Over the years I’ve worked with many dance companies, producing and marketing seasons from ballet to modern dance. One of the things I always wanted to do but could not (so far) was create an end of season annual report that not only covered operations and finances but also covered the year from the point of view of the various creative and technical departments, showing a glimpse of the hard work it takes to create a season of dance.
Dancers train like Olympic athletes, with none of the endorsements and all of the injuries. They have the musicality of the best classically trained musicians. They can perform complex space-time computiations in their minds while contorting their bodies, to the beat. And then when they get on stage they can move you with extraordinary expresions of joy or sorrow.
A side anecdote: while working for Ballet Hispanico, I watched and heard endless rehearsals for a particular piece. I had heard the choreographer explain the very moving scene, heard the music over and over and over for days on end, watched the dancers work at mastering and perfecting the moves. In essence I felt like I knew the routine as well as an outsider could. Then on opening night, after all the commotion of starting a new season, I finally sat down in the theater next to my colleagues and when this particular section started I found myself crying almost uncontrollably, surrounded by other company staff that were also crying, the audience was crying. The dancers had taken something that I had seen completely deconstructed and analyzed and were able to strip away all of it and instead infuse the performance with profound humanity and beauty.
It is becuase of this love of dance and the complexities of creating dance that I am excited about two ventures started by two major international ballet companies.
The Australian Ballet, Australia’s national ballet company, is profiling a year in the life of two of the company’s dancers, senior artist Amy Harris and corps de ballet dancer Jake Mangakahia. The ten-part web series begins in January as the company returns from the Christmas break and prepares for the year ahead. Part 1 is below. Subscribe on YouTube to see the following 9 parts as they are released through the year.
New Zealand’s TV3 has just concluded the second season of The Secret Lives of Dancers, a prime time show that goes behind the scenes at the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Though video of the show is hard to find if you can get your hands on it you should check it out. The second season focused on famous New York dancer Ethan Stiefel becoming their new Artistic Director, with all the interesting cultural juxtapositions that implies, as the company stages their biggest production so far. It is compelling television to watch how the lives of the dancers affect the productions, and how some dancers make it and some do not despite all the hard work.
Think of all of the work that you do, all the design, all the technology, all the user interactions and constant pushing forward, dancers do that and more. They could be your source of inspiration, your source of entertainment, they could spark your next great idea. You really should go see live dance.