The New Chamber Ballet
by Natalie Bostick
The New Chamber Ballet is what its name implies: a small company of dancers who present new ballet works. The company is directed by Miro Magloire, who serves as its chief choreographer. The company was officially founded in 2004, but Magloire had been choreographing with some of the dancers for three years prior. The current group is small (between 4 and 5 dancers perform in a program), remarkably consistent and polished. Their performances are accompanied in the studio by live musicians.
Who is Miro Magloire?
Magloire, 35, has taken a circuitous route to a choreographic career. He began his studies in musical composition at the Cologne Conservatory of Music, and came to ballet by way of the Ailey School in New York. His first professional dance experience was with the Martha Graham Ensemble, under the direction of Kazuko Hirabayashi. He has also appeared with the Omaha Theater Ballet and Ballet Florida.
The desire to choreograph came while he was working with the Martha Graham Ensemble. Magloire is naturally creative. The impulse that led him to musical composition in Germany eventually returned to him in New York. But ballet, not modern choreography, spoke to him. He noticed that in modern dance, “the craft of choreography is inventing the material.” This fact was anathema to Magloire as a musician. On the contrary, he says, “I found that when I went to the ballet, the steps were sort of always the same, but choreographically what people did with the steps was much more interesting.”
The Turn to Choreography
In 2002 he began by entering some short pieces in studio showcases – casual performances designed to encourage the participation of new choreographers. He danced his first solo himself, and then consequently chose to hire dancers for his next piece. He wanted to control how the piece looked on other people.
But the showcase approach didn’t work for long. Magloire wanted to make a longer piece, but showcase presenters would never allow him that luxury. He decided to stage his own showcase. He rented a studio at City Center and invited other choreographers to join him. He did not curate the performance. His only rule to the other choreographers was that they use the best dancers they could. The show was “packed,” and Magloire had the satisfaction of choreographing a full-length piece. Thereafter, he repeated the formula, inviting other freelance choreographers.
After two years of intermittent performances, a new, younger group of dancers succeeded in making him choreograph full-time. “We’d have a show, and then the next day they would say, ‘now what?’ And that’s how this turned into a company. They wanted to work.” And Magloire was very happy to choreograph more and more.
“Once you have a name, it exists,” Magloire says. And founding a company on paper was just that easy. New Chamber Ballet performs at New York City Center in midtown Manhattan. They put on five studio showings a year, and in the past year have premiered ten new ballets. The group performs the work of guest choreographers as well. Past concerts have included works by Deborah Lohse and Constantine Baecher.
On April 1st, the New Chamber Ballet presented a Mozart celebration. The dancers performed three ballets by Magloire, and soprano Amy Shoremount-Obra performed three Mozart songs after the first intermission.
Magloire’s work is eminently classical and very demanding for the dancers. His dancers are tall (average height five foot eight inches) and technically proficient. Magloire has mastered a unique style that juxtaposes large physical movements with quiet gestures. The extraordinary effect can be seen in a trio titled “Life,” which was also performed on April 1st.
“Life” is set to Mozart’s Sonata for violin and piano in D major, K. 306. The piece is in three movements and danced by three women. The dancers wear red leotards and red skirts. The first movement is a series of alternating solos. Each dancer is introduced with a movement pattern. They remain onstage to watch each other and come together in duets variously. The choreography is physical but very classical. The spirit is lively as arabesques and grand rond de jambs repeat as do large jumps that travel across the stage.
The second movement becomes more introspective. The tempo slows and the three women return frequently to two alternating gestures. These gestures punctuate the new phrases. Each dancer takes a turn leading the group. One moves while the other two oppose her. At times you feel the solo dancer responding specifically to the music of the violin as the other two take the piano line, and vice versa. The effect is pleasant and harmonious. The choreography is always clear, and the phrases are elegant and deftly move the dancers around the space.
The last movement is a long solo that carries the dramatic weight of the piece. The dance starts with a slow phrase on demi-pointe, but the dancer also makes sudden lunges. This move is unexpected after the literal classicism of the first two movements. It signals to the audience that something is happening. The solo continues as the dancer exhausts herself and her head collapses to her waist. She manages to raise her torso (with the help of one arm extending towards the musicians) and finishes one last exuberant phrase before she collapses completely on the floor.
The New Chamber Ballet began small and intends to stay that way. After all, they define themselves as a chamber group. “In my opinion you can say anything you want with three or four dancers,” says Magloire. And their audience likes the intimate setting.
There is also a practical side to this philosophy. Magloire could not afford to hire more dancers or rent a theatre. And finding the time to get a large group of part-time dancers together for rehearsals is next to impossible.
Right now small is good for dancer Christin Hanna, 23. Hanna came to New York after a season with the Oakland Ballet. A teacher in New York connected her with Magloire. She describes working with the New Chamber Ballet as the “most artistically fulfilling experience” she’s ever had. But it can be exhausting. The four dancers perform in three or four ballets during each concert.
Magloire sees the company growing slowly in the next ten years. He would like his dancers to perform even more and hopes to start touring. He looks to successful string quartets as models for his marketing strategy. “The genre of chamber ballet does not really exist yet,” says Magloire, “There is a whole distribution system in place now that’s geared towards large companies. So we don’t quite know yet where we are going to head with a small group.”
Magloire continues to work as an accompanist in addition to his now full-time work as a choreographer. He plays for company class at American Ballet Theatre and has produced several well-regarded CDs for ballet class. The work of directing, choreographing and administrating can be overwhelming. He manages to book performance space, rehearsal times, and guest choreographers and update his website and press packets all by himself. It is a rewarding challenge, and he wants to leave things open – a strategy that has always worked well for him. “There is no artistic director school,” Magloire observes. Would he need it if there were?
The next concert the New Chamber Ballet will present is June 9th at 8pm in the New York City Center studio 4.
Read related stories in the press and see what others are saying. Click here.