The fast-paced world that we live in is constantly offering us quick-fix solutions to obstacles we face each day – a miracle cream to zap wrinkles, the ability to Google anything, and duct tape to fix, well, everything. Then there are those endless solutions to achieve the perfect body, as well as the pressure to conform to the ideal “shape.” This is especially true in the world of ballet and was made poignant in the United States with master ballet choreographer and New York City Ballet co-founder George Balanchine, whose preference for slim ballerinas with short torsos and long legs led to accounts of him recommending his dancers take extreme measures to achieve and maintain their form. The expectations are surely changing with our health crazed society and the rise of more athletic ballet dancers like Misty Copeland, but these too have their own set of pressures and challenges, especially as the competition for positions in full-time ballet companies intensifies.
As artists, the best way for dancers to express and work through something as close to home as body expectations is, of course, through dance. This is exactly what The Joffrey Ballet will be bringing to the stage at Dance for Life 2018 with Myles Thatcher’s Body of Your Dreams. DancerMusic caught up with choreographer Myles Thatcher to learn more about his work, as well as Joffrey Artists Derrick Agnoletti and Nicole Ciapponi to get perspectives on working with Myles and dancing this highly athletic work. Here’s what they told us:
When we realize we don’t fit these molds, we buy things that promise us the upgrade to perfection, and therefore, happiness. But it’s a dangerous line to tread; when we only cultivate what is on the outside, we will be left with nothing on the inside.
“Body of Your Dreams may seem like a light take on today’s obsession with fitness, but beneath the surface of the ballet is a cautionary message that is relevant to all of us living in today’s society. Jacob Ter Veldhuis’s score, which is interlaced with sound bites from too-good-to-be-true fitness ads and infomercials, promises that the next fitness phenomenon is ‘so easy!’ In today’s consumer society, we can lose sight of the fact that most of the media surrounding us is trying to sell us something. Advertisers are ready to use any resource they have to make us purchase their product, even if it involves cashing in on our insecurities or dealing out empty promises.
We are saturated with images of ‘perfect’ people, bodies, and faces. Of course, most of these images are whittled down and buffed out by manner of Photoshop, but it doesn’t stop us from defining this as our un-achievable standard. When we realize we don’t fit these molds, we buy things that promise us the upgrade to perfection, and therefore, happiness. But it’s a dangerous line to tread; when we only cultivate what is on the outside, we will be left with nothing on the inside.” – Myles Thatcher
Working with Myles is such a wonderful experience because he wants you to constantly investigate while dancing so that the work doesn’t become contrived. Instead, it becomes an exercise on the psyche of the dancer – at least that’s my interpretation of it.
“Dancing Myles Thatcher’s Body of Your Dreams is an extremely high-energy work that combines a level of athleticism with a tender search within yourself for what exactly it is we do every day. Its foundation is the feeling of a constant desire for the perfect body. The work itself lends a hand to dig deeply into ourselves as dancers, athletes, and human beings. As a dancer, I relate a great deal to this feeling as we are always on the journey for the perfect maintained body. Working with Myles is such a wonderful experience because he wants you to constantly investigate while dancing so that the work doesn’t become contrived. Instead, it becomes an exercise on the psyche of the dancer – at least that’s my interpretation of it. I truly enjoy this work from beginning to end.” – Derrick Agnoletti
I have had the pleasure of watching someone I call a friend blossom into a wonderful and accomplished choreographer.
“I really enjoyed working with Myles on Body of Your Dreams. I was involved in one of his first pieces, so my professional relationship with him goes back many years. I have had the pleasure of watching someone I call a friend blossom into a wonderful and accomplished choreographer. This piece is fun to dance because it is very physical, and I feel a great sense of accomplishment after dancing it.” – Nicole Ciapponi
This piece was created at the end of the mentoring year for the Rolex Arts Weekend in Mexico City on dancers from San Francisco Ballet.
“Body of Your Dreams is a product of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. This philanthropic program connects young aspiring artists with professionals that are at the top of their respective fields. I was selected to study with world-renowned choreographer Alexei Ratmansky for the 2014-2015 cycle. This piece was created at the end of the mentoring year for the Rolex Arts Weekend in Mexico City on dancers from San Francisco Ballet. I also collaborated with architecture protégé Gloria Cabral for the original set design and the theater protégé Sebastián Solórzano Rodríguez for the original lighting design. Body of Your Dreams is currently being adapted for film by Quinn B. Wharton and will be released in Fall 2018.” – Myles Thatcher
The Joffrey Ballet will appear at Dance for Life 2018 on Saturday, August 18 at 7:30pm at Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre (50 E. Congress Parkway, Chicago, IL). Tickets are available online from the Auditorium Theatre or by phone from the Auditorium Box Office at 312.341.2300