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National Choreographers Initiative a lab for ballet at UC Irvine

originally posted by the Los Angeles Times, 7-25-2012

Artistic director Molly Lynch doesn’t do a lot of advertising to lure participants to the National Choreographers Initiative, now underway in the dance studios of UC Irvine.

That’s because she doesn’t have to.

Alumni have spread the gospel of the three-week project, an independent workshop that supports the growth of contemporary ballet. This year, about 40 choreographers applied for four spots. The lucky quartet — Los Angeles-based Melissa Barak and New Yorkers Thang Dao, Darrell Grand Moultrie and Wendy Seyb — have received transportation to Irvine, a fee, housing, professional dancers, plus rehearsal time in state-of-the-art studios. Their task is rare enough — to create whatever kind of dance they want. No pressure, no rush to finish, no critics’ reviews. The icing is an informal public performance in the Irvine Barclay Theatre at the end, allowing the artists to see what their pieces look like on a stage.

It’s mostly word of mouth too that has led to a reliable stream of dancers (plus two students) auditioning for NCI’s 18-member pop-up company; it’s three more weeks of paid work (most are on unpaid leave from regular company jobs) and the opportunity to be the human clay out of which new dances will be sculpted.

And even the public workshop performance, the last element of this trifecta, has seen an upswing in popularity. The show has sold out the past two years. This year’s showcase and conversation with the choreographers is Saturday.Lynch, also a choreographer and UCI associate professor of dance, took a break recently to reflect on NCI’s unique character and its eight-year contribution to the national and local dance scenes.

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