Pointe Work: NCOP Boosts Ballet Making to the Next Level

By Perlman, Doris | Dance Magazine, March 2004 | Go to article overview
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Pointe Work: NCOP Boosts Ballet Making to the Next Level


Perlman, Doris, Dance Magazine


IF YOU'RE forever asking what's new among other things it's New Choreographers on Point (NCOP), an enterprising nonprofit organization founded in 1990 and devoted to, as its name indicates, the presentation of new works created in the classical technique--works that might otherwise never be seen by the dance-going pubic. Right now Ballet Builders is the only showcase in New York City that is open to all ballet choreographers who would like to audition their work.

Ruth Chester, the executive director, and Michael Kraus, the artistic director, met in 1989 in a grant-writing class. They became friends and colleagues, as they discovered that they were, in their respective ways, devoted to the art of dance. Chester, formerly an advertising executive in the field of market research, had retired from that profession and was interested in a new career in fired-raising for the arts. Kraus, a dancer and choreographer, was still hoping to present his own ballets. Together they formulated the idea of workshops and public presentations of new dances chosen through auditions. Excellent reviews in publications including The New York Times, The Newark Star-Ledger, Back Stage, and The Village Voice attest to the success of their venture.

On April 3 and 4, New Choreographers on Point presents its fourteenth season at Manhattan's Florence Gould Hall in its annual program, Ballet Builders (BB). The program includes Heidi Cruz's The Glistening, to Jazzanova's "Hanazono"; Salim ("Slam") Gauwloos's Spring, to Tommaso Albinoni; Deborah Lohse's Enveloped, to Radiohead; Kathryn Posin's Thou Shalt Dwell With Me, to James MacMillan; Tracy Present's They still live on, to Karl Jenkins; a work by Davis Robertson; and a solo by Robert Sher-Machherndl, to Arvo Part.

THE MAIN criterion for inclusion in a BB program is that the choreography be based primarily on a classical foundation. The use of pointe work is not required, and the fusion styles of contemporary works may be incorporated, along with other theatrical devices, as the creative impulse dictates. Music choices have ranged from none to hard rock; to popular ballads and jazz; to modern classicists such as Henryk Gorecki; and to such standard classical greats as Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. BB fills a void for choreographers not affiliated with a company and for working ballet dancers who want to experiment beyond the confines of their own companies' requirements.

Participating choreographers have found RB a steppingstone to further opportunities. Penelope Freeh's dance The Virgin in the Garden, seen on one of the programs, was later presented by James Sewell Ballet in Minneapolis; and Posin's John Adams Violin Concerto was later performed by Sacramento Ballet. Other dancemakers for BB have made names for themselves as artistic directors: Jamey Leverett, Rochester City Ballet; Septime Webre, Washington Ballet; Paul Vasterling, Nashville Ballet; and Stephen Mills, Ballet Austin. Works by BB participants Daniel Catanach, Ryan Kelly, and Cherylyn Lavagnino have been presented at Jacob's Pillow.

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