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Paul Gibson on the New York Choreographic Institute

by Dean Speer and Francis Timlin

March x, 2004 -- Venue/Location

We recently caught up with Pacific Northwest Ballet Principal Dancer Paul Gibson while PNB was in the throes of preparing for its recent Balanchine Centenary program. Mr. Gibson talked about his experiences in creating a new ballet for the New York Choreographic Institute, which he has titled "ERAR." What follows is an edited version of our conversation.

Sounds like it was an interesting project. Please tell us more about it.

It was interesting! I had received a call from the assistant to Mikko Nissinen, who indicated that Mr. Nissinen would like to nominate me. The actual selection of who was participating occurred sometime in May or June of 2003.

I was in New York for two weeks, and we worked Monday through Friday the first week and Sunday through Thursday the next. It was great working with New York City Ballet dancers, even though I didn't know exactly who I was going to get to work with until I got there. The dancers sign up for this prior to going to Saratoga, and it's done during layoff weeks (first two weeks of October). I had first planned a work for five women and three men but got two extra men, so I was able to make a piece for five couples.

It's to music by the Balanescu Quartet and is called "ERAR," which stands for "East, Revolution, Autobahn, and Robots." There are four pieces of music, and I used the first three but not the fourth.

I did not know any of the dancers or how they moved. While choreographing the second movement, which musically is strong and militaristic, I found the boys to be stronger and re-choreographed accordingly. It was different there as all of the dancers were young -- apprentices and corps members -- and the dancers wanted "more." If things weren't working, they wanted to make it work; so they worked on improving it, rather than having me change movement.

This was the very first time I went into rehearsal not having pre-choreographed. I just worked with the dancers in the studio, and so it was more of a collaborative effort and very satisfying. The performance was held in the Rose Building of the New York City Ballet studios. The other choreographers were Adrian Burnett from Australia, Matthew Neenan (Pennsylvania Ballet), and Yuan Yuan Wang (China).

It was a great experience. My only disappointment was not being able to meet more with Peter Martins directly about each of our pieces to get feedback. He finds it hard, as a choreographer, to critique others' ballets. I did get to meet with Richard Tanner and Alan Soren. I also got to meet over breakfast with Christopher Wheeldon and had drinks with him and Angel Corella.

I'm adapting the piece for PNB -- mostly simplifying and clarifying. I felt that I had tried to put in or say too much before, so I'm re-working it slightly here. Overall, the piece is about 22-23 minutes, with the fourth movement longer than the first and second together.

Unusual music. Where did you come across it?

Believe it not, on a BMW commercial! The second movement has talking in the score.

Others making works for the workshop are Stanko Milov, Olivier Wevers, Sonia Dawkins, Jonathan Porretta, and Andrei Vassiliev.

Dancers in "ERAR" include Christophe Maraval, Louise Nadeau, Alexandra Dickson, Le Yin, and eight members of the corps.

The workshop program will be held during the second week of the Carmina Burana/Serenade program. Subscribers will be invited and Iím serving as the "Choreographic Coordinator."

Edited by Lori Ibay

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