Juilliard’s annual New Dances program, in which a guest choreographer works with each of the four dance classes to create a world-premiere work especially for them, is fully underway.
In making Quilt for the first-years, Marcus Jarrell Willis found inspiration in 1970s interviews with women about quilting. “There’s a parallel between creating a quilt and our existence in the world as people,” he said not long after rehearsals began. “Each patch has a story, and the quilt doesn’t exist unless they’re all together.” The costumes will have a patchwork theme, and the music includes recorded works by creative associate Caroline Shaw, faculty member Christopher Rouse, and Karol Beffa. “The dancers are blowing my mind with every rehearsal.”
Nelly van Bommel says that Nadir, her piece for the second-years, is set in the late 1950s and doesn’t have a particular storyline. Choreographing for New Dances “is a flowing process,” she said. “I’m trying not to think too much about the end result so it doesn’t freeze the process.” While the music features selections by Vivaldi and Bizet, it also includes a French-North African version of the pop song “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.” The French colonial legacy in North Africa is very dark, but in music, it yielded “something fruitful while forced.”
Play Well With Others
New Dances started at Juilliard shortly after Peter Chu (BFA ’02, dance) graduated. And though he’s been back at Juilliard a number of times setting graduate solos, this is his first New Dances experience. “It’s so special for classes to have something created for and with them.” The music for Chu’s piece for the third-years, Play Well With Others, is being composed and will be performed by Juilliard Jazz musicians. “It’s a full-on collaboration,” Chu said, noting that the dancers have been improvising with the musicians each week. “To be in one room with 21 incredible, diverse dancers—to be in one room with so much talent—I’m like a kid in a candy store.”
Look Who's Coming to Dinner
Stefanie Batten Bland’s piece for the fourth-years, Look Who’s Coming to Dinner, is set to an original composition by Paul Damian Hogan III. Inspired by the groundbreaking 1967 film Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, in which a white woman’s black fiancé meets her parents, this work “pays tribute to those who paved the way toward acceptance in love and in life,” Bland said. “I’m curious as to who is still not welcome at our tables. I think much of our progress as a nation has moved this conversation forward but there is always a group considered ‘other,’ and I’d like to address who makes up that group today. Who do we think ‘other’ looks like now? How do we want to share with them?”
Susan Jackson is Juilliard's editorial director