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New Territory: Hofesh Shechter On Creating First Work for Classical Ballet Company

Hofesh Shechter. Photo by Victor Frankowski, Courtesy Martha Oakes.

Contemporary choreographer Hofesh Shechter's boisterous work is often reminiscent of rock concerts, yet it crosses over to the ballet stage in March. The Royal Ballet has commissioned the Jerusalem-born choreographer and Batsheva Dance Company alum to create his first work for a classical company. Shechter spoke with Pointe ahead of the world premiere.

What prompted you to work with a full ballet company?

The idea came from Kevin O'Hare, when he became artistic director at The Royal Ballet. I told him I would only do an ensemble piece: I'm not interested in creating for two or three people, and you don't get a lot of opportunities to work with 35 people at that level. It's a new challenge.


What do you find inspiring about classical ballet dancers?

They are like super-dancers: They can do anything technically. A lot of my work happens in the upper body, but they can do so much with their legs. I'll see if it inspires me to use the lower body in a more elaborate way. In terms of energy, there is something very neat, very open about them, whereas my work tends to be internal. I hope something fresh can come out of these conflicts.

Are you creating the music for this work?

Yes. I'm very humble with it. I make music for my works, but I don't see myself as a composer. The Royal Ballet welcomed it, however, and suggested I use their orchestra, so I'm writing a score for a string and percussion ensemble, along with an electronic track.

What inspires you at the moment, choreographically?

Complexity. A lot of my movement is very quick, but I want to find complexity inside that. Thirty-five dancers allow for an amazing mix of energy and rhythm, of order and disorder. I don't usually start with a clear structure in mind, but this time I did.

What do you use to help dancers in the studio?

I use very simple images and actions to simplify the movement, make it feel authentic. There are a lot of mannerisms in ballet, but the RB dancers are chameleons, and I want to tap into their human qualities.

The Conversation
Ballet Training
Via Burst

I'm a ballet dancer of 13 years, but I only got serious about it a few years ago, and very recently realized that I might want to pursue ballet professionally. I've contemplated auditioning for several prestigious pre-professional programs. But now I'm a junior in high school, so I'm worried it's too late. Should I still go for it, or am I better off staying at my current studio and going to college? —Lexi

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Do you ever wish you could teleport to London and casually stroll into The Royal Opera House to see some of the world's best-loved ballets? Well, we have a solution for you: The Royal Ballet's 2018-19 cinema season.

Whether live or recorded, the seven ballet programs listed below, streaming now through next October, will deliver all of the magic that The Royal Ballet has to offer straight to your local movie theater. Can you smell the popcorn already?

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Tetsuya Kumakawa, via YouTube

Tetsuya Kumakawa, a former principal with The Royal Ballet and the founder and artistic director of K-Ballet in Tokyo, could make an audience gasp with his wildly powerful and inventive allegro. A boyish, dare-devil dancer, Kumakawa was a natural fit for roles like Franz in Coppélia. Watching him in this clip of Franz's Act I variation, it seems Kumakawa must have some sort of gravity-defying DNA.

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Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB

Your teacher at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Marcia Dale Weary, recently passed away. What impact did she have on you?

I feel deeply indebted to her. She shaped my life's course, and I know that were it not for her, I would not be living out my dream today. She led by example through her remarkable commitment to her work, as well as her genuine kindness and generosity.

You were a trainee with San Francisco Ballet. What was that experience like?

It was an exposure to different schools of thought. We were mostly in the full-lengths, and watching run-throughs of Sleeping Beauty and Don Quixote was revolutionary for me. But I was young and far away from home. That transition was hard. My body started changing. It wanted to be fleshy. Biology is cruel in that way. I desperately wanted to fit in, but it wasn't meant to be.

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