Melissa Barak: From New York to L.A.

Barak working in the studio, Courtesy Anderson Group Public Relations

Choreographer Melissa Barak, who launched her dance career with New York City Ballet and then Los Angeles Ballet, fittingly draws much of her inspiration from her dancers. While still performing, she became the youngest choreographer to create a work for NYCB. But in 2013, she launched her own company, Barak Ballet, in L.A. This Friday and Saturday, Feb. 6-7, her troupe presents a triple bill at Santa Monica's Broad Stage. Pointe spoke with Barak for its bi-weekly newsletter before opening night.

What can we expect on the program?
Each ballet is very different musically and stylistically. I initially made Yueh Fei at the National Choreographers Initiative in Irvine in 2007, but I've reworked the pas de deux and added an extra movement, a men's dance. Next is Nicolo Fonte's Left Unsaid, which is a stunning work set to Bach. And last is a piece I made on Sacramento Ballet called Middle of Somewhere. It's straight up neoclassical dancing.


Why did you choose to start your company in L.A.?
I'm originally from here, so it made sense. I'm glad I did because we're seeing a lot of growth in L.A.'s dance scene. It's challenging, but it's cool to be part of that renaissance.

How would you describe your choreographic process?
I usually get inspiration from a piece of music and then I start to see things I'd like to do. But once we're in the studio, it's certainly collaborative. I like to work with dancers that have an interesting voice and an interesting way of moving and interpreting music and choreography. I like seeing what works, what doesn't, what's comfortable for the dancers, what pushes them and what pushes me.

Where have you found your dancers?
About five or six of them are local, but many of the others live in New York and are freelancers. Some are working with Suzanne Farrell's company. Others had been with Pennsylvania Ballet, Joffrey Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet. I like to work with dancers that are more seasoned. They have a little bit more of a story to tell.

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