The Second Annual CounterPointe performances will feature the work of seven women choreographers, all who make work on pointe. In the lead up to the performances, Norte Maar is posting interviews with each choreographer.
Eryn Renee Young is co-founder and resident choreographer of XAOC Contemporary Ballet, a New York City-based neoclassical ballet company founded in 2010. Her choreographic work has been showcased at The Ailey Citigroup Theater, the Young Choreographer’s Festival at Symphony Space, Boston Contemporary Dance Festival at the Paramount Theater, the White Wave Dumbo Dance Festival, among others. She is honored to have been selected as a mentee for the 2013 Dance/USA Institute for Leadership Training. She has provided choreographic consulting on various projects including the 2012 MashRome Festival’s production of Medea under the direction of Jimmy Ferguson. She acts as production coordinator for Buglisi Dance Theatre’s Table of Silence Project 9/11, and as assistant coordinator for Peridance Capezio Center’s Certificate Program. Ms. Young began her dance training in New Jersey and has studied previously at the Boston Conservatory, Peridance Capezio Center, Broadway Dance Center, and MAX Ballet Academy in Florence, Italy. She holds a baccalaureate degree in Contemporary Ballet Choreography and Fine Art from New York University. She began choreographing in 2007 and draws inspiration from Balanchine-Stravinsky works, classical sculpture, Greek myth, Christopher Wheeldon, and William Forsythe.
Why do you create for pointe work? I create for pointework because I believe the epitome of balletic strength and beauty is achieved on pointe. My work is strongly driven by a desire to bring beauty into the lives of the viewers, to present pieces that represent strong women doing fantastic things, to achieve shapes and lines in architecture in movement that are far cleaner, far more exciting, more fulfilling, and more extreme on pointe. I believe that pointework allows women to reach the edge of possibility in movement not only in shape but also in dynamic, particularly within musicality. On a different tact, I also create for pointe because I think the classical tradition exemplified by the use of the pointe shoe provides the groundwork upon which concert dance rests, but also a tool that allows it to change and move forward and create the face of dance for the future.
What has been your biggest challenge? As a choreographer who exclusively creates work for pointe, my challenge has in fact been a lack of role models within my exact idiom. I have several WONDERFUL female choreographic mentors, but only one regularly makes works for dancers on pointe. Another has been the lack of opportunities from the New York dance world particularly for emerging/small choreographers working within the classical idiom – I feel like many of the showcases, grants, residencies, and other supports for emerging choreographers are geared toward contemporary modern or physical theater-styled work, while the “new” choreographers making work on pointe who are getting noted are those who comfortably emerge from large companies – Justin Peck of NYCB, Liam Scarlett of the Royal Ballet, and Alexei Ratmansky come to mind. That said, I have found that in persevering and presenting my work consistently in showings with mixed-genre work, the feedback has often been quite good, and I am so grateful to live in a city where daring to work against-trend is supported, allowed, and even at times applauded, and I am so thankful to have so many opportunities to share my work with so many people and meet so many fabulous artists with such varied approaches to their work, and to have found so many inspiring, supportive women who come together with the common goal of creating dance and sharing it with the world.
Which female choreographers do you look to as role models or inspiration? Interestingly enough, when I think of choreographers who influence the physical aesthetic and style of my work, I have three names that are basically the grand triumvirate of neoclassical choreographers, and they are all male: George Balanchine, William Forsythe, and Christopher Wheeldon. But when I think of women who have influenced my work, both personally and from afar, I have much more to say. Kathryn Posin taught me to be open and fearless in my approach to dance-making — to take risks, to ask the impossible of the dancers and then see them make it happen, to take pride in my work. Jacqulyn Buglisi taught me to be generous and loving with my work – to think about how dance is one of the threads that unites all humanity and how as artists we have a responsibility to share goodness with others through art. Marlena Wolfe taught me to be diligent in my approach to musicality and clarity – to acknowledge all of the music and make intelligent choices with how to use it and layer the dance within the sounds and vice versa has enabled me to create far more interesting work. Molissa Fenley taught me to be patient and confident with my choreographic practice – all of creativity is experimentation, and as long as it comes from a genuine place, everything serves to improve and expand an artist’s range of experiences and abilities. Women whose work I have been inspired by from afar include Twyla Tharp, Camille A. Brown, and Susan Shields. Each has broken boundaries and forged her own blazing path in the dance world, and I hope to be able to use a little bit of what I learn from each to find and follow my own.
(c) Photo, Michael Seamans