Working with a choreographer who is creating a piece on you or setting one of their own works is always extremely exhilarating. Whether it be a friend or co-worker or a well-known choreographer coming in to your school or company, it’s always exciting to learn the steps directly from the source. A lot of the ballets that we perform as dancers have been passed down and the choreographers are since deceased, leaving us to rely only on their predecessors for tips on the choreography, style, personas and other nuances for the piece. Of course these répétiteurs are extremely skilled and have an abundance of knowledge to pass on and are extremely important in carrying on the legacy of some of the most important and influential dance makers the world has seen. But there is something special in the process learning directly under the person who choreographed this work.
Today’s most sought out “choreographers of the now” are young, eager and some are still dancing professionally in the world’s most renowned companies. Artists like Just Peck and Myles Thatcher are breaking ground choreographing for companies like The Joffrey Ballet, Miami City Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, as well as works for their respective companies - Peck from New York City Ballet and Thatcher from San Francisco Ballet. It is clear that these hungry choreographers aren’t slowing down anytime soon and have been redefining dance in the 21st century. They create pieces that are based on classical technique, adding in their own personal flair.
Then you have the famed Christopher Wheeldon who is constantly recreating the most famous and classic of story ballets, with his new Cinderella, Swan Lake and his Nutcracker to premiere this holiday season. He’s created works for most of the major companies in the world and his choreography has been performed by countless others. He most recently choreographed a Broadway production of American in Paris, which is set to start its national tour very soon. Wheeldon is a household name for all ballet dancers and brings a fresh look to old stories while taking on projects to bring ballet to the general public.
Many companies or schools offer dancers the chance to choreograph and that’s where it started for many key figures in the ballet world today. I’ve had experiences working with some of my really good friends as they are bringing a new vision to life. It’s so amazing to be able to get notes directly from the dance maker in the ballet studio, as they know exactly what they’re looking for. This gives dancers a chance to explore new creative outlets in a safe environment with their own colleagues and peers. Many of today’s choreographers were approached by artistic directors to choreograph for the company’s school or gala pieces, kick-starting them to where they are today.
While ballet is about preserving the work of dance-creators of the past, it’s also about pushing boundaries and breaking new ground. Ballet has changed dramatically within the past twenty years. Ballet dancers are extremely physical, going way beyond the classic tu-tu and pointe shoe stereotype that we picture when we hear the words ‘ballerina’ and ‘nutcracker’. These choreographers are setting a new standard of what’s possible in the sphere of ballet, creating pieces that not only the trained eye will love but that the uneducated ballet-goer will also understand – even if they don’t subscribe to a new york city ballet dance magazine.