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Crystal Pite working with members of the Paris Opéra Ballet. Photo by Julien Benhamou.

In February, I attended the Prix de Lausanne, where I moderated a series of panel discussions that were open to the competing students, their teachers and parents, and the public. One topic I was particularly excited about concerned women in leadership roles, and how the ballet world can better nurture leadership qualities in female dancers. My panelists included Korean National Ballet artistic director Sue Jin Kang, English National Ballet associate director Loipa Araújo and Gigi Hyatt, the deputy director of the Hamburg Ballet School.

There was just one problem—while there were plenty of audience members, none of the female students actually showed up. As I watched a few of them browse the pop-up ballet shop on their way out of the theater, I couldn't help but think “Don't you know this talk is for you?"

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Adams with Adrian Fry in Afternoon of a Faun. Photo by Luke Isley, Courtesy Ballet West.

For the last two years, Ballet West's Emily Adams choreographed for the company's Innovations program. Now, she's standing on the other side of the studio, preparing to dance in Jessica Lang's Lyric Pieces. Adams spoke with Pointe about working with an established female voice and how it's inspired her as a choreographer.

What is Lyric Pieces about?

Jessica didn't give us a lot of back story, but I get the sense that it's about community. Each vignette shows the different characters. There are some lighthearted sections and some romantic ones, but I think the props are what make it really unique.

 

How so?

There are these huge paper props that create the landscape of the piece. Some span the whole length of the stage. At one part, I curve this long paper to form a brook or steam and then another time it's vertical and looks like a fan. It's hard, because you want it to look like it's part of the dance and an extension of yourself--not just a foreign object that you're carrying around and manipulating.

 

 

How does Lang inspire you as a dancemaker?

I really like her demeanor. As a choreographer, you create the environment for something to be made and to grow. She was encouraging but a little bit mysterious, too. I like that vibe. She gave us direction but also freedom.


How do you stay connected to dancemaking throughout the season?

Every once in a while, Adrian Fry—another choreographer/dancer in the company—and I will go into a studio and start collaborating, even if it's not for a performance. It's just to get the creative juices flowing. I choreographed for Innovations the last two years, but this season I wanted to dance. I think if choreography is something you like to do, it's not going to suddenly stop. I plan to continue pursuing it.

Ballet West's Innovations program of new works runs May 20-28 in Salt Lake City.

 

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