For PDD’s first interview of 2019, Clara connected with Conductor Ming Luke over Skype. Despite being an incredibly versatile artist who conducts for a wider variety of productions than is typical in the US (as discussed in the interview!), Luke has developed expertise in conducting for dance and has served as the Principal Guest Conductor for the San Francisco Ballet (SFB) for many years. He shared incredible insight into the nuances of orchestral collaboration with dance artists, from the array of adjustments a conductor may make within a given tempo, to the “ah-ha” moment of realizing how to time the notes that correspond to a grand jeté. We also discussed the ways in which more detailed communication can improve understanding between dancer and conductor. It was particularly revelatory to hear Luke describe the joys of conducting in terms of a visceral emotional-physicality that we might just as easily apply to dance itself! Follow Ming’s always-exciting new ventures at mingluke.com.
Ming Luke is a versatile conductor whose background as a dancer gives him the perspective to excel in collaborating with dance companies. As the Principal Guest Conductor for the San Francisco Ballet (SFB), Luke has led over one hundred productions at the historic War Memorial Opera House. Embarking on eight tours with the company, he has presented time-honored classics like Cinderella and Romeo and Juliet at the John F. Kennedy Center and Sadler’s Wells. Ming Luke has also conducted for the Bolshoi Orchestra in Russia, the New York City Ballet Orchestra, Nashville Symphony/Ballet, Napa Regional Dance Company, Boston Ballet, and l’Orchestre Prométhée in Paris as part of a residency with Les Etés de la Danse. He has worked closely with some of the most preeminent choreographers of the 21st century, including Justin Peck, Christopher Wheeldon, Mark Morris, Alexei Ratmansky, and Liam Scarlett. Beyond dance, Ming Luke has worked with ensembles and orchestras across the world and conducted pops concerts in a variety of venues. He has been recognized nationally for his work with music education and holds a Master of Fine Arts in Conducting from Carnegie Mellon.
We hope you’ll derive inspiration for the new year from our interview with the awe-inspiring Amy Jordan – author, inspirational speaker, consultant, choreographer and classically trained dancer! Amy spoke with us about overcoming the many challenges life has brought her, with dance as a backdrop of strength and renewal. She talked us through her D.A.N.C.E. method of approaching situations: determination, acceptance, never-give-up, courage, and enthusiasm. (You can learn more about it in her new book, Dance Because You Can: 5 Steps to Transform Trauma into Triumph, available on Amazon!) Amy also emphasized the importance of continuing to seek, strive and work through every challenge in life as an ongoing process, rather than giving in to what may be an increasingly prevalent mindset that sees success and failure in black and white terms. Enjoy the conversation, and happy 2019!
Amy has Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes and fought most of her life to hide it. As a professional dancer, she experienced complications from the diabetes that caused her to lose sight in one eye becoming legally blind. Unable to continue her dance career, she turned her attention to supporting others living with diabetes. This began her life-long work as an advocate and motivator. She founded the SWEET ENUFF Movement to help prevent childhood obesity through dance and exercise, which became a top 5 national finalist of First Lady Michelle Obama’s ‘End Childhood Obesity Challenge.’
Amy faced another major life challenge when she was hit and run over by a bus while living in New York City. The accident nearly ended her life, and her leg came close to being amputated. She used her dance training and discipline to survive dozens of surgeries and managed to regain use of her leg. After years of rehabilitation, Amy returned to fitness classes, began choreographing and returned to her essence as a dancer in 2014 when she founded The Victory Dance Project, a NYC-based professional dance company. Today, Amy strives to inspire and motivate others to overcome ANY adversity. She continues to choreograph and and is a sought-after motivational speaker and coach. Amy shares her unique DANCE philosophy in her signature presentation Dance because You Can. She believes that the process of Creating Your Own Victory Dance is the key to success in business, leadership and life. Amy’s book, Dance Because You Can: 5 Steps to Transform Trauma into Triumph was released in October 2018.
We were so happy to have the privilege of squeezing in an interview with Paul Lightfoot, Artistic Director of Nederlands Dans Theater, while he was briefly in town for New York City Center’s 2018 Fall for Dance Festival. Paul’s lively enthusiasm made for a conversation that was both informative and entertaining! He shared insight into what he and Sol León each bring to the table in their long-standing choreographic/life partnership, described the origin of the pieces that NDT2 will be presenting at City Center in January (16th-19th), and painted a great picture of the bold history of NDT. Of course we also had to express our awe for NDT’s famously prolific dancers, with whom Paul claims to be “in love, with each and every one of them!” Get tickets here to see NDT in January!
Paul Lightfoot is Artistic Director of NDT. He joined the company in 1985, starting as a dancer with NDT 2. Two years later Lightfoot joined NDT 1, where he danced until 2008. During this time, he started choreographing in collaboration with Sol León. León and Lightfoot have been a prolific and widely known choreographic duo since 1989. Together they have created more than fifty pieces for the company, for which they have received prestigious awards. In 2002 León and Lightfoot were appointed house choreographers for NDT. In 2011, Lightfoot was appointed Artistic Director.
Nederlands Dans Theater is recognized as one of the most prolific and creative contemporary dance companies in the world. It consists of two multi-national companies: NDT 1 and NDT 2. The latter gives classically trained dancers (between the ages of 17 and 23) a chance to develop their artistic personalities during a three-year trajectory. NDT 1 consists of 28 dancers, each one excelling in their solo qualities and renowned for their versatility, astonishing technique and virtuosic expression. Since its inception in 1959, NDT has built a rich, ambitious and idiosyncratic repertoire of over 600 works by master choreographers such as Jiří Kylián and Hans van Manen, León and Lightfoot, associate choreographers Crystal Pite and Marco Goecke, and high-profile guests such as Ohad Naharin, Nacho Duato, William Forsythe, Hofesh Shechter, Sharon Eyal & Gai Behar, and many many more.
Returning to our recording studio, we had a great chat with Jenna Lavin, the newly appointed Principal of the Pre-Professional Division at Ballet Academy East (BAE). Jenna gave us a clear sense of how the BAE teaching strategy and philosophy uniquely prepares students to excel in a range of styles and techniques while cultivating a supportive, non-competitive atmosphere. We were particularly impressed to hear that BAE prioritizes not just technical prowess but also instilling students with a value system centered on human kindness and community. Jenna also spoke about her connection with the students as she nurtures their growth over the years. The advanced students perform several times a year, including an end-of-year program featuring a student-choreographed ballet in collaboration with Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. Make sure you’re following Pod de Deux for updates on performance dates!
Jenna Lavin danced professionally with the Chicago City Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, Los Angeles Ballet, and as a soloist with the Miami City Ballet under the direction of Edward Villella where she danced principal roles. She began her ballet training with Mme. Gabriela Darvash and Jody Fugate, and later graduated from the School of American Ballet where she studied with such teachers as Alexandria Danilova, Antonia Tumkovsky, and Stanley Williams. Jenna has worked with numerous choreographers, creating principal roles in ballets by Alonzo King, Lisa de Ribere, and Stanton Welch, to name a few.
The BAE Pre-Professional Division is celebrated for producing technically strong and artistically expressive dancers who are sought after for their professionalism and ability to adapt to a broad range of styles demanded of today’s dance professionals. Alumni include Ariel Rose and Petra Love (Miami City Ballet), Siobhan Howley (Pennsylvania Ballet), Hannah Marshall (American Ballet Theatre), and Erica Pereira (New York City Ballet), to name a few. The comprehensive ballet training is combined with professional-caliber performance opportunities.
Jessica interviewed choreographer Tere O’Connor leading up to his NYC premiere of Long Run at NYU Skirball (10/12 & 10/13). They talked about how Tere’s fascination with structure led to the multi-layered aesthetic he has become known for. Tere revealed some of the processes he uses to convolute movement phrases, focusing on rhythm, the mixing of dance techniques, density, and invalid structures. (Learn more about all of these in the interview!) Tere related his choreographic processes to the nature of the mind itself, which remains in and out of a constant episodic flow of consciousness.(more…)
After a brief summer hiatus, we got back into the studio and conducted a Skype interview with Houston Ballet’s Harper Watters. Harper has made a name for himself on social media with comedic videos and brand partnerships, as well as a web series of his own creation. We spoke to him about the importance (personal and professional!) of being completely oneself, what it means to represent ballet, and how dancers can seek opportunities beyond the company structure through social media and proactive exploration of their individual interests. The message that emerged was an empowering one of escaping rigid stereotypes through individuality. We will be sure to post on social media when Harper’s upcoming documentary, Danseur, is available for viewing!(more…)
Jessica and Clara interviewed Tiler Peck leading up to the premier of her new documentary, BalletNow, which will be available for streaming on Hulu on Friday, July 20th. The film, directed by Steven Cantor (who directed Sergei Polunin’s DANCER) and produced by Elisabeth Moss, shows Tiler assume many roles as curator, artistic director, rehearsal director and dancer in preparation for a performance at the Music Center in Los Angeles last July. In the interview, Tiler revealed what it was like rising to the greatest challenge of her life in preparing for a production that included 15 ballets in three programs, all while dancing in eight pieces. Tiler spoke about her curatorial rationale for the performance, which featured choreographers Justin Peck, Christopher Wheeldon, Michelle Dorrance, Bill Irwin, and more. Beyond BalletNow, we talked about Tiler’s enthusiasm for stepping into a new role as choreographer this summer at Vail Dance Festival, how leadership at City Ballet is developing after the departure of Peter Martins, and how she has become known as “the ballerina who stops time.” (more…)