By Isabelle Vail
27 November 2018
The ABT Incubator Program has wrapped up after two weeks of exciting Instagram posts and anticipation within the dance community. DDP has closely followed the initiative, as it is a model of inclusivity. Led by Principal David Hallberg, the initiative lent studio space and opportunity to three male and one female dancer in the company and two women choreographers. These artists were James Whiteside, Duncan Lyle, Sung Woo Han, Gemma Bond, Kelsey Grills, and Gabrielle Lamb. Over 80 applications were received by Ballet Theatre, and leadership’s decision to include a diverse and half-male, half-female roster of artists is notable after similar initiatives by other companies, like the Joffrey Ballet’s Winning Works program, have been overwhelming male. The mission of the company’s Incubator was to evolve, create, and explore. A melting pot of styles, from a tutu-clad piece by Bond; to grounded modern movement from Lamb; and to the Ashton-inspired homage to female dancers of ABT by Whiteside, this series did just that.
A similar program is set to take place in May, hosted by Ballet West. Along with The Washington Ballet, Charlotte Ballet, Richmond Ballet, and Cincinnati Ballet, Ballet West’s National Choreographic Festival “will focus on the work of women choreographers and women artistic directors from around the world.” Pieces by Africa Guzman, Natalie Weir, Gemma Bond, Katarzyna Skarpetowska will have their world premieres, and the refined works of Jennifer Archibald and Robyn Mineko Williams will complete the program. This program will also feature a symposium with Kate Mattingly, Assistant Professor of Dance at the University of Utah, Artistic Director of Charlotte Ballet, Hope Muir, choreographer África Guzmán, Artistic Director of Cincinnati Ballet, Victoria Morgan, choreographer Jennifer Archibald, and Artistic Director of Ballet West, Adam Sklute. The topic of the gender divide in leadership roles in ballet will take center stage.
Boston Ballet is contributing to this pool of female initiatives with its ChoreograpHER program. Permitting female dance students and professional dancers to develop choreographic skills, this initiative invests in new, innovative works by female artists through three main pillars: in the classroom in 2019, 2020, and 2023, in the studio for the next three years, and on stage at Boston Opera House for the 2020-2021 season. DDP founder Liza Yntema will join Boston Ballet leaders in February for a visit to discuss their initiative and how DDP can best support the conception and promotion of similar undertakings.
This is Ballet West’s third Festival since its creation in 2017. The ABT Incubator, open to all to apply, will return in the next season, likely bringing another round of diverse and equitable works to this company’s dancers. A database guide for these and more programs, featuring how to apply to initiatives, their requirements, and when to apply, is in the works. DDP hopes to share this guide by the new year.