Interview conducted and edited by Caroline Shadle.
Onstage or off, Lauren Lovette exudes warmth and positivity. At 26, not only is she a principal dancer with New York City Ballet, Lauren is also a rising choreographer, having already created two pieces for her home company. Lauren’s work can be seen on the Joyce stage during Ashley Bouder Project’s upcoming Ballet Festival performances. In anticipation of the world premiere of the solo that Lauren created for Ashley, Red Spotted Purple, we spoke to Lauren about her dual dancer/choreographer lifestyle, her experience choreographing a solo for the first time, and what she wants you to look out for in her new piece.
I believe that you first tried your hand at choreography while at the School of American Ballet in the Student Choreography Workshop. What was that like?
My first experience choreographing was entirely a dare to myself. In 2006, after reading a recommended self-help book, I signed up for everything that scared me at The School of American Ballet… Being quite introverted and unpracticed at speaking with authority, I found my first choreographic experience to be a valuable and empowering challenge. Not only did I feel a sense of strength growing inside me every rehearsal, I also felt a deep sense of pride in finding dance steps that made the dancers’ faces beam. To me that is what [choreographing] is all about: provoking passion out of a dancer to help them discover a truer sense of who they are and what they can do.
Does your work as a choreographer, at the front of the room, inspire and/or influence your work as a ballet dancer, in other choreographers’ pieces? If so, how?
If anything [my work as a choreographer] has humbled me. I know now more than ever before, how important mutual respect is in the studio, attention to the other dancers around me, and how much goes into making a work come to life. I have a greater respect for choreographers than I once did. I used to get frustrated if a choreographer couldn’t explain perfectly what he or she wanted, but now I have more patience for the process than ever before.
Both pieces you have made for New York City Ballet (For Clara and Not Our Fate) are group works, and the piece that you are creating for Ashley is a solo. Have you choreographed any solos before?
I have never choreographed a solo before! It was not easy for me because I dearly love playing off of personalities in a room, and I find human interactions so fascinating. In this case the only thing to play off of was either the audience or the band, so I used both to create a sort of internal dialogue for Ashley.
What is your process like together in the studio?
Ashley is one of the fastest learners I’ve ever worked with. She picks up choreography so quickly and can do almost anything you ask of her. Working with her was challenging because the possibilities were nearly endless. I tried to remind myself of my favorite time seeing her dance and to then meld her style and strengths with my own touch, into a piece especially for her.
When audience members are watching the solo you are creating for Ashley, Red Spotted Purple, is there anything you want us be thinking about?
A Red-Spotted Purple is a beautiful bright blue-looking butterfly that reminds me both in physical appearance and in personality of Ashley Bouder. The music created specifically for this solo is divided into three movements. I like to play off Ashley’s ability to get people to follow her. I want you to be unsure if Ashley is in control, or if the conductor is taking the lead. Both are in a healthy competition and both are made better for it.
What is your relationship with Ashley, and how did this particular creative partnership come about?
Ashley and I are both principal dancers with the NYCB and both interested in almost all things related to ballet. Our political views have a tendency to align and we believe wholeheartedly that ballet saved each of our lives. After I created my ballet Not Our Fate, Ashley asked me to be a choreographer for her project this year. It is a huge accomplishment to be a woman in the arts, and in ballet especially, creating work for other women. I’m glad to be a part of this journey.
Ashley speaks frequently and openly about her identity as a feminist and her company celebrates and supports female artists and leaders. What other female choreographers or leaders have you worked with, or do you hope to work with in the future?
There are so many brilliant female choreographers and leaders! I have dreams of working or collaborating with Crystal Pite, Twyla Tharp, Michelle Dorrance, Gemma Bond, Kate Davis, Julie Kent, and many more.
The Joyce is involved in a two-year project where we are investigating the concept of home from the perspective of artists and audiences. Where do you feel most at home?
Home is where my heart is. I feel most at home when I’m invested in my passions: dancing, choreography, cooking, being in a healthy relationship, taking care of my cats, traveling afar with a loved one, eating vegan, and helping others.
If you had to choose three words to describe your identity, what would you choose?
Light ~ Curious ~ Visionary (Goof Ball)
Above photo: Lauren Lovette by Karolina Kuras