During the nine years Jim Vincent spent as artistic director of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, he transformed the company from a capable jazz troupe into a collection of sophisticated, ballet-trained dancers with a cutting-edge contemporary repertoire. This September, Vincent will leave HSDC to become artistic director of the ballet-oriented Nederlands Dans Theater—a homecoming of sorts, since he performed with NDT for 12 years before going to Chicago. Vincent’s move also completes a circle: He brought the ballet aesthetic he’d learned at NDT to HSDC, and will return to NDT with all of the modern and jazz contacts he acquired at HSDC. Vincent spoke with Pointe about his plans for NDT and his bittersweet feelings as he prepares for this new chapter in his career.
When Jirí Kylián was director of NDT (when I was in the company), he was first and foremost a humanitarian. He was concerned about the dancers as people, and worked with them rather than above them. That’s the model I’ve used at Hubbard Street, and that’s what I intend to do at NDT. And although I have a plan for the future of the company, I’m not going to make changes for the sake of making changes. In fact, for logistical reasons, all of the programming for NDT’s next season has been confirmed already. So that gives me time to sit back and observe for a little while—not just in the studios, but also in the hallways, and in the marketing and administration offices.
It’s funny—I walk down the halls at NDT and it feels so familiar. Some of my pictures are still hanging there. And yet so much has changed in the 20 years since I left. Getting to understand the dynamics of this current group—what I call the “collective ego”—will be a critical part of this transition. I’ve spoken with many of the dancers and have seen all of them perform, but I’m eager to start teaching company class and to spend time with them in the studio and the theater, since that’s the only sure way to build strong creative relationships. NDT will also be celebrating its 50th anniversary during the 2010–2011 season, and there will be revivals of some wonderful works by Kylián that are quite familiar to me. I’m looking forward to rehearsing the company in that repertoire. It’s going to be like getting reacquainted with an old friend.
I have an incredibly strong attachment to Hubbard Street. Emotionally, I’m a little confused right now. But I think we’re at a good place, and that whoever takes the reins next has the opportunity to take this company and run. I’m still sad to leave—but the only place I’d consider leaving for is NDT. —Jim Vincent, as told to