A Conversation with Freelance Choreographer Gabrielle Lamb

“During the first week of a commission,” says Lamb, “I have to make a lot of really quick decisions. I function on very little sleep but a lot of adrenaline.”

After Gabrielle Lamb won a national choreography competition in 2009, she figured commissions would begin to trickle in on their own. Although her piece—the languid, gestural never did run smooth—would eventually tour with Hubbard Street’s second company, she was wrong about choreography gigs arriving on her doorstep. “I had to keep hustling, like I do now, sending out my work and e-mails and applying for this and that,” she says. But her resolve is beginning to pay off: She spent the last year as a New York City Center Choreography Fellow, making work with a group of seven dancers and for established companies like Ballet Austin and Ballet Memphis. From June 10 to 12, dancers from the contemporary ballet company Q Dance will premiere Lamb’s newest piece in Winnipeg.

On becoming a choreographer “I think it was something that I tried to cover up for a long time. I think I always knew that’s what I wanted to do, but it took me a long time to admit it to myself. And it took even longer to admit it to other people and not feel sheepish when referring to myself as a choreographer. It happened so gradually. At what point do you get to call yourself a choreographer?”

How she chooses dancers at an audition “I’ll teach a phrase of my movement and see who responds really well to that and whose body understands the coordination. I’ll also give some very structured improv tasks, and that’s when I see people looking really great who didn’t stand out during my movement. Sometimes I’ll give a composition task: ‘Generate something that’s repeatable.’ And then I’ll get to see their imagination.”

Choreographic philosophy in five words “Paths of energy through bodies.”

On inspiration “I have to be careful about what I let into my brain and how many silly videos I watch on YouTube. One day, I was in the studio with some dancers and this section of movement just happened—and I was like, ‘I know what that is. That’s two cats playing patty-cake.’ There’s something about watching YouTube videos: Everything that goes in is going to come out somehow.” DT

Training: Boston Ballet School

Performance: danced with the Finnish National Ballet, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal and Morphoses; worked with choreographers Pontus Lidberg and Shannon Gillen

Choreography: works for Hubbard Street 2, Milwaukee Ballet, Ballet Austin, Ballet Memphis, BalletX and SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Dance; 2014 New York City Center Choreography Fellow

Photo by Jaqlin Medlock, courtesy of Lamb

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