I grew up in south-eastern Ohio near Marietta. Just across the Ohio River in Parkersburg WV, I learned how to dance with Suzy and Norma Gunter at a small dance school. My time in Cincinnati started at the College Conservatory of Music at UC. I received my BFA in Ballet in 2010.
2. Tell us a little about your career.
For my last two years at CCM I began dancing with The Cincinnati Ballet as a trainee and then apprentice for my senior year. I am going on Fourth season with the company. Through the university and with Cincinnati ballet I have had the chance to work with so many instructors and choreographers. Highlights from those experiences that have had a great impact for me as an artist so far come from Vivi Flint from the Royal Danish ballet, working with Darrell Moultrie, Adam Hougland’s Mozart Requiem, and the chance to explore the role of Puck in Victoria Morgan’s A Midsummer Nights Dream.
3. What goes into choreographing a show like this? What types of things to you have to take into consideration, who do you have to collaborate with, do the dancers have input, etc?
A lot of planning and homework has to go on for a show like this. All of the choreographers need to have a clear vision before we start working with dancers because of the constriction of time. We have to consider the amount of space on the stage to make sure all of the dancing will fit. Also since Appalachian Spring has a story each choreographer has to be careful to tell that story in a way that the audience will understand and keep it interesting. For the sections that I created the dancers have contributed a lot. I ask them if certain movement s work well or feel awkward. They have a lot of say in my creative process. Watching them execute my movement or ideas is helpful too. Sometimes something looks great in my head then I see it performed right in front of me in the studio and it needs a bit of tweaking. A lot of the collaborating came with writing our own plot for this project. Appalachian Spring had a story line about a pioneer couple, but as a team we decided to make the piece more modern day. Those brainstorming meetings were the biggest part of the collaborating process. Once the sections of the piece were divided up the choreographers were more on their own to create something that related to that central story line.
4. What has been the most challenging part of choreographing this performance?
Playing the role of both dancer and choreographer has been the biggest challenge for me. When I choreograph a dance piece I like to be able to stand in the front of the room and watch the product begin to form and concentrate totally on the artistic outcome. I will ask myself, are all the elements working, are the dancers in a formation that I like, what does this movement phrase say to the audience, etc. As dancers we speak with our bodies. So it is hard to watch the conversation happening on the stage when you are one of the ones talking through dance.
5. What have you enjoyed the most about choreographing this performance?
As a professional dancer you are always taking instruction from a teacher or choreographer, but for this project I have the chance to be one of the ones to call the shots. It is nice to let my imagination fly and get the opportunity to try some of my own ideas. It is a time to be a little weird and try something that is maybe not so dancy but more a piece of theatre or a visual exploration on an everyday subject.
6. Are there any particular challenges with choreographing music that wasn’t originally intended to be used for dance?
If you ask me any music or even silence can be a soundtrack for dance. My choreographic process relies a lot on inspiration from the music, but sometimes I also just pay attention to the mood the music supplies. Then, I think of a phrase or series of movements to go with that mood and put on the music and watch the two interact. Further refining can lead to a jump happening on a certain note or other details that create musicality; do I need to add more steps or take some away to marry the body to the music? With the same process I sometimes think of a section of choreography that goes against the music or doesn’t match up. This adds another layer or texture for the eyes and ears to take in. The two pieces on the bill for this performance were written for dance. This makes it easy in a way because built into the music is a sense of movement. Both Samuel Barber’s Cave of the Heart and Aaron Copeland’s Appalachian Spring were commissioned for Martha Graham right around the end of WWII. Although I respect the work and technique of Graham our rendition to her original pieces will be very different on the 6th.
7. Anything else you think we should know?
Know that the Barber pieces, Cave of the Heart, don’t really have a plot that runs through. Even though Martha Graham’s original was based on a piece of mythology, our version is more of a series of dance shorts exploring a wide range of topics. Some of the movements will stand alone without any dancing. Appalachian Spring, on the other had does tell a story from start to finish. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but the plot has an unexpected relationship and an impassioned reaction that leaves the stage divided.
8. What do you enjoy doing outside of dance?
I enjoy cooking, especially desserts. Having fun and spending time with friends.