Most of the ballet world would agree that there’s a glut of fresh choreographic talent. That’s not to say there are no interesting artists making work; there’s just not enough of them. (Wheeldon and Ratmansky can only be stretched so thin.)
Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet seems determined to do something about this. Since 1998, resident choreographer Alan Hineline and principal faculty member Laszlo Berdo have hosted ChoreoPlan, which invites a handful of promising classical choreographers to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, to create a new work on CPYB students. It’s a private environment for dance makers just starting out to practice their craft without the typical pressures of selling tickets, finding rehearsal space, pleasing donors.
And this winter, CPYB launched a new nine-day workshop, called FirstSteps, to foster budding choreographers from within the ranks of the student body. From January 12–20, five students got a chance to take their first toe-dips into the exhilarating—and frightening—challenges of making a ballet. After a number of students submitted blueprints of their proposed pieces to a selection committee, Avalon Demetri, Justine Essis Gildea, Alexander Manning, John (JQ) Powers and Nadezhda Vostikov were chosen to each create a new 10-minute ballet on their peers. During the process, the first-time choreographers got to work with Pennsylvania Ballet founder (and Balanchine protégée) Barbara Weisberger.
Whether or not a mini Balanchine comes out of the program, it’s a step in a smart direction. Choreographers can’t always happen by accident. Although composition is a large part of modern dance training, it’s too often ignored in ballet. Young talent needs both formal and informal opportunities to grow.