They are ecstatic to be back in the studios. Prior to that they were on summer vacation. We have been very fortunate to receive some major gifts and the PPP loan that allowed us to keep the dancers fully employed through the end of their contract in May, even with the canceled performances. That was an absolute must for me – making sure they were covered. We were even able to have them back in class for three weeks in May before their contracts ended. The good news is that they have not been totally isolated for five months. We do have the alternative season in place for the fall so the scale of the productions will be smaller than at Symphony Hall, but we were fortunate in keeping all of the dancers employed on their original contracts for the season. Other ballet companies are not faring as well, and many around the country have laid off their dancers until 2021. I’m very proud of what we are doing because I don’t think many companies have that luxury. Keeping the company together was a must for us and our donors made that possible.
Tell us a little bit about the fall program Inspire, what was your vision behind it, how are you adapting rehearsals, your choreography, your art, in this new world?
Now that the dancers are back in the studios, we will see what happens. So far, so good. All summer we worked hard to implement the strictest protocols to keep everyone safe. I feel confident that we are doing all of the right things. The dancers have been adapting well, taking classes every day with masks and social distancing. The hardest thing for me is remembering to keep the protocol. The mask is not the challenge, but usually I am very physical in rehearsals, especially if I am choreographing and I am partnering. Social distancing is a little strange – when you are used to doing the opposite. It has been nice getting back into the studios so that we all could get back to some kind of normalcy.
For the fall program in Dorrance Theatre, I named it Inspire because that is how I want people to feel – inspired, uplifted and moved. I don’t want anything remotely close to all of the things they are seeing on television right now. Bad news and more bad news. I want people to have a bit of respite from all of that.
It should be simply about dance. You know, if you feel down the slightest bit, just start dancing a little bit every day. It immediately picks you up – not to say that I am dancing every day at home – but it truly does make you very happy. You should try it! We all kind of need a lift right now – a mental breather and some positive motivation.
We will be performing Pas de Sept – which is new for the company. It was a dance made for one of August Bournonville’s greatest ballets called Folktale. There is a wedding scene at the end – this dance is the entertainment during that celebration. It is one of his hardest ballets for four women and three men. If we can pull it off – it is like technical fireworks. It is about celebrating life. We also have two Alejandro Cerrudo pieces: Pacapepepluto and Never Was, which feature some solos and a pas de deux.
Ib Andersen in rehearsal for “Eroica”with company dancers Jillian Barrell and and Nayon Iovino. Photo by Tzu Chia Huang.
The piece I am choreographing is already changing from my original vision because there are many dancers that feel comfortable dancing together. I learned that many have been socializing together all summer or are roommates so I have a much greater ability for partnering. I thought, if this is going to be all solos then I have to figure out a way to get great variety to keep it interesting for the audience so they don’t fall asleep. I now have options of using 3-4 people together opposed to just one. Choreography during COVID is like solving a big puzzle!
What role do you think the arts play in people’s lives during times like these?
For me personally, art is the reason why I’m alive. If I didn’t have that – I don’t know what I would do. It gives you inspiration, uplifts you and opens your mind to creativity. It is important for us to get out of our rut and our daily routine to see something unusual. The arts should be about celebrating all that humanity is able to do – and that is quite extraordinary. For me it is food in every way – without it why would you want to live? Art is celebrating the human spirit in so many different ways; it can be found in food, architecture, painting, theatre. We need to find the things to celebrate our humanity and I believe that is through art.