back to wearing two. So in order to get one pair of shoes I order two pairs in the differing sizes. Then I take one shoe from each size to make a full pair. I am not the only dancer ever to wear two sizes, but it has created some uneven challenges when I am dancing. I just look at it as another reason to work even harder.

Q: WHAT WAS THE BEST DANCING OR LIFE ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED AND WHY?

A: The best dancing and life advice I have ever received comes from my mom. She is my biggest support and always knows the right things to say at the right times. However, there is one thing we have always kept close between us no matter what life has thrown at us. This is to “never give up.” I have had some ups and downs when it comes to dancing and life in general, but keeping that little phrase in the back of my mind always helped to keep moving forward. I treasure those three words and will live by them forever.

 

Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios