A quartet of ballets are being born this month, but they are not easy births. Four choreographers hand-picked for their diverse styles and artistic sensibilities have three weeks to hone their dance pieces before they are introduced to the world at the 16th annual National Choreographers Initiative on July 27 at the Irvine Barclay Theatre.
Longtime Corona del Mar resident Molly Lynch leads the program as artistic director. She previously served as founder and artistic director of Ballet Pacifica for 15 years and is now chair of the dance department at the Claire Trevor School of the Arts at University of California, Irvine.
Lynch invited four nationally-renowned choreographers, as well as 16 professional dancers from ballet companies across the country, to participate.
The National Choreographers Initiative is a Southern California project with national influence. Since its inception in 2004, NCI has hosted 56 choreographers, 114 dancers from 41 different companies, and has produced 56 new works, 27 of which have been produced by companies throughout the United States and abroad.
“NCI is different from all other dance initiatives of its kind,” Lynch said. “The choreographers enter the rehearsal studio and know they have the ultimate freedom to create and experiment with different genres and styles of movement. And the non-commissioned and non-competitive setting encourages them to grow as choreographers and further develop their artistic vision. The dancers also benefit greatly from this creative process. They are free to improvise and hone their technique. It’s a unique collaboration. It’s stimulating and exciting, and changes daily. At the end, there is a dance creation that’s not predetermined – it’s the heart of their artistic expression.”
Lynch gets around 50 video submissions from choreographers every year. After watching the submissions and getting a sense of the direction and style of the choreographers, she narrows the finalists down to 10 and then selects four she feels make a good mix of styles for that year.
“Often the pieces are not completed, so it’s a showing of what they have developed over three weeks,” Lynch added. “They have the option to finish the piece or take it to another company. I try not to make it like the pressure of a premiere or a commission. This is more informal.”
The 2019 NCI choreographers are Julia Feldman, Alan Hineline, Alex Ketley, and Tom Mattingly.
Julia Feldman is in her 9th season with the Sacramento Ballet. She has danced principal and featured roles in works choreographed by George Balanchine, Ma Cong, Ron Cunningham, Jodie Gates, Adam Hougland, Gabrielle Lamb, Molly Lynch, Melissa Barak, Darrell Grand Moultrie, Penny Saunders, Amy Seiwert and Stephen Mills. Ms. Feldman developed a passion for choreography through the Sacramento Ballet’s Beer and Ballet program. She has created works for the program annually since 2012, as well as for the School of the Sacramento Ballet.
Alan Hineline is the director of artistic programming at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet (CPYB). Previously, Hineline lead Ballet Philippines, in Manila, as artistic director and chief operating officer. He has works in the repertories of Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, American Ballet Theatre Studio Company, Ballet de Monterrey, Ballet Philippines, Pennsylvania Ballet, ProDanza Cuba, Atlanta Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, Richmond Ballet, Sacramento Ballet, Juilliard Dance Ensemble, and Ballet Academy East.
Alex Ketley is a choreographer, filmmaker, and the director of The Foundry. Formerly a dancer with the San Francisco Ballet, he left the company to create The Foundry as a platform to explore his interests in alternative methods of devising performance. The company has allowed Ketley to pursue projects that would be difficult to realize within his commissioning career. For his independent work, he has received acknowledgement from the Hubbard Street National Choreographic Competition, the International Choreographic Competition of the Festival des Arts de Saint-Saveaur, and many others.
Tom Mattingly is a freelance choreographer, teacher and performer. He began his training in the California desert while attending the summer intensives of San Francisco Ballet School, Boston Ballet School, American Ballet Theatre, and the Rock School. Upon graduation from Virginia School of the Arts in 2005, Tom was awarded the Dame Margot Fonteyn Award for artistic excellence. He danced professionally with Richmond Ballet, Chautauqua Ballet, and Cincinnati Ballet before joining Ballet West in 2008. He quickly rose through the ranks to become principal dancer in 2013. In 2014, Tom relocated to Chicago, where he joined the newly formed contemporary ensemble Visceral Dance Chicago. Tom is now focusing on teaching and choreography. He has created works for Ballet West, Ballet West II, Ballet West Academy, Dance in the Parks, Richmond Ballet, Utah Arts Festival, Ballet Arkansas, Charlottesville Ballet, Elite Choreographic Initiative, Beijing Ballet Invitational, World Ballet Competition, and Youth America Grand Prix.
At the July 27 performance, each choreographer will introduce their piece, and at the end there is a Q&A session.
Audiences like the fact that it is a new work being staged for the first time, Lynch explained. They want to know what is new, how ballet is changing or growing, and what different choreographers are bringing to the art form.
Tickets to the National Choreographers Initiative performance on July 27 are $20 to $45.