Lauren Lovette is having a good year. Maybe too good—after creating her first ballet for New York City Ballet last fall, For Clara, she realized she'd checked one of the last items off her dance bucket list. "Once you choreograph on New York City Ballet, you're like, 'Well, I didn't dream past this,'" says the NYCB principal. "It made me feel a little lost. I thought I was dreaming the highest I could. That's what I'm trying to figure out this year—what else do I want?" For starters, she wants to choreograph more. She'll get that chance this month, when she shares a program with three other female dancemakers at the Vail International Dance Festival in Colorado on August 7.
How she decided what her Vail piece would be about "We were talking concepts first, and I gave Damian [Woetzel, Vail's artistic director] a couple of safe ideas. He said, 'No, I want you to do something braver—something you can't do anywhere else.' I told him about my dream to do something to spoken word or poetry, and he said, 'Perfect.' Creating movement to different passages of poetry feels like trying to use sign language without actually knowing sign language. How do I show in a universal way what this woman [slam poet Andrea Gibson] is saying, without copy-and-pasting?"
On her process for this piece "People can only process so much information at once, so the choreography can't be too busy, and the words can't be too rich. I need to cut it in a way that people can digest the information—by not creating too much onstage. I won't have a lot of people dancing at the same time. It's too much for the eyes and ears."
Lovette at work in the studio with NYCB dancers. Photo by Erin Baiano, courtesy of NYCB.
What she looks for in a dancer "I love working with good energies and positive people who are willing to try anything. I'd rather work with someone who's less well-known and unlock something they can do that nobody thought they could."
On being one of the few female choreographers at NYCB "I'm glad I didn't get a rave review on my first work just because I'm a girl. I'm glad it was picked apart. I want to be treated fairly. I want the work to speak for itself. I intend to continue adjusting and fixing and making things more interesting—that's what all the great choreographers do. I have to remember, if the material's good enough, people will respect me."
Training: California Dance Theatre; Cary Ballet Conservatory; School of American Ballet
Performance: New York City Ballet, 2009–present
Choreography: for New York City Ballet (2016); another premiere for NYCB this fall