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.
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 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…)
Eugenia Repelskii as Henriette in Raymonda’s Wedding
Jessica and Clara had a lively chat with Joshua Thake, ballet dancer of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (better known on stage as Eugenia Repelskii and Jacques d’Aniels). Josh revealed what it is like to prepare for roles and travel all over the world with the Trocks. We discussed why their brand of humor works so well and how the Trocks use certain themes and elements of humor to bring ballets to life. Naturally, we slipped into a dialog about what qualities make a great dancer connect with their audience.
In a rare solo interview, Clara of Pod de Deux talked to Clara Cantor, thirteen year-old student at the School of American Ballet (SAB) and PDD’s youngest interviewee yet! (The interview took place at the New York apartment where Clara lives with her family, so you’ll hear some city background noise.) At a crossroads in her life, Clara spoke of the decision she faces, going into high school, between academics and pursuing ballet full-time. She also discussed how she currently balances school and dance, as well as her experience performing with the New York City Ballet as an SAB student.(more…)
We recently joined Oscar nominated filmmaker Steven Cantor in the West Village office of Stick Figure Productions to talk about his new epic documentary, “DANCER.” Centered around the once-notorious “bad boy of ballet,” Sergei Polunin, this character-driven documentary instead reveals a charming and multi-dimensional dancer of prodigious talent who has a complicated relationship with his craft. In conversation with Steven, we delved further into the nature of his latest subject as well as his process of creating character-driven documentaries in general. Don’t miss “DANCER” if you haven’t seen it yet (Amazon, iTunes), and stay tuned for Stick Figure’s latest documentary (also dance-related!), “Step,” premiering at Sundance this coming January.(more…)
We were lucky to catch Prince Credell of Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT) at City Center during a busy day of rehearsal for the compay’s appearance at Fall for Dance. (NDT will be back for a full engagement in November! Get tickets!) Prince talked to us about his experience working with the exciting range of contemporary choreographers who come through NDT, learning to dance as a character, and some of his proudest moments as a teacher of dance. Speaking with Prince was an absolute pleasure, and we can’t recommend more highly seeing him perform with one of the most impressive and innovative dance companies of today at City Center Nov 16th-19th.(more…)