Ever since Ballet Pacifica closed its doors in 2007, Orange County has relied on a handful of local dance troupes and touring professional companies to provide the county with quality dance programs.
And then there is National Choreographer’s Initiative, founded in 2004 by Corona del Mar resident Molly Lynch, former artistic director of Ballet Pacifica and currently a Professor and Chair of the Dance Department at the Claire Trevor School of the Arts at UC Irvine.
NCI was formed in 2004 to promote the creation and production of professional dance and to support the national dance community by inviting four choreographers of note to participate in this creative project. NCI provides an opportunity for the Southern California community to be a part of the process of creating new contemporary ballets and see these works performed for the very first time.
The National Choreographers Initiative makes a triumphant return to the stage of the Irvine Barclay Theatre on Sat., July 30 at 8 p.m. Tickets for both the in-person performance and a livestream option are available.
“I am very excited to be coming back to a more normal plan and structure for NCI,” said Lynch. “These past couple of years have been challenging for the arts and dance but it makes us value, even more, the time we have to work together to develop new ideas and choreographic works. Each of these four choreographers are unique and I look forward to working with them in this process.”
This will be the 18th season of the National Choreographers Initiative. Every year (aside from skipping 2020 due to the pandemic), Lynch invites four nationally-renown choreographers and 16 professional dancers from ballet companies around the country to participate. There are three weeks of rehearsals before the showcase on July 30 at Irvine Barclay Theatre. Each choreographer will introduce their piece, followed by a Q&A session at the end.
“NCI is different from all other dance initiatives of its kind,” Lynch said during an interview with the NB Indy prior to the 2019 initiative. “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.”
“Often the pieces are not completed, so it’s a showing of what they have developed over three weeks,” Lynch added.
Lynch said she gets dozens of 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.
This year’s choreographers are Emily Adams, Leiland Charles, Jennifer Hart, and Gina Patterson.
Adams trained at the School of American Ballet before joining Ballet West II in 2005 and the main company in 2007. She was promoted to Principal Artist in 2015. She began choreographing as a student, has created six ballets for Ballet West, and was awarded the Utah Arts Festival’s Choreographic Commission in 2017.
Charles began dancing at 3 and continued his artistic training at The Juilliard School under the direction of Lawrence Rhodes where he received his BFA in the spring of 2014. Charles then joined Alberta Ballet in Calgary, Canada, where he worked for three seasons before joining BalletMet as a Company Artist, where he has danced for five seasons.
Hart has been given multiple honors for her choreography, including a New York City Ballet Fellowship and third place at the Saint-Sauveur International Choreography Competition. She has choreographed for dance companies and projects throughout the country, including the University of Massachusetts (including selection for the National College Dance Festival), and Merrick Strategies for its production of Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass” and “Icons of Broadway Holiday Spectacular.”
Patterson is a 2021 Bogliasco Fellow, and has won such honors as the Choo San Goh Award, a nomination for an Isadora Duncan Award, the Hubbard Street 2 National Choreographic Competition, New Choreographers on Pointe, and the National Choreographers Initiative. Her dances appear in the repertoire of companies across the U.S. and have been presented internationally in Italy, Croatia, Germany, Slovenia, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Spain.
The National Choreographers Initiative is a Southern California project with national influence. Over the years, NCI has hosted 65 choreographers who have produced 68 new works, and more than 30 of the works have gone on to be completed or premiered with companies throughout the United States and internationally.
For more information on the National Choreographers Initiative, visit http://www.nchoreographers.org.
For tickets visit www.thebarclay.org or call (949) 854-4646.