Clara is a freelance film Producer and Grant Writer in New York City. She spends her "free time" surfing Facebook, talking to her mom and plotting to take over the world - one half-finished essay at a time. @clara_peterson
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.
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…)
In this episode, Clara sits down with Rina Saltzman, Company Manager on Broadway and former Company Manager for American Ballet Theater. We learn about what a Company Manager does, how the inner workings and funding structures of the ballet world contrast with Broadway, and how we might see more in-depth mixing of the two going forward. It was great to hear that business is booming on Broadway! Rina’s current show, Pretty Woman, will have its New York preview on July 20th and open officially on August 16th!!(more…)
In this episode, Clara connects with fellow Minnesotan dancer Christopher LaPlante. We learn about Chris’ experience independently navigating the dance world, guided by his innate passion for dance. He talks about growing up in competition school, discovering break dance in his early 20s, and the magical way in which he achieved his dream of dancing with TU Dance (with former PDD guest Uri Sands!). Chris also expresses his philosophies of seeking intention in choreographic works, and bringing dance to public spaces where it can be seen by people who may not otherwise engage with the art form. We hope you enjoy the conversation as much as we did.(more…)