Adams in Balanchine's "Rubies." Photo by Luke Isley, Courtesy Ballet West.
In 2015, Ballet West dancer Emily Adams was promoted to principal; the milestone achievement left her feeling inspired—but also a little unbalanced. "Through the daily intensity, I wasn't enjoying everything as much as I should have been," she says. To unwind, Adams turned to yoga classes, where she found a renewed sense of self-love and an unexpected business idea: an eco-friendly activewear line called State of Bodhi. At 30, Adams is now a community-minded entrepreneur as well as a principal dancer.
Sewing classes never factored into Adams' extracurricular activities while growing up. Instead, the Pennsylvania native took as many ballet classes as possible before settling into the School of American Ballet's advanced division.
Adams and Adrian Fry in Afternoon of a Faun. Photo by Luke Isley, Courtesy Ballet West.
For the last two years, Ballet West's Emily Adams choreographed for the company's Innovations program. Now, she's standing on the other side of the studio, preparing to dance in Jessica Lang's Lyric Pieces. Adams spoke with Pointe about working with an established female voice and how it's inspired her as a choreographer.
What is Lyric Pieces about?
Jessica didn't give us a lot of back story, but I get the sense that it's about community. Each vignette shows the different characters. There are some lighthearted sections and some romantic ones, but I think the props are what make it really unique.
There are these huge paper props that create the landscape of the piece. Some span the whole length of the stage. At one part, I curve this long paper to form a brook or steam and then another time it's vertical and looks like a fan. It's hard, because you want it to look like it's part of the dance and an extension of yourself--not just a foreign object that you're carrying around and manipulating.
How does Lang inspire you as a dancemaker?
I really like her demeanor. As a choreographer, you create the environment for something to be made and to grow. She was encouraging but a little bit mysterious, too. I like that vibe. She gave us direction but also freedom.
How do you stay connected to dancemaking throughout the season?
Every once in a while, Adrian Fry—another choreographer/dancer in the company—and I will go into a studio and start collaborating, even if it's not for a performance. It's just to get the creative juices flowing. I choreographed for Innovations the last two years, but this season I wanted to dance. I think if choreography is something you like to do, it's not going to suddenly stop. I plan to continue pursuing it.
Ballet West's Innovations program of new works runs May 20-28 in Salt Lake City.
Emily Adams is having a spectacular year: The Ballet West soloist's fourth work for the company is being presented this week in itsInnovations program. And, she's being promoted to principal this fall. Pointe spoke with Adams about developing her passion for choreography.
What's the inspiration behind your newest work, Homage?
Last summer, I saw this Salvador Dali sculpture, "Homage to Terpsichore." It really spoke to me. It has two standing figures, a classical nude form and a cubist one. I thought it would lend itself well to movement.
What types of movement are you working with?
I have 10 dancers, split into two groups to represent the aspects of the sculpture. The "classicals" are pretty and have very square, smooth, beautiful lines. I'm kind of thinking of them like Greek gods and goddesses. But the "cubists" are disjointed, angular and twitchy. Compared to the classical dancers, they're very chaotic.
How do you hope to juggle being a principal and choreographing?
When I was a demi-soloist, I was doing principal, soloist and corps roles, so it was a very hard schedule. When you're a principal, there's pressure when you're dancing the big roles, but you have a little bit more time and fewer parts to keep track of. And, I think the status helps when you're choreographing on your peers. The first time I did Innovations, I was a corps member, and I was leading a room with principals and soloists. That can be a little intimidating.
For even more interviews, tips, audition info and giveaways, sign up for our FREE e-newsletter.
Above: Adams with Christopher Ruud in The Lottery. Photo by Luke Isley, Courtesy Ballet West.