Ballet Noveau Colorado

Taking a new approach to empower dancers and tap into their versatility.
Published in the February/March 2007 issue.

Ballet Nouveau Colorado has a 14-year history as a versatile company that performs seasonal standards—like The Nutcracker—but also experiments with incorporating modern dance. Artistic Director Robert Mills’s latest work, In Between Dreams, exemplifies the variety in BNC’s repertoire. It starts with modern movement danced barefoot and ends on pointe. Therefore, Mills looks for“versatile movers” who are experienced and comfortable dancing in a fusion of styles.

BNC has grown a lot since its founding in 1992, when dancers were hired “as needed.” In 2002 the company began to maintain a professional, full-time roster for the duration of its 26-week season.

As in other companies, all 19 of its dancers—ages 19 to 29—report for a five-day workweek. Along with rehearsals and fully staged performances, company members also participate in a public school outreach program, which includes school-day performances, demonstrations and interactive workshops with students. Some company members also teach classes in the adjoining ballet school.

Jimmy Joyner, 21, one of the company’s newest and youngest dancers, radiates excitement when he discusses his position with BNC. “I think it’s the wide variety of rep that attracted me,” he says, referring to the many dance styles of Mills’s and visiting choreographers’ work.

Charlotte Loyd, now in her fifth season with the company, enjoys being based in the North Denver town of Broomfield (equidistant between Boulder and Denver proper) because it gives her easy access to two large, metropolitan areas and their thriving arts communities. “We’re not isolated from other artists here,” she explains. Nor is she far from the region’s natural beauty. “Our studio has big windows,” says Loyd, “so you can see right to the mountains.”

The company maintains a democratic approach with its members. Mills explains that he “looks at everyone as equals.” Not that the creative process is a formless, collaborative free-for-all. Instead, he encourages everyone to share ideas. His open-door policy allows dancers, teachers—anyone involved in the company—to come to him with questions and concerns.

Dancer input reaches beyond administrative issues with the annual “Nouveau Showcase,” a program of works choreographed and performed by dancers in the company. The performance series is a chance for the dancers to explore their interests, as well as to gain valuable experience choreographing, directing and producing.

Loyd lists the opportunity for growth—for dancers and for the company in general—as one of the exciting aspects of dancing with BNC. “I started the same year our artistic director came. He has a lot of vision tempered with patience,” she says, “and I’ve had the opportunity to watch him grow.”

Sarah Sawyer is an arts, culture and lifestyle writer based in Minneapolis.