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Ilona Wall
multiple locations

ad hoc Ballet: The Road to an Opening - Installment #3

by Ilona Wall
May 8, 2007
Lincoln Center
Clark Theatre
Building a Niche: The Birth of ad hoc Ballet - Installment #1
Ad hoc Ballet: Trying for Truth - Installment #2
One of my first questions to Deborah Lohse after I learned that she pays her dancers for rehearsals and performances was, "Where does your funding come from?" Anyone who dances or has attempted to put together a group of dancers and create a work understands how financially taxing this is. Many small companies will only pay dancers for performances, and it's usually minimal pay at that. Even the rehearsal process is a costly one when one takes into account the cost of studio space, pointe shoes if necessary, props and equipment, and whatever accompaniment is used whether this involves paying a musician, commissioning a score, or making high quality recordings. Once the process escalates toward the end goal of a performance, costs only increase, from renting a theatre or studio as a performance space, to finding a crew to work the sound and lighting and manage the space. When Lohse responded, I was shocked at what she had to say.

Lohse is self-producing this premier season of ad hoc Ballet. A bizarre turn of events left her with a lump sum of money, and a lot of time on her hands. Lohse and a handful of other dancers signed a movie contract for a designated sum of money over a specified length of time. When the production team decided that they preferred to use animation rather than dancers, those cast found themselves on-call for the remainder of their contracts, with few obligations to fulfill. Where most people would take that opportunity to sit back and rest on their laurels, Lohse interpreted these events as her opportunity to indulge the musings she'd had about finally gathering a group of dancers and working to create something. Here she was with the time, and all of a sudden with a limited degree of funding. So Lohse gathered her three dancers and set to work.

These events have made it possible for Lohse to build something that she's felt a nagging urgency about. Finally, she has found a way to use dance to explore the topic of mental illness. She is using her own salary from a film project that failed to materialize artistically, to pursue her own creative endeavor. But there are clearly limitations on this good fortune. In the inaugural season of ad hoc Ballet this weekend, May 11 and 12 at the Clark Theatre at Lincoln Center, Lohse is looking for future producers. She considers herself to be of the newer school of dance company management that believes a company does not necessarily need an artistic director and a separate managing director. Instead, she fulfills both roles. Lohse has taken her knowledge from assisting downtown choreographer Monica Bill Barnes and put it to use for her own company. While her duties as choreographer—and even performer in the upcoming season—are more evident, her work as the managing director of the company is more easily taken for granted. She has not only shouldered much of the expenses for this season, but also is constantly working to form artistic collaborations, market the company, write grant proposals, apply for funding, make connections, and seek out new artist residencies for ad hoc Ballet. It is a constant workload that could only be shouldered by someone who is determined to create something that is, in her word, "sustainable."

Lohse is adamant that she has acquired the necessary skills for this role through her work assisting Monica Bill Barnes as managing director. She has been using her experience with that company as her role model and says, "I know her path, and I know where I am in that." In addition to helping her develop the necessary skills, the experience Lohse has gained with Barnes has provided her with an over-arching perspective on the development of ad hoc Ballet that is so rare in young artistic/managing directors. And one of the most fascinating aspects of ad hoc Ballet is Lohse's ability to think outside the box as a ballet company. Even with dancers on pointe, Lohse is angling for a huge variety of residencies that push the envelope and test the definition of what a ballet performance is. How formal or traditional does the setting have to be just because her company uses a particular vocabulary and her dancers wear pointe shoes? Just as her subject matter is unusual, the ad hoc Ballet projects seem to be moving in an ever more inventive direction. This weekend's performances might be the first glimpse of a continually evolving artistic endeavor. That is what Lohse wants. Hopefully this opening will allow her access to the means to make this possible.

Performance information: May 11 8:00pm & 9:30pm, May 12 3:00pm & 8:00pm at the Clark Theatre, Lincoln Center; www.smarttix.com;
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