Segerstrom Center for the Arts celebrates its 30th anniversary this month with Tour de Force III. The program will feature luminaries from across the dance world, including Diana Vishneva, Natalia Osipova, Marcelo Gomes, and many more. The World Dances spoke with Segerstrom’s Executive Vice President, Judy Morr, about the Center’s anniversary, the challenges that dance presenters face, advice for artists, and more. For more about the Tour de Force III program, to be performed on August 27, click here.
Congratulations on the Center’s 30th anniversary! How did you decide the program to celebrate such a milestone?
We’re really happy for the 30th anniversary and we’re really happy about the program. It’s going to be exciting. We’ve worked frequently in recent years with [manager and producer] Sergei Danilian. He and I were talking about what we could do to celebrate the 30th anniversary. I said that I’d love to have a visit from many of the dancers who have been so much a part of our success. What about doing another Tour De Force, Tour de Force III? It’s a combination of the dancers who have been incredibly instrumental in bringing great dance to the Center and new dancers from the Mariinsky, dancers from the Royal Ballet, and many more. It’s a variety that should make for an extraordinary night.
What does this mean to you personally?
I have the best job in the whole world! That’s the truth. I absolutely love dance and believe that the arts are essential to quality of life. For me, it’s work that I adore and I have such admiration for the dancers who give their life to this art form that is unique and special.
What is the greatest challenge you face in your role?
Presenting dance is a responsibility that I take very seriously. It’s a very expensive art form and sometimes the decisions have to be very carefully made—not only what you love and what you think the audience will love or what you’d like them to love. Can you find the resources to make it possible? That’s an ongoing challenge that we face every single day. Finding the resources is very much a part of what we have to do to present great art on the stage. It just isn’t possible to sell enough tickets or charge enough money to make it possible without finding other sources of revenue.
How do you make these difficult decisions, in that case, about what to present?
It has to be forward thinking as well as retrospective of what’s been wonderful in the past. The community around the Center is not unlike other communities around the country in that it’s a changing community. It’s very diverse. All kinds of populations come to the Center. Some have experienced classical dance before and some people haven’t. Each year is an opportunity to start all over again. And it really is an opportunity if you choose to see it as a part of this great plan to make sure the arts stay vibrant and connected to audiences. That’s an honor.
What are you most excited about for the future?
One of the things that I’m most excited about is sort of an internal challenge that we’ve set for ourselves: for every visiting company we have we want to facilitate a connection to the community, be that through master classes, an innovative media program, or social media. With Tour De Force, we’re working on a special project between the dancers and the director of media and special projects at University of California Irvine. Without the pressure of having to deliver a performance, we want to put different creative people together and let them initiate something of importance to them in both the dance field and media. How this is going to happen, I’m not quite sure, because we’re still in the early stages. It will be streamed, but I think the important thing is not to limit their creativity.
What advice would you offer artists trying to get their work presented?
Your have to start small. Nobody starting out can really create a work for a big stage. Every time you make or present a piece, it gets better and better. You need to find a space to create for that within the range of what’s possible and try to expand from there. The best chance is in developing and working with dancers who can act like a company for you, or to find a company that understands that companies today have a responsibility to cultivate new choreographers. I think that’s a critical aspect of what all major companies must do.
What do you think the companies should be doing to help cultivate new choreographers?
I think they’re all working at it. We need to work harder! It’s not just the dancers. We’ve got to create the choreographers that love the work and create new dance. That’s a whole other area that needs support and love. If we care about the arts we have to understand that.
Photo: Tour de Force III - Diana Vishneva in Le Divertissement du Roi. Photo credit: Yulia Plakhotnikova