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.
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.
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.