Some of this spring’s most exciting new ballets will be performed not at Lincoln Center, but at Columbia.
The Columbia Ballet Collaborative, which was founded three years ago by students and former professional dancers who wanted to create opportunities for dancers at Columbia, has recently begun to rehearse for its spring season. The performances will take place at Miller Theatre on April 9 and 10 and will involve 25 dancers and seven choreographers, including Monique Meunier, Emery LeCrone, Lauren Birnbaum, Claudia Schreier, and John-Mark Owen.
Two of the choreographers, Justin Peck and Kimi Nikaidoh, are students at the School of General Studies. In addition to his studies, Peck dances for the New York City Ballet and is choreographing a ballet to music composed by Sufjan Stevens and arranged by the Osso String Quartet. Two New York City Ballet dancers, Russell Janzen and principal dancer Teresa Reichlen, a part-time student at Barnard, will perform his piece.
For Peck, both CBC and Columbia have helped to launch his career as a choreographer. Last year, he made his choreographic debut in CBC’s performances at Miller Theatre. Soon after that, he was invited to choreograph a piece, titled “Quintet,” for the New York Choreographic Institute.
Peck also said that Columbia’s music library serves as a wonderful resource. The library’s extensive range of music recordings allow him to “explore the possibilities of making dance to all kinds of composers from all kinds of eras” and have “access to everything from medieval chants all the way up to modern day neoclassical works.” Peck said his choreographic process is “inspired and provoked” by the music he uses: when he first begins a piece, he reads through the score and begins to sketch out his ideas before beginning to work with his dancers.
Peck said that one of the best things about CBC is “the value placed on the constant creation of new works.”
Another CBC choreographer contributing to the program is Monique Meunier, a former dancer with the New York City Ballet who also choreographed a piece for CBC last term. At Meunier’s second rehearsal this semester, the five participating dancers and the choreographer were focused and animated as they reviewed the choreography set the week before and began to learn new combinations. Meunier’s choreography is tricky, with a lot of fast footwork to learn and an unconventional quality of movement to adapt to, but the dancers rose readily to the challenge.
By bringing in choreographers with innovative visions, Victoria North, GS—the artistic director of CBC—hopes not only to create an exciting and cohesive program to be performed in April, but also to give the dancers of CBC the opportunity to dance in contemporary works. North said that the club’s dancers benefit from close relationships with the choreographers—an experience that is unusual at many other professional ballet companies.
Most importantly, though, North said that one of CBC’s primary missions is to introduce the Columbia community to new works, like Meunier’s and Peck’s, that they might not otherwise see.
“From the start, CBC has been committed to bringing ballet and contemporary ballet works to campus and providing a platform for emerging choreographers, whether students or professionals,” she said.