I stood in the doorway of Studio 12 at DANY for at least five minutes before walking in, taking in the scene. Four musicians tuned or practiced instruments in the far corner, Michele Wiles paced stage right in puffy overcoat and working slowly through the articulation of her gait in pointe shoes, on the other side of the room a handful of young dancers stretched and warmed up with Pilates exercises, and in the middle of the floor an impromptu photo shoot set was up. Charles Askegard and Georgina Pazcoguin were decked out in sporty, silver and neon costumes for his newest ballet–a pas de deux for the two of them called Stravinsky Divertimento–as Erin Baiano snapped photos and delivered the results in real time. They self-corrected the positions and smiled for more. The duds were courtesy of Nanette Lepore, a longtime friend of Pazcoguin. I came here with the preconceived notion that Ballet Next might be just another ballet supergroup, given their roster of gala names. Once inside the studio, Askegard worked hard to dispel some of the myths surrounding that perception.
As Mauro Bigonzetti’s rehearsal director worked to ready Wiles and Pazcoquin for a run of La Follia, a duet from the company’s last round of performances at the Joyce, I found out from Askegard what he thinks sets Ballet Next apart as a company. Beyond the vision he and Wiles (and the chosen choreographers) share of a future in which the ballet technique is not only preserved but pushed in new ways, Askegard cited their mission to develop dancers. Yes, there are guest artists, “but we have also done auditions, hired some younger dancers, and we are committed to coaching them.” In fact, all of the dancers listed on their roster are principals or soloists, whether widely known or unknown.
When I needled him a little more about how this intimate experience contrasts the large company careers Askegard, Wiles, and all of the guest artists have had, he paused, smiling before replying, “the good thing about a small group is that everyone is important, everyone is a part of it. Including the musicians, since we do not have a conductor.” As if on cue, the music began. Wiles and Pazcoguin bent Vivaldi’s score to their will, stopping to confer with the musicians on particularly tricky moments. During these breaks, the younger soloists emerged from the sidelines to try to make sense of the corrections offered. As the ladies settled into a seemingly cramp-inducing final pose, my last question to Askegard was, “Do you have a physical therapist?” To which he replied, “Yes of course, she is right over there.”
Do you have a question about Ballet Next? Find your answer this week at the Joyce Theater as the company unveils five world premieres from Mauro Bigonzetti, Brian Reeder, Margo Sappington, Alison Cook Beatty, and Charles Askegard, in addition to last season’s La Follia.
PROGRAM A: Oct 23, 7:30pm; Oct 25, 8pm; Oct 27, 2pm; Oct 28, 2pm
Tinntinnabuli, Entwined, La Follia
Approximate Running-time: 1 hour 20 min (one intermission)
PROGRAM B: Oct 24, 7:30pm; Oct 26, 8pm; Oct 27, 8pm; Oct 28, 7:30pm
Stravinsky Divertimento, Picnic, New Bigonzetti piece
Approximate Running-Time: 1 hour 10 min (one intermission)
Click here for tickets.