BalletX’s upcoming debut at the Mann Center will mark the company’s highly anticipated return to live performances. Artistic and Executive Director, Christine Cox, has brought in three choreographic powerhouses to create and set new pieces for the program. The limited-run engagement will showcase the work of Hope Boykin, Matthew Neenan, and Dwight Rhoden.
Under Cox’s leadership, BalletX has established itself as a leading contemporary ballet company. Now in its 15th Season, Cox talks about the company she co-founded with Neenan and their excitement surrounding the return of live shows.
[The Mann Center, 5201 Parkside Avenue] June 24-26, 2021; balletx.org.
Debra Danese: Congratulations on your 15th Anniversary Season. What have been some of your favorite memories from this time?
Christine Cox: This year has truly tested us all and I am so grateful to the BalletX dancers and amazing staff for their herculean efforts in adjusting to a new operating model. In order to keep everyone employed and working, we needed to find projects to engage our audience and keep the dancers inspired. In the beginning, we did all of our work in our homes on Zoom. We started building materials with choreographers from around the world to create short and feature films. We built an online platform called BalletX Beyond and created a NETFLIX for BalletX.
My favorite moments from this year happened when we were filming at different locations around the city and spots outside of the city, like Longwood Gardens. We were also given access to beautiful mansions and the Franklin Institute. We also created dances in front of murals in partnership with Mural Arts. We even rented a horse for a film! Working as a family to keep our house in order will be what I remember most and treasure in those dark days.
DD: Coming out of the pandemic, what have you discovered about yourself as an Artistic Director?
CC: I have a serious fight in me to keep what I have helped build alive and running. I have a deep sense of responsibility for the staff and dancers I am responsible for and want them to feel safe and taken care of. I am not afraid of trying new things and learning from my mistakes. I care a lot about artists and want them to have a place to make work and connect with the BalletX dancers.
DD: You have given opportunities to a tremendous number of guest choreographers. What is your criteria for the selection process?
CC: I have a long list of choreographers I would like to work with which is why I am constantly trying to justify making more new work and at a crazy pace. I love choreographers that are interested in developing their craft, interested in growing and inspiring audiences to lean in, and discovering something new about themselves. I like choreographers that surprise me. When I see material from new choreographers, I am interested in their choices, how they move the dancer on and off the stage, what kind of lighting and music choices are they making, do they want the audience in or outside of the piece? I am also invested in supporting female choreographers and committed to 50% of the productions I commission to be by women.
DD: BalletX quickly pivoted to virtual programming during the pandemic. How difficult was it for the company to make this transition? Will you continue to offer livestream options?
CC: We pivoted one month after the pandemic took hold and started making work in May. We developed a plan and went full throttle with commissioning 13 choreographers from all over the world to make new ballets we would film at cool locations. The dancers and staff knew it would be hard and did everything they could to help. Dancers started making their own films at home and we all just did whatever it took to keep our hopes up and our minds engaged and working.
We will continue to make films for our streaming platform but will move from a monthly or annual subscription series to a donation base benefit. If you donate $150 to BalletX, you will receive access to all our current and future films.
DD: What about the upcoming performances are you most excited about?
CC: I am so excited to see these dancers on stage showcasing the amazing work of Dwight Rhoden, Matthew Neenan (co-founder of BalletX) and Hope Boykin. Each one of these pieces represent something magical about being a human. The pieces will touch you in different ways and simply delight audiences. I am most excited to be at the Mann for the first time and bring our incredible BalletX community to a new venue. We have the most loyal fans and we all love them so much. I am also looking forward to seeing people having picnics with friends before the show and grateful the Mann is giving us free parking. It is time to come back together and celebrate life!
DD: What advice would you give dancers looking to pursue a professional career?
CC: Work harder than everyone else, be honest with yourself, and open your heart to let people see why you choose to dance. Dancing is a soulful experience and you should be inspiring yourself and others when you dance. The only way to do that is to be an expert in the technique and form you are aiming to master and to develop a strong ability to express your authentic self.
Performances run June 24 -26, 2021, at TD Pavilion at the Mann. Tickets are available via Ticketmaster.com, 1-800-982-2787, or the Mann Box Office.