Rehearsing a world premiere can be daunting for any dancer. This month, Tulsa Ballet principal Youhee Son is faced with triple the challenge. She'll be dancing in brand-new creations by Jorma Elo, Dwight Rhoden and Ma Cong in Tulsa Ballet's Creations in Studio K program. For Pointe's biweekly newsletter, we spoke with Son as she prepared for the performances which start next weekend.
What can you tell us about the new works?
Since Ma is resident choreographer here, he knows us very well. In his ballet, I start out sad and romantic, but the next part is really energetic. That's the hardest thing, to change my mood in a minute. For Dwight, I'd been hoping to work with him for a long time, so this is a dream come true. In his piece, we start with pointe shoes and lots of partnering before changing to soft shoes--that's hard. Dwight's movement is very rich. Even when you wave your arms, it's not just the arms. You have to use your whole body. For Jorma's ballet, he came in with sketches but didn't give us exact movements. He gave us some freedom to collaborate, so I feel like I'm really a part of his choreography.
You'll be performing in Studio K, a 300-seat theater. How is that different from dancing on a main stage?
With the audience so close, it can be harder to concentrate. But that also means they can see everything; they don't miss any part of the choreography since the space is so compact. And as dancers, we get to feel what the audience feels. When they're surprised, we can hear them gasp.
In rehearsal, do you approach a premiere differently than a ballet that already exists?
Yes, because when I learn an older piece, I can watch a video to see how to fix a difficult movement. But for a new piece, I am in charge of driving the car. I'm not following somebody's interpretation. I'm trying to find a way to make it look better for not only myself, but for the entire piece. It's about making it a better collaboration.
What advice do you have for dancers when they're learning a brand-new ballet?
Go for it. Be creative. And don't be afraid to be a part of it. If the choreographer is working with another dancer on a different part that's not yours, you still need to listen to him because it's all about that one piece.
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Phot credit: Son in Yuri Possokhov's Classical Symphony with Hyonjun Rhee. Courtesy Tulsa Ballet.