Puppeteer Basil Twist, singer/songwriter Suzanne Vega and baroque dance specialist Beatrice Massin, and NYU Philosopher Tamsin Shaw are among the new group of fellows who will be in residence at the Center for Ballet and the Arts at NYU, the first international institute devoted to the creation and study of ballet.
The fellowships, which run through June, will support nine accomplished artists and thinkers from a variety of disciplines to create new ballets and new scholarship.
Launched in September by former ballet dancer and prominent historian Jennifer Homans with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Center was conceived as an international institute for scholars and artists of ballet and its related arts and sciences. Last fall’s fellows ranged from filmmaker Frederick Wiseman, who has embarked on a collaboration with James Sewell to develop a ballet based on one of his documentaries, to J. David Velleman, Professor of Philosophy and Bioethics at NYU, who studies the meditative and temporal aspects of ballet.
“Our mission at the Center for Ballet and the Arts is to expand the way we think about ballet,” said Dr. Homans. “We’ve been tremendously fortunate at the excitement this Center has generated, and in attracting fellows that are not only highly accomplished, but also incredibly passionate about ballet and truly aligned with the goals of our Center.”
The Center’s spring 2015 fellows will include the following:
John Carrafa, a director and choreographer for stage, film and television, is the only spring fellow who also served as one of the Center’s inaugural fall fellows. He is currently series choreographer for the new Fox TV show Empire, as well as ABC’S Nashville, Transparent on Amazon Prime, The Comedians on FX and The Knick on Cinemax. For the stage he is a two time Tony nominee for the Broadway productions of Urinetown and Into the Woods. As a Center Fellow, Carrafa is focusing on creating an original ballet to Sir Michael Tippett’s Concerto for Double String Orchestra.
Susan Jones spent fifteen years as a soloist with The Scottish Ballet, Glasgow before beginning her current career in academia. She is a Fellow of St Hilda's College, and the English Faculty, University of Oxford. Her latest book, Literature, Modernism, and Dance appeared in 2013 with Oxford University Press. Jones’s work at the Center will contribute to an interdisciplinary enquiry into the cultural contexts and meanings of ‘grace’, whether physical, literary, theological, philosophical, art historical, or sociological.
Béatrice Massin, a specialist of baroque dance, began her career performing with Susan Buirge Company and Ris & Danceries before creating her own dance company, Compagnie Fêtes Galantes, in 1993. In addition to her work for the company she has choreographed for film, opera and events. Massin’s time at the Center will focus on the study of musical construction to understand how to translate these processes into choreographic writing.
Music historian Julia Randel is Associate Professor and Music Department Chair at Hope College where she teaches courses in music history and world music. Dr. Randel's current research focus is a book project on Igor Stravinsky's work with the choreographer George Balanchine.
Tamsin Shaw, NYU Associate Professor in European and Mediterranean Studies and Philosophy was formerly an Assistant Professor in the Politics Department at Princeton University, where she held the Lawrence S. Rockefeller University Preceptorship. She has also been a Junior Research Fellow at King’s College, Cambridge, and a member of the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. At the Center, her study will focus on eroticism in ballet post-Wagner, examining the cultural transformations that had to take place for Wagner’s heirs to reestablish the relationship between music and ballet in an explicitly erotic art form.
Tracy Straus is founder and Artistic Director of “Celebrate the Beat” (CTB), the Colorado associate of National Dance Institute (NDI). Motivated by the belief that the arts have the unique power to help children discover their potential, CTB currently partners with 30 schools throughout Colorado and in Nayarit, Mexico, inspiring 4,000 children a year. Driven by a deep belief in the healing powers of this methodology, at the Center Straus intends to expand the reach of the teaching techniques created by Jacques d’Amboise by developing curriculum for adults and children who have not yet been exposed to this pedagogy.
Basil Twist has garnered an international reputation as an audacious designer, director and performer, since coming to New York from San Francisco over 25 years ago. He creates iconic, visionary puppetry worlds with a remarkable range of style and scope appearing in intimate nightclubs to large orchestra halls. He is the sole American to graduate from the École Supérieure Nationale des Arts de la Marionnette in Charleville-Mezieres, France, one of the world's premiere puppetry training programs.
Singer/songwriter Suzanne Vega, who has sold more than 7 million albums over the course of her career, began studying ballet at the age of nine, and eventually majored in modern dance at the High School of Performing Arts. She has a degree in English Literature and theater from Barnard College. At the Center Vega plans to create a 40 minute ballet piece that would bring selected songs to life onstage, such as "Solitude Standing", "The Queen and the Soldier" and "Calypso." Working with Center collaborators in choreography, Vega will seek to interpret these songs into a sequence of narratives, or into one overarching piece.
Scott Wheeler is a composer whose opera Naga, on a libretto of Cerise Jacobs, is co-commissioned by Beth Morrison Projects and Boston Lyric Opera and will premiere in September 2016 in Boston. His previous operas have been commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera, Washington National Opera and the Guggenheim Foundation. Wheeler will focus his time at the Center composing music for a new piece for dance, researching how closely music can relate to character, setting, and dramatic conflict. Considering both his own works as well as historical examples, Wheeler will tackle some basic questions of what music means and how it can support balletic drama, in situations with or without a narrative text.
The Center’s programming includes workshops, lectures and collaborations with arts organizations interested in expanding ballet, including co-presenting two events as part of the New York Public Library’s LIVE from the NYPL series, hosted by Paul Holdengräber; the next event in this series is May 12. The Center for Ballet and the Arts will host an open house event on April 27, 2015; press pass requests should be sent directly to Shonna Keogan at firstname.lastname@example.org.