Feature: Ballet / Ballet - General

+ -


Inspiration #09: Lauren Jonas, Co-founder and Artistic Director of Diablo Ballet (karma: 1)
By nycsylphmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Tue May 15, 2012 05:28 PM
Edited by hummingbird (128773) on 2012-05-17 10:45:14 Featured.
Edited by hummingbird (128773) on 2012-05-18 10:07:48 Lets see if this works

Lauren Jonas
Hello DDNers! Continuing in my desire to bring you the best opportunities offered in the world of dance, this month I’m presenting an interview with Lauren Jonas, co-founder and Artistic Director of The Diablo Ballet. Trained at the Marin Ballet under Maria Vegh and Margaret Swarthout, she went onto study under Sally Streets. Performing with such companies as the Milwaukee Ballet, the Oakland Ballet and the Southwest Ballet, she’s performed a wide range of repertoire. She’s also toured the United States with the Moscow Ballet directed by Bolshoi Ballet's Vyacheslav Gordeyev, represented the United States at Expo '86 in Vancouver, Canada, and danced in a PBS film documentary about Isadora Duncan. For her complete bio, please visit here: www.diabloballet.org . . .

I became aware of this exciting company through their unique offerings of both dance and experimentation. At the forefront of integrating technology into the world of ballet, Diablo Ballet spearheaded the creation of something called ‘Twitter Night.” Twitter Night was an interactive proposal that allowed chosen “Textperts” to tweet during a live performance. Diablo Ballet’s press release asked, “How would you describe dance in 140 characters?” Instantly captivated by this controversial and fun idea, it was enough to pique my attention and interest! Add to that, the fact that former San Francisco Ballet Principal Dancer, Joanna Berman, one of the most beloved dancers in SFB’s long history, ‘set’ the pas de deux from Christopher Wheeldon’s Mercurial Manoeuvres for the performance, and I was hooked!

Q: Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed for Dance.net. I’d like to begin with my usual question, and that is about your introduction to the world of ballet. Was taking lessons your idea or did someone else decide for you?

A: Taking lessons was definitely my idea. I began taking ballet at the Marin Ballet when I was six. My older sister, Mindy, started ballet because my grandfather took her to see the “Nutcracker” when she was five years old and she fell in love and wanted to take lessons. I would accompany my mother when she would drive my sister to ballet class and when I was old enough, I asked my mother if I could take lessons, too. My younger sister, Corinne, followed suit and before my parents knew it, they had all three girls in ballet. Mindy and Corinne both became professional dancers. Mindy danced in New York and Corinne with the Houston Ballet for ten years and then Diablo Ballet for six.

Q: What was it about ballet that made you stick with it?

A: I remember my very first ballet class. The moment I stepped into the studio at six years old, I knew this is what I wanted to do. I loved the idea of working one’s body and mind with music and feeling a sense of wholeness. In ballet, one is continually striving for perfection even though there’s no such thing but the challenge and my love for the art form has remained constant.

Q: Before co-founding Diablo Ballet, you had a very successful career. What is the best part of that experience? What did you take away from being on stage?

A: The best part of being a working dancer is doing what you love so much and that you are passionate about as a profession. So many people go to work day in and day out and they live for the weekends. As a dancer, I enjoyed the creative process, rehearsing ballets and working to make my performances as seamless as possible. This is also my most favorite part of my job as Artistic Director: working with the dancers, rehearsing and dissecting their movements and artistry ready for the stage.

Q: While performing, did you focus strictly on that? Or were you formulating your next move?

A: Before Diablo Ballet’s inception in 1993, I was strictly performing and I only focused on that. When Diablo Ballet was created, I was performing as well as running the Organization.

Q: How did the idea culminate for you starting Diablo Ballet?

A: My Co-Founder Ashraf Habibullah and I attended a performance of the Stars of the Russian Ballet at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek in 1992. We witnessed how excited the audiences were to see professional dance. There was professional Theatre, Opera and Symphony in Walnut Creek but no ballet so this gave us the inspiration to start a dance company.

Q: What is Diablo Ballet’s mission statement? What did you hope to accomplish by creating it?

A: Diablo Ballet’s mission statement is: “Diablo Ballet is an internationally recognized professional dance company committed to enriching, inspiring, enlightening, and educating children and adults through the art of dance.” I feel really good about that fact that for the last eighteen years, we have been fulfilling our mission. Besides the performance aspect, our PEEK Outreach Program, to under-served schools has reached over 65,000 school children in the past decade. Diablo Ballet’s PEEK Program (Performing Arts Education & Enrichment for Kids), is the only arts education program of its kind offered by a professional dance company in Contra Costa County. The Program provides both in-school dance education curriculum and free dance performances to students and families in both privileged and under-served areas who have substantially fewer opportunities to see or participate in the performing arts. PEEK has been endorsed by Congressman John Garamendi and the California Arts Council’s Artists in the Schools Program. It consists of three elements: Dance in the Schools, Theatre Encounter and Adopt-a-Class.

Dance in the Schools presents interactive ballet programs to five schools each season by visiting public school classes between September and May. The presentation enables the students to participate in a collaborative process by creating their own short ballet. The program consists of a 45-minute presentation and enables the students to use their imagination, by participating and creating their own short story to music using their bodies to communicate and not their spoken words. Children also create the title of their stories and perform it for their fellow classmates.

The Theatre Encounter is a FREE program that brings 750 low income school children from Contra Costa County school systems into the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, annually for a one-hour lecture/demonstration. The program, performed with stage lighting and piano accompaniment, offers young people a true theatre experience, which in turn prepares them to become the audience of the future.

Adopt-a-Class is a comprehensive arts education program that brings dance and music education into an entire second grade body (75 children) twice a month for 45 minute sessions over the course of the entire school year. The Artistic Director develops curriculum in collaboration with the second grade teachers, integrating existing areas of study, such as dance traditions from a specific country that the students will study for the year.

As part of the program, the children also visit Diablo Ballet’s rehearsal studio to watch a live rehearsal. In April, they visit the Lesher Center for the Arts to watch a professional performance in the theater with approximately 650 other school children. For many of these youth, it’s their first and only opportunity to see a professional performance in a real theater.

The Adopt-a-Class program culminates with an end-of-year presentation, where the students perform a story that they have practiced over the course of the year. This performance gives the children the opportunity to showcase what they have learned and demonstrate the confidence and poise they have developed.

Q: What do you feel is approach to artistry? Can you please as concisely as possible tell us what you feel being an artist means to you … and to Diablo Ballet?

A: One of the reasons why I choose dancers, who have had soloist or principal experience in a prominent ballet company prior to joining Diablo Ballet is because, they are not only at the height of their careers, but they are also individuals with life experiences. Because Diablo Ballet is a small company, it’s important that the dancers be artists. I feel that this is definitely one of Diablo Ballet’s strengths. Each of our dancers has a story to tell and it is apparent when watching their performances. Being an artist is impossible to achieve at the early stages of one’s career. To me, this is hugely important.

Q: I see from your bio that you are very involved in recruiting dancers. Since there are so many talented young dancers on Dance.net hoping to make ballet/dance a career, what are the top three things that a young dancer can do to ensure a spot on stage?

A: One of the most important attributes is persistence and not giving up no matter what. One will see rejection but it’s important to hold on to one’s dream.

Next is work ethic. To be a dancer, one must work diligently and in all different styles: ballet, modern, etc. Dancers in company’s today must perform all different styles depending on the choreographers that work with the Organization.

It is also important to work carefully so as to not get injured, which also means taking care of one’s body with proper nutrition.

Q: A question that comes up all the time on Dance.net concerns standing out in auditions. What captures your attention and catches your eye?

A: Diablo Ballet’s audition process is different. Because our turn-over is small, and we hire accomplished dancers, we don’t hold open auditions. When looking for a dancer, I first request to view a dancer’s performance DVD or footage. If after that, I am interested in seeing this individual in person, I will invite them to take company class. Because we are a small troupe, it’s really important that each dancer brings something different and unique to the stage. I don’t want any two dancers to look the same. It is also crucially important that the individual is a sincere person. This season, I have been especially blessed because each member of the Company is a wonderful human being and everyone works together beautifully. This has really come across on stage.

Q: Do you look for technical ability or artistry?

A: I look for both. Both are very important to me.

Q How much does body type play into being selected?


A: It really depends. Some season’s, I need a smaller dancer to partner with a smaller male dancer. Other years, I look for taller men to partner taller women. Moreover, I want our dancers to look healthy and in shape.

Q: In terms of Diablo’s Ballet repertoire, I see you’re doing Balanchine, and most recently, performed a Christopher Wheeldon piece. Can you please tell us how you select suitable choreography and pieces for your wonderful company?

A: I try to bring something new to our audiences as well as challenge the dancers. Works by George Balanchine have been an important part of the Ballet’s repertoire since its inception and the Balanchine Estate has been wonderfully supportive to Diablo Ballet over the years.

Q: The fantastic Joanna Berman set Wheeldon’s Mercurial Manoeuvres. How was this decision made and what stamp, if any, did she production? Do you feel that artists translate choreography? Or do you feel their job is only to pass on what was originally taught to them?

A: Joanna is my best friend. We grew up together in school, ballet and Shull so you can imagine how delighted I was to work with her on in a professional capacity. Joanna sets many of Christopher Wheeldon’s works all over the world. Actually, Mercurial was one of the first ballets she set for him at the Australian Ballet. Joanna is incredibly musical as is Christopher, so naturally she emphasized musicality. I was very pleased with how our dancer’s translated the choreography as was Joanna. With a ballet like Mercurial , Joanna’s job was to teach and coach the choreography as it was intended to be performed and it was our dancer’s job to perform it that way.

Q: One of the most exciting things for me about this production, is that you chose to incorporate Twitter into the performance! From what I read, you had hand-selected ‘Textperts’ sit and tweet their impressions of the performance! Have several questions about this! Who came up with this idea?

A: Dan Meagher, our Director of Marketing, created and developed the idea. Diablo Ballet is very active on social media (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube) and we wanted to explore mixing technology with dance. He thought it would be fascinating to see how people would describe dance in 140 characters. It proved to be hugely successful and we'll continue doing it at future performances.

Q: What was the initial reaction to incorporating technology into ballet? Personally, I feel it’s woefully lacking!

A: We agree with you! Dan feels that arts organizations need to explore more ways to incorporate technology. Our Twitter Night was done in a controlled environment - our pre-selected tweeters sat in a special section away from other patrons. Also, we chose to introduce this at our interactive series “Inside the Dancer’s Studio”, which is in an intimate venue, where the audience is within yards of the stage. Once people saw that it wouldn’t disturb the enjoyment for non-tweeters, we were met with supportive audience members.

Q: What was the result? What happened? And could you please give us some examples of the tweets?

A: Many of the tweeters had never seen Diablo Ballet before and they were quite engaged and pleased. One tweeter said, “If this is dance, I’m coming back!” Many of our dancers replied to some of the tweets that were directed at them and it created a wonderful conversation.

Q: Why are you embracing new technology?

A: We are trying to reach out to a new audience base to create a new generation of fans. We need ways to reach the younger demographic and using social media is one way to do this.

Q: Is what you did with Twitter night more an outgrowth or perk of getting involved in a smaller company?

A: I believe it was easier for us to integrate Twitter Night because we are a smaller company. We didn't have the hurdles that major institutions would have. Because of our size, we are more free to take risks and try something new. Now, we're hearing about other organizations, who want to experience Twitter Night because we took the initial risk. We weren't afraid to take the plunge. We are now planning an exciting, technology event for next Spring's program.

Q: How should a young dancer go about researching companies? It seems a smart idea to see what company would be a good fit for their skill set, but how best would this be accomplished?

A: A young dancer can research dance companies by going online to a specific dance company’s website and research the Organization. Dancers can also look at the biographical information of the company members. For example, often times I receive resumes from young dancer’s just beginning their careers.

Q: In terms of best fit, what is the very best way for a dancer to integrate themselves into company life? Should they ask questions? Stay quiet and learn? Is it appropriate for them to ask for bigger, better roles?

A: Since I really get to know a dancer, before I hire them, new dancers integrate themselves quite well. I believe that asking questions is good.

Q: As for your company, it has already accomplished a lot, but in the future, where do you want to see it go? Are you going to do more of the same? Or are there other plans on the horizon?

A: Thank you. Diablo Ballet will to continue to reach new audiences. The Ballet will also continue to present exciting dance works by established and nurture choreography within the Company. Diablo Ballet would also like to expand its PEEK Adopt-a-Class Program to under-served youth.

Q: Do you feel there is one work that has become your signature piece in terms of best expressing what your company is all about?

A: The beauty of Diablo Ballet is that our dancers are just as versed in George Balanchine works as in the contemporary styles. Each performance consists of a west coast premiere contemporary work, a classical work and a new work by a well-known or emerging choreographer. I believe that this is what makes Diablo Ballet unique. Most often a small company only performs the works of one choreographer, but Diablo Ballet performs works by numerous choreographers and masters them all beautifully.



* * * * * * * * * * * *

For those interested, the official website can be viewed here:
www.diabloballet.org
And below is a segment of PEEK Theatre Encounter that appeared on Channel 7 television on May 2nd. Here's the link:
abclocal.go.com . . .

All photos courtesy and copyrighted: Ashraf

10 Replies to Inspiration #09: Lauren Jonas, Co-founder and Artistic Director of Diablo Ballet

re: Inspiration #09: Lauren Jonas, Co-founder and Artistic Director of Diablo Ballet
By NDow
On Wed May 16, 2012 03:22 PM
That's a wonderful interview. I love the philosophy behind Jonas' company -- a wide variety of dancers and a wide variety of rep in a chamber ballet troupe. And it's a winning formula for Lauren Jonas! Thanks for conducting the interview, writing it up and posting it!
re: Inspiration #09: Lauren Jonas, Co-founder and Artistic Director of Diablo Ballet
By nycsylphmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Fri May 18, 2012 09:48 AM
NDow wrote:

That's a wonderful interview. I love the philosophy behind Jonas' company -- a wide variety of dancers and a wide variety of rep in a chamber ballet troupe. And it's a winning formula for Lauren Jonas! Thanks for conducting the interview, writing it up and posting it!


NDow -

Thanks so much for you wonderful comments!

Totally agree with you about the philosophy. Often it's simpler, easier to assemble bodies that lookalike to achieve uniformity, but it leaves out a lot to be desired. Uniformity and being seamless is more effectively achieved through the hard work of rehearsing and modifying movements so that they're synchronized. This way when solos and principal roles are done, the uniqueness of features can be highlighted! It's the best of both worlds!

As for this peek into the inner workings of Diablo Ballet, just wanted to continue on my mission of highlighting companies experimenting in presenting unique events and offering fantastic opportunities for dancers to become involved in exciting times!

As stated, Twitter Night totally captivated my imagination, and it is the type of thing that these smaller/regional companies can do. To bypass or not consider becoming involved in these types of adventures is perhaps a mistake for those looking to perform. Also as an avid ballet/dance fan, it would be short-sighted to not support this kind of ingenuity and creativity! A flight of fancy like this is what infuses the dance community with fresh ideas and shakes up "doing business as usual," setting up the possibility for it to go in new delightful directions!

A big thank you to Lauren for agreeing to tell us something about her wonderful company. As for continuing to conduct these chitchats, just finished next month's interview. I am so excited to post it! It seems my latest interview always becomes my favorite, so next month's ... well, hold onto your hat for some scintillating conversation!

Thanks again!
re: Inspiration #09: Lauren Jonas, Co-founder and Artistic Director of Diablo Ballet
By hummingbird
On Fri May 18, 2012 10:11 AM
That is a fascinating interview!

Thank you for sharing it with us all.
re: Inspiration #09: Lauren Jonas, Co-founder and Artistic Director of Diablo Ballet
By nycsylphmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Fri May 18, 2012 06:23 PM
hummingbird wrote:

That is a fascinating interview!

Thank you for sharing it with us all.


Hummingbird -

Thanks so much!

For me, it's fun learning about the different companies, and I get to meet some pretty amazing people in the process!!

Glad you enjoyed!
re: Inspiration #09: Lauren Jonas, Co-founder and Artistic Director of Diablo Ballet
By luv2plie
On Sun May 20, 2012 08:34 PM
Great interview! I recently saw Diablo Ballet perform at the Hillbarn Theatre and they were awesome.
re: Inspiration #09: Lauren Jonas, Co-founder and Artistic Director of Diablo Ballet
By nycsylphmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Mon May 21, 2012 03:22 PM
luv2plie wrote:

Great interview! I recently saw Diablo Ballet perform at the Hillbarn Theatre and they were awesome.


luv2plie -

Oh, you got to see them perform? Lucky you! I hope to one day. Seem to have a nice style, and love the passion and energy the put into things.

Thank you for the nice comments!! I do appreciate it!
re: Inspiration #09: Lauren Jonas, Co-founder and Artistic Director of Diablo Ballet
By smileywomanmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Mon May 28, 2012 06:50 PM
Diablo has such a wonderful philosophy. With arts education virtually eliminated from public schools in the US, it's great to see such an innovative, forward thinking dance troupe reaching out to young people to expose them to the beauty of dance.

I love how they make it more approachable, almost organic as opposed to the usual distance between the artist on stage and the audience.

There philosophy also opens up the realm of dance for them into endless creative possibilities.

Bravo to them and you for such a great interview.
re: Inspiration #09: Lauren Jonas, Co-founder and Artistic Director of Diablo Ballet
By Firebirdmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Mon May 28, 2012 07:09 PM
Oh wow, I remember both Lauren Jonas and her sister (also a dancer) from waaaay back in the day at Marin Ballet! They both (I believe) came back and danced the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Nutcracker when I was really young!
re: Inspiration #09: Lauren Jonas, Co-founder and Artistic Director of Diablo Ballet
By nycsylphmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Tue May 29, 2012 08:12 PM
smileywoman wrote:

Diablo has such a wonderful philosophy. With arts education virtually eliminated from public schools in the US, it's great to see such an innovative, forward thinking dance troupe reaching out to young people to expose them to the beauty of dance.

I love how they make it more approachable, almost organic as opposed to the usual distance between the artist on stage and the audience.

There philosophy also opens up the realm of dance for them into endless creative possibilities.

Bravo to them and you for such a great interview.


Smileywoman -

Totally agree!

While seeing someone on stage is enough to ignite a passionate fire in someone, it's the allowing the children to actually become a part of it that's also key. They get a sense of what dance and performing are about. Feel that sort of taste is fabulous, especially when working with this caliber of professionals!

Oh wow, I remember both Lauren Jonas and her sister (also a dancer) from waaaay back in the day at Marin Ballet! They both (I believe) came back and danced the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Nutcracker when I was really young!


Firebird -

You do? How fantastic! It's so strange that the people we meet and/or see perform can branch out and blossom in unexpected directions!

Also think this performance helps give her a grounded approach in dealing with her dancers, including bringing out the best!

Thanks so much for posting this! Think it's great!
re: Inspiration #09: Lauren Jonas, Co-founder and Artistic Director of Diablo Ballet
By nycsylphmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Fri Jun 08, 2012 09:40 AM
Hello everyone -

Just wanted to post on another exciting Twitter event courtesy of Diablo Ballet! You'll have to chance to chat with two members of the cast of Breaking Pointe. Here's the information taken from press release:

CHAT WITH THE STARS OF THE CW’s BREAKING POINTE ON TWITER THIS WEDNESDAY

"You have the opportunity to talk with two of the stars of the CW’s new hit television series, Breaking Pointe, on Twitter this Wednesday (June 13th) starting at 6 PM Pacific Standard Time. Chat with Ballet West demi-soloists Allison DeBona and Rex Tilton on Diablo Ballet’s Twitter page - found at @DiabloBallet.

You’ll have the opportunity to ask questions and find out what it’s like to be starring in the series and dancing for one of America’s premiere ballet companies. You’ll also be able to go behind-the-scenes and find out what goes on behind the rehearsal studio doors!

Breaking Pointe is the exciting new television series on the CW Network, which gives you a close-up look at the lives of professional dancers at Ballet West, a renowned American dance company.

For 48 years, Ballet West of Salt Lake City, Utah has created dynamic artistry with a rich and varied repertoire from Balanchine to Tharp. For more information on Ballet West, you can visit BalletWest.org and follow them on Twitter at @BalletWest.


Sounds like fun!!! Happy tweeting!!

ReplySendWatch

Powered by XP Experience Server.
Copyright ©1999-2021 XP.COM, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
XL
LG
MD
SM
XS
XL
LG
MD
SM
XS