Choreography Comes to Cleveland: Joshua Beamish Style

It is rare in life that one gets to witness something taking place for the very first time. The first time the GE Chandelier came to light at PlayhouseSquare, right outside the doors of Ballet in Cleveland, it lit up the theater district in a dazzling way. Cleveland will soon be dazzled once again, this time by the artistic light of choreographer Joshua Beamish and shining stars of the New York City Ballet. Audiences will experience the World Premiere of Beamish’s newest work in Cleveland on October 25, 2014. This work will be toured around the country and then worldwide. As an exciting historic event, it will forever be remembered as debuting in Cleveland, Ohio.

Click below to preview the process of Joshua Beamish’s work for this upcoming historic performace.

Allie Kudej: How did you come into working with Ashley Bouder / New York City Ballet?

Joshua Beamish: I was first introduced to New York City Ballet through the New York Choreographic Institute in March 2010, during which time I collaborated with the senior students of the School of American Ballet. From there I met Robbie Fairchild and Wendy Whelan and I began collaborating with the two of them on various projects. Through that process I became more integrated into the New York City Ballet universe, meeting artists like Ashley. It was actually YAGP’s Phil Chan who suggested me to Ashley after seeing my work with Wendy.

AK: How do you go about choreographing? (i.e. do you write out the specific counts of steps or do you go with whatever comes to mind?)

JB: I just listen to the music a lot. I listen to it on the subway, on planes, in the studio, or while walking down the street. I see the world around me with the music as my soundtrack. This innately informs the work’s thematic content. I next create base phrases independently and then work with the dancers to develop the crafting of the piece itself. It would be very difficult to write out my steps. Many don’t have pre-established names.

AK: What has been the most difficult challenge when it comes to choreographing? Specifically with this upcoming piece?

JB: My physical vocabulary is quite signature to me and it is difficult to communicate the subtleties of my language to other dancers. I like to utilize complex port de bras, which is a rare challenge for ballet dancers. With this piece the welcome challenge has been helping the dancers feel comfortable in my aesthetic. I think we’re all enjoying the process of learning from one another and building a world of movement that will be unique to this particular creation.

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Choreagrpaher Josh Beamish displaying movement to dancers. Photo by Phil Chan.

AK: What is your ultimate goal, in regards to choreographing, for the audience to see or feel with the Ashley Bouder Project?

JB: With each new ballet I want to challenge audiences with an experience of seeing ballet that lives and breathes in the world of today. I love Balanchine but I’m not trying to recreate him. He already made his work better than any of us could ever hope to. The same goes with Forsythe. I strive to evolve ballet in tandem with the advancements of the great choreographers of the past, without entirely abandoning the traditions of the form.

AK: How did you find working with Ashley for this project? Did you both collaborate easily?

JB: I love working with Ashley. She is without question one of the most exciting ballet dancers alive today. I feel that I understand how to tailor the process to enable her to feel comfortable taking artistic risks. We have a clear, open dialogue of communication which helps us trust and understand each other.

AK:  How long did you work on this collaboration?

JB: We had a few weeks in April and we’ll have a few in September before coming to Cleveland in October.

AK: Who has inspired you throughout your dance career?

JB: I’ve always been inspired by my collaborators. I have very high respect for dancers. I can’t imagine what it must be like to constantly try to deliver someone else’s vision. In terms of other creators, I feel most commonly connected to the work of William Forsythe, Crystal Pite, Edouard Lock, Pina Bausch, Adam Barruch, Vancouver choreographers Tiffany Tregarthen and Simone Orlando, and of course Balanchine. I really love Wayne McGregor’s partnering. My favorite pieces of all time are Marie Chouinard’s Body Remix/Goldberg Variations, Forsythe’s Artifact and Balanchine’s Apollo, Serenade and Agon.

AK: How long have you been involved in the dance world?

JB: Every day of my life! My mother is a ballet teacher.

 AK: Can you explain what MOVE: the company represents, as it is one of the outstanding contemporary companies in Canada?

JB: MOVE: the company is a project-based contemporary dance company that employs dancers from throughout North America in the creation and presentation of new works by me and guest creators. The company also produces an annual summer intensive and a number of youth engagement and creative support programs. It was formed 10 years ago and was at one time a full-time company before I elected to focus equally on commissions and solo projects.

AK: What exactly is your role as Artistic Director of MOVE?

JB: I am the primary creator and curator of all artistic and educational projects. I am also the General Director which means writing grants, attending Board Meetings, fundraising, scheduling, tour management, etc. It’s fairly all encompassing.

AK: A lot of the choreographers within MOVE are strong with ballet backgrounds. How has this affected your work?

JB: Being the son of a ballet teacher I’ve always been exposed to ballet and ballet creation. All of my work employs a refinement that ballet training offers, even if all of my works wouldn’t be considered “ballet.”

AK: Is contemporary your favorite type of dance to work with?

JB: I like to work in the contemporary of all forms from ballet to hip hop. I feed off new energy and innovation.

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Josh performing with MOVE.

AK: If we were to look in your dance bag, what would we find?

JB: Smelly ballet shoes, tights, Yankees shorts, dirty ankle socks, a water bottle, my Steps membership card, sealed bags of sweaty clothes that need immediate washing, multiple fresh t-shirts, warm up pants, hair product, deodorant, Kind bars, an apple and a banana and all my gym wear. My dance bag doubles as my gym bag.

AK: Are there any other passions you have outside of dance?

JB: I love film. I could watch a movie at the cinema every day. I’ll probably venture into film direction after I retire from dance.

AK: What is one word to describe your choreography?

JB: Complicated.

AK: B Michael is a well respected fashion designer in the industry. Did you two come up with a vision for the Ashley Bouder Project together, combining the movement with the costumes? Or are the costumes inspired from your work?

JB: I began the early creation weeks without B but now that he’s involved it is very much a mutual collaboration. We share inspirations constantly and have actually become close friends. He has a beautiful, sensitive and intuitive mind and I am honored to share this process with him.

AK: Tell me about your collaboration with B Michael on your artistic piece. What is the story of the piece?

JB: My work is abstract in narrative. I ask viewers to take in what they see onstage and relate it to their own experiences. That being said, B and I have been very inspired by Matisse’s Cut Out works and by the personality of the Shostakovich score.

B Michael and Josh and friend at the Paris Opera Ballet Gala

Mark Anthony Edwards, Joshua Beamish, and B Michael at the Paris Opera Ballet Gala.

       AK: Do you typically have the same vision with your work, or does it vary piece to piece, dancer to dancer?

JB: I have certain traits and defaults but my works are always informed by my collaborators. The pieces for Wendy and Ashley are quite different from one another.

AK: Tell me the story about how you got connected with Ballet in Cleveland?

JB: This actually all came about through Ashley and Phil Chan but as luck would have it, I am also coming back in 2015 with Wendy Whelan’s Restless Creature program.

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Josh rehearsing with New York City Ballet Principals Ashley Bouder and Amar Ramasar. Photo by Phil Chan.

AK: How do you feel about bringing a project of this magnitude to a city that has been deprived of ballet?

JB: I have always invested energy into engagement with underserved communities and I am very excited that Cleveland will experience this project first. I have found so much support in America, from Seattle to Kansas City to New York, and I pleased to have an opportunity to enrich a new community with this project.

AK: Do you have any words of advice for those who want to advance with dance, be it performing, choreographing, or even administration?

JB: Talent has very little to do with success. You need to be smart, respectful, aware, hungry and dedicated. You also need to understand politics and economics and learn to come to terms with being passed over for opportunities that you think you deserve. That being said there are some people out there who truly do value talent, so don’t be discouraged, just be realistic.


Whether it is in Vancouver or New York, Joshua Beamish has touched the hearts of many with his work and will soon do the same here in Cleveland with his artistic vision. Having a different outlook of movement through Ballet, Josh’s passion and dedication will fill the air come October. Be sure to purchase tickets, as this will be a night to remember!


To get more information about The Ashley Bouder Project and/ or to purchase tickets, click here.

For more information about Ballet in Cleveland, visit our website at www.balletincleveland.org

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To read Joshua Beamish’s interview with The Vancouver Sun, click here.

To watch more on Josh Beamish and MOVE, click here.

Allie Kudej is a first year intern with Ballet In Cleveland. She is currently a junior at Ohio State University, and plans to continue schooling by obtaining her masters in Physical Therapy for dancers and one day own a studio.

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