News

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Boston Ballet's All-Female Choreographed Program

Boston Ballet in Jorma Elo's "Bach Cello Suites" for BB@home. Photo by Sabi Varga, courtesy of Boston Ballet.

This year, Boston Ballet's annual choreographic workshop is all about empowering women. Taking place in Boston Ballet's black box theater November 1-2, BB@home: ChoreograpHER will feature six works by women of various ranks in the company.

"Given the reality that the majority of produced choreographers have been male, I am excited this BB@home program encourages our talented female dancers who have an interest in choreography by giving them a platform to gain experience as choreographers," said artistic director Mikko Nissinen in a statement.


Boston Ballet, of course, isn't the only company dedicated to creating more opportunities for women right now. After the #MeToo movement first hit the ballet world last year with claims of abuse and harassment against New York City Ballet's former ballet master in chief, Peter Martins, we've seen an increase in efforts to empower female dancers and choreographers from companies across the country. This fall, American Ballet Theater launched its Women's Movement initiative, and, last month, Pacific Northwest Ballet created a year-round women's choreography class, New Voices: Choreography and Process for Young Women in Dance.

Ahead of the BB@home: ChoreograpHER's sold-out performance, principal Lia Cirio, second soloist (and our October/November cover star) Hannah Bettes, and artists Jessica Burrows, Lauren Flower, Sage Humphries and Haley Schwan let the cameras into their rehearsals for a more in-depth look at their creative processes.

Principal Lia Cirio

In keeping with the all-women theme, Cirio (who will be making her choreographic debut), decided to use music composed by women from the band Carolina Chocolate Drops and singer-songwriter Agnes Obel.

Second Soloist Hannah Bettes

Bettes is also making her choreographic debut at BB@home, sharing that her process has been about focusing on collaborating with her dancers to create In Search of Lost Time, which is inspired by a novel by Marcel Proust of the same name.

Company Artist Jessica Burrows

Having choreographed for a workshop with Hong Kong Ballet in the past, Burrows' first piece with Boston Ballet is all about celebrating each dancer's' unique qualities of movement and individual personality.

Company Artist Lauren Flower

Flower has drawn inspiration from her personal life for her first piece with Boston Ballet, sharing that it will include various solos, pas de deuxs and ensemble moments.

Company Artist Sage Humphries

Humphries' piece, YOU, is not only significant because it marks her first major choreographic debut, but she's also set her piece to music written and composed by her brother, Michael Humphries.

Company Artist Haley Schwan

Though Schwan has choreographed in the commercial world, most notably at the 2015 MTV VMAs for Iggy Azalea and Rita Ora's performance of "Black Widow," this marks her first time choreographing for Boston Ballet.

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Lenai Alexis Wilkerson. Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Michelle Tabnick Public Relations.

This is one of a series of stories on recent graduates' on-campus experiences—and the connections they made that jump-started their dance careers. Lenai Alexis Wilkerson graduated from University of Southern California with a BFA in dance (dance performance concentration) and a political science minor in 2019.

As Lenai Alexis Wilkerson looked at colleges, she wanted a school that would prepare her for two totally different professions: dancing and law. "I knew, pretty much when I was 16, that I wanted to go to law school," she says. "So I wanted the opportunity to have a dual college experience, where I could have a conservatory training style within a university and I could focus equally on my academics." When she auditioned for the inaugural class of University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, she knew it was the right fit.

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Tzu Chia Huang, Courtesy Ballet Arizona

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Without proper training, these demands can take a toll on both the mind and the body. But students can start preparing for them early—with the right summer intensive program.

The School of Ballet Arizona's summer intensive takes a well-rounded approach to training—not just focusing on technique and facility but nurturing overall dancer growth. "You cannot make a dancer just by screaming at them like they used to," says master ballet teacher Roberto Muñoz, who guests at the program every summer. "You have to take care of the person as well."

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Nicolas Pelletier in Carmina Burana. Francisco Estevez, Courtesy Colorado Ballet.

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Courtesy School of Pennsylvania Ballet

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