Comstock's magazine 0519 - May 2019 - Page 23

Your inaugural season, “Roots and Wings,” is nearing completion. What were you hoping to achieve during your first season, and did you achieve it? Coming in after 30 years of [co-artistic directors] Ron Cunningham and Carinne Binda, it is very important for me to honor that lineage. … We did [Cunningham’s] “Incident at Blackbriar,” in our first series at The Sofia theater, “Telling Stories.” To have him back in the studio and with the dancers and to watch him coach, that was all fantastic. Honor the lineage — that’s the roots aspect. But ... where else can we go? How can I subvert people’s expecta- tions of what they’re going to see when they come to a Sacramento Ballet perfor- mance? Also in “Telling Stories,” we did the ballet “Instructions,” which is based on a Neil Gaiman poem. He’s more asso- ciated with contemporary mythology and graphic novels than ballet. In that piece, I have a dancer who is live miked. He starts as the narrator of the poem and ends up locked inside the poem and becomes the protagonist of the story. It’s also got live music — there’s a cellist onstage. I think we are accomplishing the goals of the season, artistically, also as an orga- nization. We’ve had a bit of turmoil in our history, so it’s also about rebuilding the community that likes us and wants to in- vest in us and support these fantastic art- ists. That’s just going to take time. I think a lot of people are waiting to see what the ballet means now under my leadership, and I’m just hoping they’ll fall in love. How much does the ballet’s annual budget of $2.9 million figure into your artistic decisions? If you look into my office, you’re going to see a wall full of different [Post-it] notes that are my dream ballets [and] the peo- ple I want to commission to ... work with our dancers. It’s me looking at the time- line for when is this company going to be ready to do “Swan Lake” again? When is the right time for these things? If we can’t afford to do a ballet it doesn’t matter how great it is, we have to wait until we can. The same thing goes artistically. When we have the right dancers to do the right ballet, that matters. We’re not only plan- ning next season. We’re looking at, OK, in three years this artist is going to be ready to do that ballet; can I get us that ballet in three years? I think for some people ballet feels like you need a secret handshake to understand it. … So if you can offer the access points, sometimes you see the lightbulb go off.” Is $2.9 million a decent budget for a ballet? We’re a little on the smaller side, but we are hoping to grow in a sustainable way. … Historically, this company has not been great in terms of a solid living wage for their artists and pay equity, and these are two things that are very important to me. The financial reality is we can’t fix that over- night, but that is a long-term goal to really address both of those issues, and we are working on it. [In terms of equity], back in 2012, I was being interviewed by the San Fran- cisco Chronicle because a project I was doing in San Francisco had all women choreographers. I said there was a lack of women in leadership positions in ballet. This reviewer challenged me. I said to him in 19 years as a professional dancer on a mainstage, I danced one piece by a wom- an. … Since then, the field is changing, the conversation is changing. I do believe it has reached a tipping point, and I think May 2019 | 23