World Choreography Institute: Ballet to Broadway and beyond

Think Tank attendees gathered at The Point Way Inn this past Monday to discuss choreography. — Photo by Lynn Christoffers

Wendy Taucher, choreographer, director, educator, and writer, has launched a new program of dance and opera events for 2013. Her organization, Wendy Taucher Dance Opera Theater, which operates primarily in her two homes — Martha’s Vineyard and New York City — is sponsoring a number of events this year, and most of the upcoming series of performances, classes, and workshops will take place on the Vineyard this summer and fall.

Among the projects are master singing classes by world-renowned soprano Marni Nixon, a production of Rossini’s classic comic opera “L’italiana” featuring stars of the opera world, an opera workshop for kids, and performances at Art Island Festival of Arts & Ideas and the Martha’s Vineyard Food and Wine Festival (both happening here in October). Ms. Taucher is also working on a new choreography commission and is commencing work on a full-length opera based on the 1814 German Coast slave rebellion in New Orleans.

Last weekend Ms. Taucher kicked off the season with the launching event of a newly formed organization — The World Choreography Institute — of which she is the founder and director. Last weekend she gathered together a who’s who in the dance world for a three-day think tank. For five days, internationally recognized dancers, choreographers, dance instructors, educators, and a media consultant pooled their knowledge to set the goals and form the foundation for the fledgling organization.

According to press material, “The World Choreography Institute is dedicated to ‘advocacy and education for the art of choreography’. The vision of this unique organization is deliberately cross-genre, dealing with choreographic principles and challenges that are common to all live dance vocabularies, from ballet to modern to Broadway and beyond.”

Said Ms. Taucher in an interview, “The goal of the organization is to educate and advocate for the art of choreography. We purposely built this to be cross genre from a very eclectic group to brainstorm about directions for the organization and identify what’s being done well already, where the vacuum is, and how we can take this idea and start actions and tasks.”

Ms. Taucher explained that the focus of the organization is on three tiers: the professional dance world, students, and the general public. “With the public there’s a different set of information that you need to include. With professionals there’s a base of common knowledge. With the general public you assume an interest in dance and you go from there.”

One of the goals for the inaugural year think tank, according to Ms. Taucher, was defining choreography. “We’re particularly interested in building the ability to identify and articulate choreography as opposed to the dance — vocabulary and movement versus structure and the way things are put together. This is an organization definitely about choreography.”

Among the participants in the think tank were renowned dancer and choreographer Edward Villella, who is generally regarded as the greatest American male ballet dancer of all time; Tony award-winning dancer Karine Plantadit, a former Alvin Ailey soloist who is enjoying a thriving career on stage, TV, and film; choreographers David Dorfman, Clair Porter, and Tony nominee Lynn Taylor-Corbett; and David Vaughan, the dancer, choreographer, and author who served for many years as the archivist for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company Foundation.

A handful of educators were also in attendance including Carole Walker, Dean Emeritus at Purchase College School of the Arts, who has had a long career in the world of dance as artistic director, professor, and consultant, and Lori Klinger, co-founder of Rosie’s Theater Kids in 2003, an organization that brings the arts to New York City’s neediest public schools.

The think tank participants, who were housed at The Point Way Inn in Edgartown, held two sessions a day for four days and hosted a public forum this past Monday, which about 20 members of the Island community attended. During this three-hour session, Ms. Taucher screened clips of a number of dances followed by discussions.

“We saw over 100 years of video,” said Gail Tipton of West Tisbury. “I liked hearing the various comments of the teachers, the choreographer, and the dancers.”

All in all, the participants felt that the long weekend was very productive. “Wendy has this really interesting idea to focus more on choreography since most of the focus is on dancers and training,” Ms. Walker said. “We had these incredible conversations about what could be implemented and what’s already being done. Everybody has their specialties and areas of interest. We spent a good deal of time talking about exposing people to dance and modern dance starting with younger people. It’s something that’s just not being done in this country.”

Mr. Dorfman said, “We want to honor choreography and see how it can have a more prominent place in the dance field. There was incredible input from a varied group, from the historic perspective to today.”

Mr. Dorfman is Professor of Dance and Department Chairman at Connecticut College, as well as the founder and director of his own troupe — David Dorfman Dance. “I feel that I am now walking away from this beautiful setting with new inspiration on choreography and the thought processes and intent,” he said.

From this initial meeting, the group will move forward with a number of initiatives. “We’re doing an online and print journal,” said Ms. Taucher. “We are going to do some lecture/demonstrations and giving some courses starting next year. There will be some information sharing online. This is a start. We’ll have a presence here every summer as well as in New York and other states and other countries.”

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