As part of the COCA New Works Festival on November 10, Pre-Professional Division students in Ballet Eclectica will perform a new work by Audrey Johnston, choreographer for COCA’s Choreographic Lab Project. Throughout her Choreographic Lab experience, Johnston had the opportunity to work with COCA students to broaden their approach to dance-making.
Hear from Johnston about her new work and the Choreographic Lab:
Tell us about the work you’re creating for Ballet Eclectica.
I am setting a neoclassical-inspired piece en pointe to the jazz music of Dave Brubeck. My goal with this piece is to capture the feeling of being transported—whether that be by music, dance, or any form of expression that speaks truth to one’s soul. The title is a snippet of a quote by JD Salinger where he explains that his writing and his art is his gift to the world. For me and the wonderfully talented dancers of Ballet Eclectica, dance is the gift we offer. I invite the audience to be transported with us, and to please accept our unpretentious bouquet of early-blooming parentheses—our art form.
Throughout the lab experience, you’re receiving mentoring from world-renowned dancers. Tell us what these mentoring sessions have been like for you and how they have helped you as you’re creating new work.
These mentor sessions have been invaluable. Each time, I have asked about choreography as a career, the details of their process, and even how they handle being stuck. Everyone so far has reinforced the sentiment that a choreographer has to stay true to who they are first and foremost. It’s easy in this profession to let imposter syndrome creep in, but it has been such a wonderful reminder that you are an artist first and you have to speak in your own voice.
What have you gained from this experience?
This has been a truly experiential learning opportunity in refining my choreographic process and looking at how I can make it better. These are lessons I can take with me and continue honing my craft.
What has been the most memorable moment?
I really can’t pick out one—the entire experience has been delightful.
What has COCA meant to you?
This sort of opportunity is extremely rare, and I am eternally grateful to COCA for offering this. There isn’t much in the realm of education and development for choreography. You usually learn from trial and error. But there is considerable cost to produce a work, so the barriers to getting your art out there are large. I would not have had this sort of opportunity or education without COCA offering this important program.
What’s next for you?
To say as Amy Poehler does, “Yes, Please” to new opportunities.