The Conception of A World Premier.

Posted by on 08.24.2011

This season Miami City Ballet will be presenting two World Premiers, one by the exceedingly popular Russian choreographer, Alexei Ratmansky, and the second by a young up-and-coming British choreographer, Liam Scarlett.  For the past two and a half weeks we have been working with Scarlett on his new work set to the music of Lowell Liebermann’s 1st Piano Concerto. The ballet is now finished and is something that is sure to wow South Florida audiences come January.


Liam Scarlett rehearsing Miami City Ballet dancers.

During the process of creating a ballet, no one knows what the final product will be, not even the choreographer.  When an older piece is being added to the repertoire, it has been danced countless times, possibly all over the world.  There are certain expectations that come with older works.  But when a ballet is being created for you and the dancers who you dance next to every day, it is an extraordinary feeling.

In this situation, dancers are allowed the unique opportunity to enter into a dialogue with the choreographer.  The choreographer is not only able to get to know the dancers as individuals, but can also becomes familiar with each individuals dancing and allow themselves to be inspired by the dancers in front of them.  The dancers are asked to interpret the choreographer’s vision, doing whatever feels natural to them.  By default, the dancers begin to “own” the steps, as they were made for their bodies to accentuate their strengths and diminish their weaknesses.

Welcoming a choreographer into a company for a World Premier is always an exciting experience, but nothing in the ballet world comes without it’s challenges.

Often the choreographer may ask you to do a series of steps and somewhere down the line decide to change those steps.  There is no fault in this: it is the same as a writer going back and editing their work.  It is their piece of art that needs to be just as envisioned.  As steps change and revisions are made, it can often become confusing for the dancers.  This is a challenge that dancers do not come across unless working on a World Premier, and can take some adjusting to.

It is also necessary for the dancers to pick up the steps as quickly as possible with the desired movement style, so that the choreographer can get an idea of what the final product will look like.  When the choreographer shows a step, you have to interpret it, put it in your body, then remember the next day.  Unlike a work that has been set and performed before, there are no videos or notes to refer back to.  The choreographers must relay on their dancers entirely.

Having the creator of a ballet in the front of the room during rehearsals, you have to dance the steps just as the choreographer wants.  Different choreographers have different styles that you need to master inside and out.  They will settle for nothing less, nor should they.

Despite the challenges we are encountering, the best aspect of being part of a World Premier is that you don’t know what to expect. You are witnessing the creation of a great piece of art.  What a wonderful privilege.



COMING SOON: PART II OF AMERICANS IN PARIS!!! If you missed the first installment of my video blog, click here!  Be the first to know when Part II has been posted: Join TENDUS’ email list!

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