Hamrick rehearsing Port Rouge in St. Petersburg. Photo courtesy Hamrick

What Melanie Hamrick Learned From Collaborating on A Ballet With Boyfriend Mick Jagger

Choosing music for your first-ever choreography commission can feel daunting enough. But when you're asked to create a ballet using the vast discography of the Rolling Stones—and you happen to be dating Stones frontman Mick Jagger—the stakes are even higher.

So it's understandable that as of Monday, American Ballet Theatre corps de ballet dancer Melanie Hamrick, whose Port Rouge will have its U.S. premiere tonight at the Youth American Grand Prix gala, was still torn about which songs to include.


"Yesterday I was like, Can I add one more song?" she says. (The full piece recently premiered in St. Petersburg at the Mariinsky Theatre; the YAGP performance will be a slightly shortened version.) Hamrick originally planned to cut "Sympathy for the Devil," but on Monday changed her mind and called YAGP's artistic director Larissa Saveliev to ask if she could swap out "You Can't Always Get What You Want" instead. "Just now I called her again and asked if I can just do the full program," she says. "So don't be surprised if you come on Thursday and see 'Always.' "

Jagger helped Hamrick curate the songs, and added an orchestral score behind the rock classics to lend them a custom ballet feel.

While the Russian premiere included a mix of Mariinsky dancers and current and former New York City Ballet members—along with Hamrick herself, who had to fill in for an injured performer at the last minute—the New York version will feature ABT dancers Herman Cornejo, Thomas Forster, Calvin Royal III, Skylar Brandt, Christine Shevchenko and Sung Woo Han, and NYCB principal Daniel Ulbricht, the only dancer to perform in both shows.

Most of the New York cast competed at YAGP as students, as did Hamrick's co-choreographer, Joanna DeFelice: "I wanted people who appreciate the competition and love it as much as I do," says Hamrick.

What She Learned From Her First Choreographic Experience

"I was questioning constantly at the beginning. I was trying to be too perfect," she says. "I didn't feel like it was my place to tell these incredible artists what to do."

Especially at the Mariinsky, Hamrick says, she was overwhelmed by the history of the institution. "I was like, I can't believe I'm in this building. To be a guest and to also demand what I need for my piece...it was hard at first to make those requests, but slowly I managed to get out of that."

"I learned that it's not about doing something that's already been done," she says. "It's about making something new."

The Adorable Story of How Port Rouge Got Its Name

"I've been listening to this music for so many years, and sometimes you have the lyrics a little off," she says. "So 'red door' is a joke between Mick and I about some of the lyrics I had wrong...you can probably guess which ones." ("I see a red door and I want it painted black.")

On Coming Back to Choreographing

Around 10 years ago, Hamrick applied for an ABT choreographic initiative (an early precursor to what was launched last year as the ABT Incubator.) She presented a "wacky" idea, and didn't make the cut. "I was like, 'I'm never choreographing again!' " she says.

But when she talked to ABT artistic director Kevin McKenzie about her Rolling Stones idea more recently, he was encouraging, and told her he was glad that she was taking another stab at choreography.

"I was never super into choreographing because I was too unsure of myself and I cared too much what people thought," she says. "This helped me to be like, it's okay. Do you, and if people like it, that's okay. Now I find myself listening to music and thinking, this would be really cool to dance to! I love that I'm already looking for new things."

The Choreographers Who Inspired Her

Though this was Hamrick's first time choreographing, she's had years of experience working with world-class choreographers at ABT. "I looked to Twyla Tharp and Alexei Ratmansky," she says. "They know what they want, and you know their look when you see it. I don't think I have a style yet, but they gave me confidence to try to find one."

Her Hopes for the Piece

"I want the piece to keep growing. I have a whole list of songs I want to add to it," she says. "I wasn't setting out to make the best new ballet the world has even seen. I'm setting out to make people smile and enjoy themselves, to shut off their brains for eight minutes and come away feeling good."

Latest Posts


Whitney Ingram

Revisiting Julie Kent's Dance Bag, 20 Years Later

Julie Kent was our very first Show & Tell when Pointe magazine launched in spring of 2000. Then a principal with American Ballet Theatre, Kent carried a second bag entirely dedicated to her pointe shoes. Twenty years later, she is now the artistic director of The Washington Ballet, and no longer needs to tote her pointe shoes. "For 40 years they were like a part of my body," says Kent. "And now they're not part of the landscape until my daughter's old enough to go on pointe." Nevertheless, Kent's current role keeps her in the studio. She always carries practice clothes and ballet slippers for teaching and rehearsals.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Courtesy Tiler Peck

Tiler Peck's Top 10 Tips for Training at Home

On March 15, New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck announced to her 172,000-plus Instagram followers that she'd be teaching a live class from her family's home in Bakersfield, California, where she's currently waiting out COVID-19. Little did she know that she'd receive such a viral response. Since then, Peck has offered daily Instagram LIVE classes Monday through Friday at 10 am PST/1 pm EST, plus an occasional Saturday class and Sunday stretch/Pilates combo. "The reaction was just so overwhelming," she says. "These classes are keeping me sane, and giving me something to look forward to."

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Getty Images

It’s OK to Grieve: Coping with the Emotional Toll of Canceled Dance Events

Grace Campbell was supposed to be onstage this week. Selected for the Kansas City Ballet School's invitation-only Kansas City Youth Ballet, her performance was meant to be the highlight of her senior year. "I was going to be Queen of the Dryads in Don Quixote, and also dance in a couple of contemporary pieces, so I was really excited," she says. A week later, the group was supposed to perform at the Youth America Grand Prix finals in NYC. In May, Grace was scheduled to take the stage again KC Ballet School's "senior solos" show and spring performance.

Now, all those opportunities are gone.

The COVID-19 pandemic has consumed the dance community. The performance opportunities students have worked all year for have been devoured with it. Those canceled shows might have been your only chance to dance for an audience all year. Or they might have been the dance equivalent to a cap and gown—a time to be acknowledged after years of work.

You can't replace what is lost, and with that comes understandable grief. Here's how to process your feelings of loss, and ultimately use them to help yourself move forward as a dancer.

Keep reading SHOW LESS