Yesterday we told you about New York City Ballet corps dancers Emily Kikta and Peter Walker, the duo behind the Saratoga Performing Arts Center's video campaign in advance of NYCB's summer residency. Each day this week, SPAC has released one of eight short films on its website and social media channels that were choreographed, co-directed and filmed by the two dancers. And they're giving us an exclusive look at the last one of the series.
Shot on location this spring in Saratoga Springs and Troy, New York, these films shows NYCB dancers frolicking in train stations, parks, race tracks and other iconic locations in the area. Fittingly, this last one was filmed onstage at SPAC, where the company opens its summer season July 5. Starring Walker and NYCB corps members Devin Alberda, Meaghan Dutton-O'Hara, Mimi Staker, Sebastian Villarini-Velez, Sarah Villwock and Giovanni Villalobos, it shows off the theater's gorgeous natural surroundings.
Here at Pointe, we love dancers who use their talent to tap into other creative projects. For New York City Ballet corps dancers Emily Kikta and Peter Walker, their mutual love of choreography and film-making has yielded a major commission: creating eight short, site-specific films to promote NYCB's summer season at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Shot on location in Saratoga Springs and nearby Troy, New York, the minute-long videos have been released one a day this week in advance of the season's opening on July 5. And we've got an exclusive sneak-peek at the last two films!
You can thank Kanye West, in part, for inspiring New York City Ballet corps member Devin Alberda to pursue his budding passion for photography beyond Facebook profile pics. It was during the Yeezus Tour that West, whom Alberda calls “a real role model of mine," gave a sermon about believing in your vision. “That's when I decided maybe I could do more than I thought with the photos," says Alberda.
Not long after, a photography editor at The New York Times, who had discovered Alberda's impressive Instagram feed, approached him to publish a spread of photos in the paper—a major vote of confidence for the mostly self-taught shutterbug. “It's been really cool to have people believe in the work I do," he says.
Alberda, 29, calls photography a form of “identity expression," a way to engage thoughtfully with the intense, insular and high-pressure world of an elite ballet company. His spread in the Times depicted the focused and playful backstage life of his fellow company members, capturing the quiet moments, secret smiles and personal preparations. But first and foremost, Alberda is a dancer, part of the NYCB family.
He almost wasn't. After growing up in Ohio and training at the School of Cleveland Ballet, Alberda was accepted to The Juilliard School, where he planned to study a variety of dance styles. But the summer before classes began, he was accepted to the School of American Ballet's summer program. He was then invited to stay for the year, which turned into an apprenticeship with the company and a corps position in 2006.
Since then, he has had the opportunity to taste from the broad spectrum of NYCB's repertoire. Prized experiences include George Balanchine's avant-garde Episodes, Wayne McGregor's quick and spiky Outlier and Justin Peck's In Creases.
Alberda has also dabbled in choreography, recently creating a solo called Individuate, inspired by, among other things, the dark sci-fi film Ex Machina. “I've always been interested in how technology might lead us to a different stage of humanity," he says.
That kind of existential questioning and the thrill of poking around in shadowy places informs Alberda's recent photography, which is mostly black-and-white, like an X-ray. “I'm a documentary photographer," he says. “I try to find beautiful images as they happen."
Others beyond the ballet world are taking note: The publicist of Hollywood producer Scott Rudin requested Alberda's photographic services at rehearsals of his upcoming Broadway musical Shuffle Along, which Alberda has found fun and fulfilling.
Despite such opportunities to flex another creative muscle, in some ways it seems photography is a placeholder for the autonomy and exploration Alberda craves as a dancer. “I'd like to find myself dancing roles where I can express myself more readily," he says. “There's something that changes when you get to make decisions as a soloist. I'd like to be given more of those opportunities."
Music inspiration: Alberda loves hip hop. “I'm obsessed with Future this year," he says. “He's kind of a beast."
Photo tools: His Instagram photos are shot on an iPhone 5 or 6, but he recently got a new camera—a Leica MP. “I'm really excited about it," he says.
Favorite author: Science fiction writer Samuel R. Delaney. “He imagines a world that is a little freer of the constraints of identity politics."