Ashley Melone, Vineyard Arts Project founder and artistic director, has programmed an artistically and politically astute season of ballet choreographic residencies for the 2019 summer. “For a field that is dominated by female dancers, their representation is very sparse in terms of artistic or administrative directors and choreographers,” Melone said. “I’m interested in seeing broader diversity integrated into the dance world’s leadership positions.” The VAP 2019 season, which includes five ballet companies and the Public Theater’s annual residency, is helping to do just that.
Troy Schumacher’s BalletCollective opens the VAP season on Saturday, June 8. Schumacher, a soloist with NYCB, has followed his creative urges to pursue choreography as founder, director, and resident choreographer of the BalletCollective. The company, founded in 2013, presents Schumacher’s and others’ choreography nationally and internationally, working with original live music. Schumacher has choreographed premieres for NYCB and an intriguing array of art, fashion, and commercial gigs. It all comes to life through his ballet sensibility, which, as Schumacher relates, “Ballet has such a rich vocabulary. It can be both augmented and rethought, so it’s always exciting to explore. I like to study the ballet repertoire and think, ‘Where haven’t we gone yet?’”
Ashley Bouder’s company, for which she acts as director, choreographer, and dancer, will showcase work at VAP on Friday, July 5. Bouder is a troublemaker, and she likes it that way. A staunch feminist and outspoken advocate of advancing women and marginalized artists in the performing arts, she founded the Ashley Bouder Project in 2014 in order to, well, make trouble. Her method is not to voice dissatisfaction, but rather to voice her dissatisfaction by taking action, choreographically speaking. ABP takes pride in providing creative opportunities for choreographers, composers, and other collaborators, many of them female. Bouder is a longtime principal dancer at NYCB, and has just been awarded a Benois de la Danse for Best Female Dance Performance at the Prix de Benois de la Danse, held every spring at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theater, known as dance’s Oscars. The NY Times recently referred to her as “Ashley Bouder, the feminist ballerina with a mission.”
The Cirio Collective, now in its fifth season, returns to VAP, also for its fifth season. It was founded and is run by Jeffrey Cirio, artistic director, and Lia Cirio, associate artistic director. The Collective’s work will be seen on Friday, July 12. The siblings run the Collective during their downtime from their positions as, in Jeffrey’s case, lead principal dancer at the English National Ballet, and Lia as principal dancer at Boston Ballet. The company is noted for fostering an upbeat, artistically safe operational structure, interested in “community, not competition.” The Cirios are Filipino American, a fact that they believe makes them particularly sensitive to the need for equitable work opportunities. “Race and gender issues are being addressed,” Jeffery states. “With minority and female choreographic initiatives, we are seeing changes in the choreographic landscape.”
Emily Kikta and Peter Walker, members of NYCB in the corps and as a soloist respectively, are directors of a collaborative, multidisciplinary dance company. Their group will be featured at the VAP on Friday, July 26. The group will use original video-choreography-music combined with live-stream cameras, along with prerecorded imagery, to create complex dance theater.
“Coming from the house of Balanchine, generally the music is the first component that must be decided,” Kikta says. “From there, we decide where we want to see it, either on stage, on video and, if on video, what location, which gives us restrictions for what can be done. For us, choreographing for video is not necessarily any different than choreographing for live performance. The real difference is how we capture the movement on film.”
The Public Theater has been coming to the VAP since 2008, and will share its annual workshop this season on Saturday, August 24. The show to be workshopped this season is yet to be decided. The company chooses a show that has already been in rehearsal and is meant to proceed, post residency, to their NYC main stage. Previous shows brought up to VAP to fine-tune include works by playwrights Pulitzer prizewinner Suzan-Lori Parks and Lemon Anderson (whom Vineyard audiences may know from his Yard solo shows). The Public’s associate artistic director and director of Public Theater productions, Mandy Hackett, when asked about the value of the residency, responds immediately, saying, “It’s in the details, the way in which Ashley Melone and her staff run the place. Everything is very smooth, and we do not take that for granted.”
Gemma Bond Dance concludes the 2019 VAP season on Saturday, Sept. 7. A longtime member of the corps de ballet of American Ballet Theatre, Bond began her professional career with London’s Royal Ballet, where she held the position of first artist. As a choreographer, Bond has already had works performed at the New York Theater Ballet and the Washington Ballet, among others. Bond studied choreography at a program ABT offered to its female dancers interested in creating dances. This sort of course, which is a trend now, was ahead of the curve, as it took place 10 years ago. “Early on,” says Bond, “I’d start my choreography barefoot, then try it in socks, then go into pointe shoes, which is where it felt most natural in the sense of my own creativity. The ballet vocabulary is my training, and what makes sense for me.”
Seeing dancers and actors of this quality close-up, in newly created work, is a rarified thrill, and not to be missed.
These Vineyard Arts Project showings begin at 6 pm (a new time this season). To read more about the 2019 artists-in-residence, visit vineyardarts.org. Tickets are “pay what you can; all donations are greatly appreciated.” Reservations suggested at ticketsmv.com. Information at firstname.lastname@example.org; 508-413-2104.