There are certainly places to be a student, and there are venues in which to be a professional, but what about that “in between”? The pathway from student to pro can be a tricky, unguided one to navigate.
New York Dance Project (NYDP) was started in 2016, with a mission to bridge that gap between training and having a professional career. It is comprised of pre-professional dancers and five professionals, and the younger dancers experience what it’s like to work in a professional setting – to take daily ballet technique class, followed by repertory rehearsals.
“In a company setting, young dancers can watch and learn from the more experienced dancers, and having role models to emulate is an important part of their growth process,” explains Davis Robertson, who, along with his wife, Nicole Duffy Robertson, are founders of NYDP.
NYDP’s professionals are emerging artists and freelance dancers, and the company’s pre-professionals, the apprentices, pay a tuition to train full-time as junior company members. Apprentices take classes in pointe, contemporary, partnering, dance history and career planning. In addition, dancers have many performance opportunities in New York City, as well as on domestic and international tours.
“They live the dance company life and learn the work ethic and dedication that’s necessary to make it!” Robertson says.
This March, NYDP will be the resident company at the University of Santa Fe in Gainesville, Florida, and will collaborate with The Florida Ballet in a diverse repertory program. NYDP will also perform in NYC on April 27-28, and at the 92nd Street Y in June.
As Robertson is a former principal dancer with the Joffrey Ballet and is a repetiteur for the Gerald Arpino Foundation, much of NYDP’s repertory includes works by Arpino and Robert Joffrey. In fact, another aspect of the company’s mission is to help preserve and promote the legacies of these late director-choreographers by teaching, staging and performing their ballets.
This season, NYDP’s repertory includes Arpino’s Birthday Variations, Spanish choreographer Africa Guzman’s Sinfonia Escarlata, and contemporary works by Tyler Gilstrap, Gabrielle Lamb and Robertson.
This June-July, NYDP will offer intensives in NYC (June 11-July 13), and in Florence, Italy (July 16-20). In-person auditions for dancers ages 10-25 will be held on February 18, at Ballet Hispánico in NYC. Dancers who are unable to participate in the live audition are encouraged to submit materials online.
Two tracks are offered – ballet and contemporary (with or without pointe). All dancers in both tracks take ballet and contemporary technique classes, partnering and repertory. Students have the option of taking anywhere from a minimum of one week to all five weeks of the program.
“We are looking for dancers who have artistic potential – smart, curious, dedicated, with strong technique and an openness to moving in any contemporary idiom,” Robertson says. “Dancers who devour space, have musicality, make interesting choices – these are all things we look for in auditions. Of course, we are interested in dancers who have the drive and understanding of the kind of work required to excel. Then we can help them get to the next level.”
NYDP is a unique opportunity for pre-professionals to work among those who are already working professionally in the field, as well as to learn exciting ballet and contemporary repertory.
“NYDP is different from other dance programs in that we offer highly personalised, well-rounded training in ballet and contemporary, and the opportunity to experience what professional dance life entails,” Robertson affirms. “We have special permission from the Arpino Foundation to teach the Joffrey/Arpino repertory, and we are committed to passing on that knowledge to a new generation of dancers. We value teaching in a supportive, individualized manner, in a nurturing environment that also demands the best of each dancer.”
For more information on New York Dance Project and details on both in-person and online auditions for its summer programs and year-round company, visit www.newyorkdanceproject.org.
By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.