|Domenico Luciano, Post:Ballet|
Photo by David DeSilva
Robert Dekkers has been choreographing for over a decade, presenting works at venues including the Tanzsommer Festival in Vienna and the Ballet Builders Showcase in New York City. In 2008, Dekkers was named resident choreographer at NovaBallet, and in 2009, Dekkers founded Post:Ballet in San Francisco, one of the most exciting dance companies to appear in the last couple of years.
With a mission to bring together artists from multiple disciplines in an innovative way, Post:Ballet emphasizes inventive choreography and intriguing music, all realized by exceptional dancers. The company combines diverse mediums and modern aesthetics with classically based dance to present work that is profoundly personal and relevant to a new generation of audiences. Audiences can check out the company’s third season July 20–21, 2012, at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco.
California Literary Review: You have achieved much as a dancer. How has your dance success helped/hurt your choreography?
Robert Dekkers: I’ve been very lucky in my career thus far and have had the opportunity to perform leading roles in works by some of dance’s most influential choreographers, including George Balanchine, Twyla Tharp, August Bournonville, Paul Taylor, and Lar Lubovich. But I feel that I’ve grown the most from the experiences I’ve had working on original new works. Some of my favorite creative processes have been with choreographers such as Maurice Causey, KT Nelson, Brenda Way, Val Caniparoli, Julia Adam, and Jodie Gates.
Being involved in the development of so many new works has allowed me to experience first-hand a wide range of different artists’ creative processes — and perhaps, even more importantly, these experiences have challenged and pushed me to grow as an artist and as an individual. It is this opportunity for growth and greater fulfillment that continues to motivate me, both as a choreographer and as a dancer.
How many companies are you dancing with? How do you meet the challenge offered by different working styles in the companies?
In addition to my work with Post:Ballet, I am currently dancing with Diablo Ballet, where I have the opportunity to perform in a variety of exciting and challenging works, from George Balanchine’s technically demanding Tarantella to KT Nelson’s free-flowing The Escaping Game. I also had the pleasure of choreographing my first new work for the company earlier this year. It was an incredible experience, and I liked the new work, Happy Ending, so much that I’ve decided to restage it on Post:Ballet for our upcoming performances at the Herbst Theatre!
|Robert Dekkers |
Photo by Natalia Perez
I’m excited to continue dancing with Diablo Ballet, and I’m so thrilled to say that I’ve been invited to choreograph another new work on the company for their 2013 Spring Program. I am also a member of the Contra Costa Ballet faculty, where I recently premiered my first full-length story ballet, Alice in Wonderland, set to an original score by Daniel Berkman. The ballet was completely new, down to the sets, costumes, and lighting design. I also appear as a guest artist with other companies such as Oakland Ballet and Dominic Walsh Dance Theater.
Juggling all of my passions and commitments can be difficult, but the artists and dancers I work with constantly inspire me. I honestly wouldn’t trade my life for anything in the world!
The economy was in the tank, and you have a pretty full schedule. What inspired you to start a company at this particular time?
A big part of my motivation in starting Post:Ballet when I did was precisely because of the economic climate. Historically speaking, recessions are often times when young entrepreneurs are motivated to go against the grain and do things differently. As a result, they challenge the established (and sometimes antiquated) companies. I was dissatisfied with the direction I saw many ballet companies headed toward — very few newly commissioned works and lots of big story ballets that are pleasantly entertaining, but not necessarily relevant to contemporary culture.
Post:Ballet is all about taking that next step, about collaborating with new artists — not just composers and costume designers, but cinematographers, photographers, sculptors, and visual artists as well — to create living artwork that expresses the bold voice of the next generation.
What can audiences expect at a Post:Ballet performance?
Post:Ballet is all about collaborating with diverse artists to create new works that challenge us to look at our world differently. There is always much conceptual groundwork behind the works we present. One of my favorite elements of our home season concerts at the Herbst is our moderated discussion with the artists and collaborators. Hosted immediately after the Saturday evening performance (July 21) on the lip of the stage, audience members get to engage with the artists in a discussion on the ideas and motivations that inspired them to create the works presented earlier at the concert. I think it’s great to watch live dance and create your own ideas about what the work meant to you, but sometimes hearing the lead artists speak about their initial inspirations can make the work that much more meaningful to viewers.
Could you talk a little about your upcoming July performance?
Triads is definitely my most ambitious program for the company yet, but I’m also honored to say that the caliber of the dancers performing in the program (many of whom are returning now for their third season with the company!) is the highest I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with.
I’ll be focusing on a World Premiere, featuring an original score by Jacob Wolkenhauer, a Bay Area composer I’ve collaborated with several times before. Our new work together centers around our shared belief that change comes when we verbally express our beliefs and our doubts. To express this need, we both feel it is important to “speak up” — we’ve decided to use recordings of the dancers speaking as the throughline of the score. Weaving together recordings of the dancers reading selected quotes by philosopher Bertrand Russell, along with snippets of unscripted, candid conversations, we hope to develop a work that ultimately inspires us to speak up for what we believe — and to speak up for what we doubt.
In addition to this new collaboration, I’m also restaging Mine is Yours, a physically demanding and thought-provoking work that Post:Ballet premiered at the San Francisco International Arts Festival earlier this season. I’ll also be showing excerpts from Interference Pattern, my 2011 collaboration with cinematographer Amir Jaffer, as well as Happy Ending, a quirky and whimsical work that wryly alludes to our never-ending search for happiness. Originally commissioned by Diablo Ballet for their 2011–12 season, Happy Ending is set to a playful score by Australian composer Pogo and will definitely put a smile on everyone’s face.
What’s coming up next season — both dancing and choreography?
I’m currently working with photographer David DeSilva on a new live performance piece that will premiere at our Season Four opening event, Post:Arts, which will be presented again at 111 Minna Bar in October 2012. Post:Ballet also will be performing at a variety of festivals and benefit performances around the Bay Area and across the county. People can find out about our performances and events at postballet.org or on our official Facebook page. Of course, we’ll be presenting our fourth annual home season program, Four Plays, during July 2013 in San Francisco.
In addition, I’ll be returning to Diablo Ballet to dance with the company again, and I’m honored to say that I’ve also been commissioned to create another new work for the company’s 2012–13 season. Also, Contra Costa Ballet will be restaging my Alice in Wonderland next May. I’ll also be busy creating a new full-length “story ballet” for Post:Ballet, which we’ll premiere as part of our 2013–14 season! There are lots of details still in the works, so I can’t share too much about the full-evening work yet — except to say that it is going to be so “Post”!
You always seem to have a new rabbit to pull out of your hat. What’s this season’s direction?
The cornerstone of Post:Ballet’s mission is to collaborate with diverse artists in new and different ways, and Triads will be no exception. In addition to our World Premiere collaboration with Jacob Wolkenhauer and the other live dance works on the program, we’ll also be unveiling a new sculpture created by Bay Area artist Jeffrey Zygmunt and featuring Post:Ballet dance artist Ashley Flaner in the theater lobby during intermission.
Photographer Natalia Perez is collaborating with the hair and makeup artists at Siren Salon to create a series of head shots for our Triads playbills based on the theme “Art Inspires Hair” (which also will be viewable on our website), and photographer David DeSilva will be presenting some of his incredible action shots featuring the company dancers at our Post:Party event after the opening night show on July 20.
Talk about your creative team. Tell us a little about the selection and work process.
I don’t really have a set process for finding creative artists to collaborate with…honestly. I try just to see and hear and do as much as I can and remain open to fresh ideas and new possibilities. The Bay Area is filled with incredible artists, and I am always eager to get involved in new projects and collaborations!
Sometimes a new work begins with a concept or idea I’m interested in exploring, and as the theme begins to develop, I’ll search for and find the right artists to help me bring my creative vision to life. For Mine is Yours, I first started with such a concept — exploring the differences between communal sharing and private possessions, particularly where relationships are concerned. Then I began working with composer Daniel Berkman to develop the theme further. As we honed in on what we wanted to express through the work, I started working with four of the Post:Ballet dance artists to create new movement. During the development of the piece, Costume Designer Susan Roemer and Lighting Designer David Robertson came on board. This type of collaboration enables me to cohesively present my personal vision for the work, while also allowing the various perspectives of my creative team to shine through.
Occasionally, as with my new collaboration with sculptor Jeffrey Zygmunt, the artist will touch base with me and initiate the new work; at other times, like when I created a new film for the HIV Story Project’s full-length documentary Still Around, I am paired with one artist, yet get to select other team members. For the film, I was paired with the extremely talented cinematographer Alexander du Prel, but was able to choose my composer of choice — thus, my second collaboration with Jacob Wolkenhauer was born.
At the end of the day, creativity is all around us, and I love finding new ways to express it and share it with others!
Post:Ballet returns to the Herbst Theatre for its third home season program, Triads. Featuring the final, full-stage debut of Robert Dekkers’ World Premiere collaboration with Jacob Wolkenhauer, Triads will also include the reprise of Mine is Yours (2012) and Interference Pattern (2011), as well as a special screening of the company’s critically acclaimed short filmOurs (2011).
Following the opening night performance, join the artists in the War Memorial’s elegant Green Room at Post:Party! And following Saturday evening’s program, the artists and collaborators will host a short moderated discussion on the skirt of the stage. Audience members are invited to participate.
July 20 and 21, 2012 at 8:00 p.m.
401 Van Ness Avenue
For tickets and information, call 415.392.4400 or visit the Post:Ballet website at www.postballet.org
[Originally published at California Literary Review, July 16, 2012.]