Ballet News

An Interview with Garrett Anderson

An Interview with Garrett Anderson

We recently sat down with our new Artistic Director, Garrett Anderson, to get a sneak peek at the upcoming season, talk about Garrett’s passion for dance, and more!

You have danced all over the world – from San Francisco Ballet to Royal Ballet of Flanders in Belgium to Hubbard Street Dance Chicago – through this vastness of dance experience what has been one of your favorite pieces to perform and why?

Different works create completely different experiences for the dancer and audience.
One very memorable piece for me was William Forsythe’s Artifact. This is a full evening of work in 4 acts, and it was quite the ride. It required so much commitment, intensity of focus, and sheer stamina that by the end I was deliciously exhausted. There is really nothing like feeling that you have given a performance every ounce of your being, and dancing at the edge of your ability for 3 hours on stage is something that never gets old. From Belgium we toured that program for about two years. Needless to say, we got to know this work very well and to this day, when I hear the music, the experience of dancing it comes flooding back.

In a very different way, and with a very different type of focus and energy, Jiri Kylian’s work comes to mind. This was a full evening including, Petit Mort, Serabande, and 27:52”. That program had a similarly full and immersive experience into the genius of Kylian’s choreography. His is more internal, infused with a sensibility that is uniquely his own. It is actually very difficult to summarize or articulate verbally, but I would call it transcendent yet human, poetic, and laced with a dark humor. Without a doubt he is another one of the geniuses of our time. He has such a quiet and powerful presence, which is so clear in his work. Of these three works, I would say the duet in Petit Mort was among the most profound. The partnering has such a fascinating juxtaposition of precision and abandon, and when it worked it was really incredible. I remember Alejandro Cerrudo helping to teach me this part, (another choreographer I greatly admire) with Ana Lopez, and it was clear how special this part was for them. The passing of information between us became akin to a transference of something almost sacred.

During the course of the 2018/19 season, you will be collaborating with other choreographers known throughout the world and locally; was there a guiding theme as you pulled together the different pieces, and if so, what was it?

The works are not so much thematically linked in their content as much as linked by the choreographers themselves.
I chose the artists for who they are as creators as much as the excellence of the work they produce. The work this season will demonstrate the sensitivity and care that these choreographers all embody. They don’t make work to achieve a specific style or aesthetic, but rather with a guiding ethic that runs deeper, and gives the work (and demands of the dancer) an intention and purpose in the moment. The result is a beautiful thing, but not the sort of beauty that is external or superficial.
It is easy to get stuck in our own little creative bubbles and to insulate ourselves with our own ideas and the people we share those ideas with on a regular basis. But this doesn’t keep us sharp, or refined. For me there is always great inspiration in the challenge that is born out of creative collaboration. Some of these are artistic challenges and others are logistical, but the solutions to both can be creative. I want to remain open to learning about our art form and our work from those outside of our organization. If engaged in thoughtfully and openly, these experiences can only help us define who we are and inform our own sensibility.

Our former Artistic Director, Peter Anastos, was with Ballet Idaho for 10 years and had a profound impact on making Ballet Idaho what it is today. What is one of the components of his legacy that you value the most?

Firstly, I am so grateful for the company I am inheriting from him, and feel so fortunate to be stepping in where he has left off.
He will have a lasting influence in how he shaped a group of young artists and provided the formative experiences in the work he has brought and used to educate with, especially in introducing Balanchine to these dancers and our audience. Many of our dancers came from schools that emphasized Balanchine training, and it is one thing to work in class but another to experience the utility of this training in the masterpieces of choreography that exemplify the ideals therein. Peter had a deep sense of reverence for the tradition and history of this art form, and his enthusiasm and respect for dance was effusive and contagious. Ballet is, after all, an experience that is pretty far removed from the everyday experience of many in our culture. Peter did the important work of both honoring that sense of value while removing the barriers and stigma that come from a lack of understanding or access to its history and the culture that lends it meaning.

Now that you and your family are beginning to settle into your new home, how do you like Boise so far? What are some of your favorite parts?

We are loving Boise!
My kids have already become very acquainted with all the places to get ice cream, and are quick to spot a good toy store, and our neighborhood has both.
We are all loving living somewhere so bike friendly and have enjoyed the community and impromptu social setting of our block. We end up spending more time chatting with neighbors and hanging out in back yards (or just on the street) than we ever have. It is such a friendly, relaxed place.

What do you think makes dance truly distinct when compared to other art forms such as painting or poetry?

One thing that comes to mind here is the ephemeral quality of dance.
We experience it while it is happening, and then it really is gone except for the trace memories in our minds and muscles, like echoes. This transitory nature makes it that much more precious and fascinating to me. At any point in the process or scale, it is wholly unique – no two performances, rehearsals, or arabesques are the same.
I also love how much it asks of the artists who spend their lives giving to it. Dance is a musical art form, it is a dramatic art form, it is highly athletic, yet emotional, and as subtle in its qualitative demands as it is extreme in the physical ones. It almost contradicts itself in the capacities it requires and I think that is why it is so special.

You are carrying on the tradition that Ballet Idaho first established during the 2012/13 season of including a Balanchine piece in the season lineup. Though Balanchine was often known for his more modern work, you have selected Allegro Brilliante, which is one of his most classical pieces, and is set to Tchaikovsky music, a traditional ballet accompaniment. What is it about this piece that drew you to it?

I think the classicism of Allegro Brilliante is part of what attracted me.
I love Tchaikovsky and the grandeur and romance in his music and the dancing is so crisp and free and has such vitality. To me what makes Balanchine great is the way he takes classical technique and liberates it, not by defying its conventions but by more fully exploring them. The dynamics and speed are so satisfying. This approach, with the Tchaikovsky score as its driving force, makes for an undeniably powerful piece of dance. In Balanchine’s own words, Allegro Brilliante, “contains everything I know about the classical ballet in 13 minutes”. That pretty much sums it up.

The November program will be our first performance of the season. Would you say that it sets the tone for the remainder of the season’s programs? What can our subscribers look forward to seeing in NewDance: Form and Concept that we may see echoed throughout the rest of the season?

In some ways it will set a tone.
It will introduce many different voices and represent a range of styles from classical ballet to contemporary dance. On the other hand it will be a unique experience in the setting and scale of the work. It will be a more intimate, episodic program than the mixed rep in the Morrison, and will be far less about storytelling than something like Cinderella at the close of the season. That said, there will be an echo in that some of the choreographers you see will return, both in subsequent programs and seasons. Seeing NewDance: Form and Concept will in some ways be an introduction to my vision for the company’s future and in others be a wholly unique experience.