This is the 16th year for the National Choreographers Initiative (NCI) and the first live/in-person performance of dance at the Irvine Barclay Theatre since the pandemic shutdown in the spring of last year. Led by Artistic Director, choreographer and educator Molly Lynch, NCI was developed to promote the creation and production of professional dance and it is one of the very few such choreography laboratory residencies for ballet. The performance will be held in-person as well as livestreaming online Saturday, July 24, 2021, at 8pm. In-person tickets are $45 and Livestream tickets are $20.

Choreographers who participate in the two week NCI residency/laboratory are invited from throughout the United States and provided with a cast of dancers, rehearsal space, costumes, lighting designer housing, and the beautiful Irvine Barclay Theatre for their work to be performed.  The choreographers are free to choose any theme for their dance, and there is no obligation for them to present a completely finished work.  Following the completion of the NCI experience, the work remains in the possession of the choreographers to present wherever they choose.  It is an extraordinary opportunity for these choreographer to create new works with no commissioned strings attached, giving them a rare opportunity to experiment and develop their craft.  In addition, this is also a chance for Southern California audiences to view the premieres of four original contemporary ballet works.

Right now, the choreographers and dancers are in the UC, Irvine Dance Department studios working in Covid-safe pods. The names of this year’s choreographers are Sean Aaron Carmon, Mari Meade, Katarzyna Skarpetowska, and Eva Stone. Please click on the highlighted choreographer’s name in the following sections to read their full bios.

Sean Aaron Carmon - Photo courtesy of the artist.

Sean Aaron Carmon – Photo courtesy of the artist.

Sean Aaron Carmon is from Beaumont, TX and with the support of his teachers was awarded the Bill and Melinda Gates Scholarship, affording him the opportunity to attend New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2006 on full scholarship. In New York, Carmon studied at the Ailey School which led to an inevitable transfer to, and later graduation from, the Ailey/Fordham B.F.A. Program in Dance in 2010. danced with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for seven years and performed major solo roles including Mikhail Baryshnikov’s original role in Alvin Ailey’s Pas de Duke and featured roles in ballets by other notable choreographers such as Wayne McGregor, Robert Battle, Aszure Barton, Johan Inger, Ulysses Dove, Matthew Rushing, Hope Boykin and Christopher L. Huggins.

Mari Meade - Photo courtesy of the artist.

Mari Meade – Photo courtesy of the artist.

Mari Meade is an educator, choreographer, and the Artistic Director of Mari Meade Dance Collective / MMDC . She has shown work at Clark Theatre at Lincoln Center; Danspace; Judson Memorial Church; Joe’s Pub; Battery Dance Festival; Triskelion Arts; ChopShop: Bodies of Work (WA); New Orleans Fringe Festival; Asheville Fringe Festival; Baltimore Dance Invitational; Lake Studios Berlin; Katlehong Arts Center (South Africa). Meade’s awards include a Brooklyn Arts Council regrant, and a “New Work” and Su Casa grant from Queens Arts Council. Her contemporary dance company, Mari Meade Dance Collective/ MMDC, is approaching their tenth year, and has performed nationally and internationally.

Katarzyna Skarpetowska - Photo courtesy of the artist.

Katarzyna Skarpetowska – Photo courtesy of the artist.

After graduating with a BFA in Dance Katarzyna Skarpetowska immediately joined Parsons Dance where from 1999 until 2006 she performed lead roles in the company’s repertory including the iconic CAUGHT.  Skarpetowska was a guest member of The Battleworks Dance Company from 2006 until 2008 and from 2007 until 2014 she worked for The Lar Lubovitch Dance Company performing at many reputable venues such as New York City’s City Center, Washington DC’s Kennedy Center and Moscow’s Bolshoi Theater.  Over the years, Kate also appeared as a guest artist with The Buglisi Dance Theater.  She has been on the faculty of the American Dance Festival, American Ballet Theater summer program, School of American Ballet, Boston Conservatory summer program, Key West Modern Dance, Greenville Fine Arts Center, NJDTE, Peridance, Washington Ballet @THEARC, and most recently at UC Irvine.

Eva Stone - Photo courtesy of the artist.

Eva Stone – Photo courtesy of the artist.

After completing a Master of Arts degree in Choreography and Choreological Studies from Trinity Laban in  London, England, Eva Stone formed The Stone Dance Collective, a modern dance company. She relocated to Seattle in 1995, re-established her company, and began an extensive teaching and lecturing career throughout the Puget Sound.  She is currently on faculty at Pacific Northwest Ballet School and Spectrum Dance Theater, in addition to working as a guest instructor and commissioned choreographer with dance festivals and companies around the US.  Eva’s approach to choreography evolved from learning the art form in reverse, choreography before technique, and is unique with its intent based in humor and authentic human connection and experience. Among her many accomplishments, in 2018, Stone initiated the nationally recognized choreography program New Voices: Choreography and Process for Young Women in Dance designed specifically for female students at Pacific Northwest Ballet School and in support of building the next generation of female choreographers.

WHAT: National Choreographers Initiative

WHEN: July 24, 2021 @ 8 PM

WHERE: Irvine Barclay Theatre – 4242 Campus Dr, Irvine, CA 92612
This event will be livestreamed in addition to the in-person showcase.

TICKETS:  In-person $45.  To purchase, click HERE.    Livestreaming $20. To purchase, click HERE.

To visit the National Choreographers Initiative website, click HERE.

To see the entire 2021-2022 Irvine Barclay Theatre season, click HERE

Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.

Featured image: National Choreographers Initiative 2020 – Photo by Dave Friedman.