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.

Ballet Careers
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.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Ballet Arizona
Tzu Chia Huang, Courtesy Ballet Arizona

These days, ballet dancers are asked to do more than they ever have—whether that's tackling versatile rep, taking on intense cross-training regimens or managing everything from their Instagram pages to their summer layoff gigs.

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."

Keep reading... Show less
News
Nicolas Pelletier in Carmina Burana. Francisco Estevez, Courtesy Colorado Ballet.

Last week, Colorado Ballet interrupted Nutcracker rehearsals for an exciting announcement: Four dancers were being promoted. Though all made the jump from the company's corps de ballet, Nicolas Pelletier ascended directly to the rank of soloist, while Sean Omandam, Emily Speed and Melissa Zoebisch were promoted to demi-soloist. This news comes hot on the heels of last August's promotion of Francisco Estevez to principal.

Keep reading... Show less
Courtesy School of Pennsylvania Ballet

While many of us are deep in Nutcracker duties, The School of Pennsylvania Ballet director James Payne has been looking further ahead, finalizing preparations for the school's summer intensive programs. In January, he and his staff will embark on a 24-city audition tour to scour the country for the best young dancers, deciding whether or not to offer them a spot—maybe even a scholarship—in the school's rigorous 5-week intensive focused on high-caliber ballet instruction. Though he'll be evaluating aspirants, he urges that as a student, you should be equally selective in choosing programs that could galvanize your training—and possibly even your career.

We got Payne's advice on strategizing your summer intensive plan before the audition cycle kicks in:

Keep reading... Show less