Ballet Stars

18-Year-Old Gianna Reisen on Choreographing for NYCB's Fall Fashion Gala

Gianna Reisen in rehearsal with NYCB corps de ballet dancer Ghaleb Kayali. Photo by Erin Baiano, Courtesy NYCB.

This Thursday marks New York City Ballet's annual Fall Gala. Spearheaded by actress and NYCB board member Sarah Jessica Parker, this glamorous event unites the worlds of ballet and fashion by partnering choreographers with top designers to collaborate on new works. This year, alongside premieres by NYCB company members/choreographers Lauren Lovette, Justin Peck and Troy Schumacher, 18-year old School of American Ballet alumna Gianna Reisen will present her first work for the stage at Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater.

NYCB Ballet Master in Chief Peter Martins noticed Reisen's work at SAB's Student Choreography Workshop and invited her to create a piece for The New York Choreographic Institute in 2016 before offering her the Fall Gala commission. This opportunity came as part of a whirlwind year for Reisen; after finishing her studies at SAB she was offered an apprenticeship at Dresden Semperoper Ballett late last spring. Reisen spent only three weeks getting settled in Germany before returning to NYC in late August to start rehearsals for the gala.

We caught up with Reisen to hear what it's been like to work alongside such high-caliber artists and to get the inside scoop on her premiere.


Tell us about your piece. What music are using?

It's called Three American Pieces by Lukas Foss. It's chamber music for violin and piano. I found the piece a while ago in the depths of Spotify and was immediately drawn to it. And when I found out I would be choreographing for NYCB I thought of Foss' piece because it really reminded me of the company; it basically screamed NYCB.


NYCB corps de ballet dancer Emma Von Enck and NYCB apprentice Roman Mejia rehearsing for choreographer Gianna Reisen. Photo by Erin Baiano, Courtesy NYCB.

How many dancers are you working with, and how did you choose your cast?

I'm working with six men and six women. My entire cast is made up of younger corps members. I'm extremely happy with the group; they've been working very hard. It's great because a lot of them were my former classmates and also some people that I've watched growing up at SAB, so I know them fairly well as dancers. It's making the process a lot more fun.

How long is the piece?

It's a little over twelve minutes. I finished the piece quite early which is super helpful for me so I have a lot of time to focus on details and the bigger picture and emotion behind the movement. Also for the dancers and myself to feel more comfortable with what they're doing.

Which designer are you working with, and what has that collaboration been like?

I'm working with Virgil Abloh. He's been an amazing person to work with and the collaboration has been so fun. I really don't know anything about fashion design at all and Virgil had never worked in ballet before, but we've been very open to each other's ideas and the finished products are pretty amazing.



Can you describe to us what the costumes look like?

The color palette is fairly neutral. All of the women have short skirts with tulle but they each have different components to them and different length sleeves. Two of the girls are in black, two are in ivory and two are in blush. All the men are in black. It's a simple color palette but I think it feels sophisticated and interesting.

What has it been like to work with such top-tier dancers and alongside such well-established choreographers?

In the beginning it was definitely extremely intimidating for me because I was coming into the company as this new person that not a lot of the company members knew. And the whole process is very new to me, creating a work for stage and for a company of such high caliber. But now that I'm further along in the process I feel like everyone is extremely supportive and nice. There's obviously still a good amount of pressure, but I feel definitely less intimidated now than in the beginning. Once I started to feature my dancers as individuals I felt a kind of shift. A lot of people (including myself) have really warmed up.


Gianna Reisen in rehearsal with NYCB corps de ballet dancerGhaleb Kayali. Photo by Erin Baiano, Courtesy NYCB.

How do you see choreographing fitting into your life going forward?

I hope there will be choreographic opportunities in Dresden. I really hope that I have the chance to expand choreographically. I am still dancing, so I want to see where I go as a dancer and where life takes me. But I'd really love to pursue both dancing and choreography at the same time. I'll definitely take any and all opportunities that come my way in choreography.

What has the biggest highlight of this experience been?

To just be working with such incredible dancers. They're all insanely talented and so eager to work and so open to new ideas.


Gianna Reisen rehearsing NYCB corps de ballet dancer Emma Von Enck and NYCB apprentice Roman Mejia. Photo by Erin Baiano, Courtesy NYCB.


What has the biggest challenge of this experience been?

The transition between being a dancer and being the boss of other people. When you're a dancer you're really told what to do. You're always following instructions and there are people overseeing your everyday life. The hardest part of me was taking a second to realize that I was now the one who needed to tell other people what to do.

What part of Thursday night are you most looking forward to?

I've never choreographed for the stage before. So to have my first ballet premiere at the Koch theater and see my work onstage for the first time... it's going to maybe be the best moment ever.

Show Comments ()
Social media validates extremes over clean, solid technique. Photo by David Hofmann/Unsplash

The entrancing power of Instagram can't be denied. I've lost hours of my life scrolling the platform looking at other people documenting theirs. What starts as a "quick" fill-the-moment check-in can easily lead to a good 10-15 minute session, especially if I enter the nebulous realm of "suggested videos."

My algorithm usually shows me professional ballet dancers in performances, rehearsals, class, backstage and on tour, which I quite enjoy. But there are the other dance feeds that I find myself simultaneously intrigued and horrified by: the hyper-elastic, hyper-extended, gumby-footed girls always at the barre doing developpés to six o'clock. There are the multiple turners, the avid stretchers and we can't forget the endless balancers.

This parade of tricksters always makes me wonder, What else can they do? Can they actually dance?

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Careers
Ballet Chicago Studio Company in Balanchine's Square Dance. Ron McKinney Photography, Courtesy Ballet Chicago.

"You'll find people say that we're very demanding, but we're not mean," says Daniel Duell, co-founder of the Ballet Chicago Studio Company, a rigorous, Balanchine-based pre-professional training program located in the heart of downtown Chicago. Duell originally formed Ballet Chicago as a professional company, which disbanded after 11 seasons in 1998. Today, the organization is wholly dedicated to training and is one of the only pre-professional programs in the country entrusted with staging George Balanchine's ballets.

In addition to running the Ballet Chicago Studio Company (BCSC) and its affiliated school, former New York City Ballet principal Duell and his wife, Patricia Blair, who danced with Eglevsky Ballet, are répétiteurs for The George Balanchine Trust. The couple's investment in Balanchine's technique and repertoire has afforded Ballet Chicago a unique relationship with the Trust, giving BCSC dancers the opportunity to perform classic ballets like Concerto Barocco, "Rubies," Tarantella and Valse-Fantaisie.

Keep reading... Show less
Just for fun
Boon, Lauren Lovette's furry friend. Photo via @laurenlovette on Instagram.

There's nothing more purrrrfect than some fabulous trinas and their feline friends. We're not kitten: these bonds are paw-sitively adorable! From hanging out backstage to working out together and more, these pairs will pas de chat their way straight into your heart.

Keep reading... Show less
News
Isabella Boylston and Calvin Royal III at Ballet Sun Valley in 2017. Photo by Steve Dondero, Courtesy Ballet Sun Valley.

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've pulled together some highlights.


Isabella Boylston Curates Her Second Hometown Ballet Festival

American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston moonlights as artistic director of Ballet Sun Valley, which she founded last year. The second annual festival will run July 17–18 in Sun Valley, Idaho, Boylston's hometown. Boylston has created two programs composed of pas de deux and solo pieces from choreographers including George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins and William Forsythe, as well as Justin Peck's In Creases, the one work for a larger ensemble.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Careers
Boston Ballet II associate director Peter Stark takes a picture of the group after class. Stark often observes company class when artistic director Mikko Nissinen is teaching. "He'll take notes and give us feedback on what the artistic staff is looking for," says BBII dancer Caroline Buckheit. Photo by Liza Voll.

For the members of Boston Ballet II, Thursday mornings are a special treat. At 9 am, well before the company arrives, they begin their own class with BBII associate director Peter Stark. It's their chance to talk through corrections and dig into the details of their technique—a welcome break from the fast-paced company environment they're just getting used to. "I really enjoy our Thursday class," says Catherine Livingston, 19, who joined BBII last fall. "It's just the 10 of us, and Peter coaches us all individually."

Keep reading... Show less
popular

Cleaning is a daily procedure. Proper maintenance will help extend the life of your floor and protect its special slip-resistant surface.

Keep reading... Show less
Viral Videos
via YouTube

What do you do when you finally have some time off after a busy season? Well, if you're the dancers of New York City Ballet, you find new ways to dance, obviously. Ahead of the company's 52nd annual residency at Saratoga Performing Arts Center, corps members (and super creatives) Peter Walker and Emily Kikta teamed up with their fellow dancers to choreograph and produce a series of videos leading up to the mainstage performances July 17-21.

Keep reading... Show less
Editors' List: The Goods
Left to right: Via Elevé Dancewear; Via LeaMarie

Planning to spend the majority of your summer sweating it out in the studio? Don't worry, you're not alone. And while you're definitely going to want to save the warmups for the winter, you can still accessorize your studio look without adding bulk, thanks to the always-in-style ballet skirt. From bright florals to washed out pastels and wild prints, we rounded up our favorite short (and a few long!) ballet skirts for summer.

AinslieWear Limoncello Wrap Skirt

via AinslieWear

f you can't spend your summer in the Mediterranean under actual lemon trees, this skirt is a solid backup. Plus, it gives us serious Beyonce "Lemonade" vibes, which will help you feel more fierce and less sweaty-mess in class (hopefully).
ainsliewear.com, $50

Health & Body
Thinkstock

Monthly periods can be a huge hassle for anyone. But donning a leotard and tights or getting through a tough barre when you're having your period can make it even harder to deal with. Dr. Lauren Streicher, clinical associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University, offers these tips for bunheads to ease pain and symptoms.

Keep reading... Show less
Just for fun
Photo by Amy Velasquez via Unsplash

Have you ever referred to your feet as biscuits or your pointe shoes as dead in front of a non-dancer friend or family member and seen a wave of confusion cross their face? Dance, like most activities, is chock-full of words and phrases used only by those in the know. In honor of their 90th anniversary, the Oxford English Dictionary wants to change that. They've put out an appeal to gather "hobby words," and dance is on their list (we know that dance is more than a hobby—try not to take offense).

Keep reading... Show less
Viral Videos
Screenshot via YouTube

Last summer, Mariinsky Ballet prima ballerina Uliana Lopatkina retired after more than 20 years as a principal. Adored in Russia and by audiences around the world, Lopatkina's virtuosity, elegance and humble presence have been sorely missed. Although best known for powerful interpretations of classical roles like Odette/Odile, Lopatkina also brought unparalleled drama to contemporary works, as in this clip by Dutch choreographer Hans van Manen. Lopatkina performed the austere, but emotionally fraught duet, titled Trois Gnossiennes, with her frequent Mariinsky partner Ivan Kozlov at the Hans van Manen Festival in 2007.

Keep reading... Show less
News
Leanne Cope and Robert Fairchild. Photo Courtesy Trafalger Releasing.

An American in Paris, the wildly popular musical directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, comes to movie theaters nationwide September 20 and 23. Filmed in London in 2017, this version features the show's original stars: former New York City Ballet principal Robert Fairchild and former Royal Ballet first artist Leanne Cope. Based on the classic 1951 Gene Kelly film with a score of Gershwin standards, An American in Paris played on Broadway and in London's West End to rave reviews and numerous awards, including a 2015 Tony for Best Choreographer. This limited screening will bring the best of Broadway up close to the masses. For a full list of participating theaters and to purchase tickets, available July 12, click here.

Sponsored

Viral Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get Pointe Magazine in your inbox

Sponsored

Win It!