This month, The Music Center in Los Angeles is hosting the innovative festival, BalletNow, curated by Tiler Peck. The festival brings a roster of world class ballet dancers together with dancers and choreographers from other dance genres to present a unique vision of what ballet is and can be. The World Dances spoke with The Music Center’s CEO, Rachel Moore, about BalletNow, the Los Angeles Dance scene, her ideas about the future of dance, and more.
What do you think the BalletNow festival will bring to Los Angeles audiences?
It’s an incredible opportunity for the L.A. audiences to see some of the greatest dancers in the world today in several pieces that aren’t seen often in Los Angeles. We don’t see a lot of Balanchine. It’s a chance to see the future and the past of ballet on stage in one program. I’m so excited for what’s going to happen. For example, Michelle Dorrance is a part of this. She’s an amazing tap artist and choreographer, and we’re having her work with ballet dancers! She’ll be dancing with Tiler Peck. The festival is going to be really fascinating.
What makes Tiler Peck special as a program curator?
Tiler has a very open mind about genre. Obviously, coming from New York City Ballet, she’s been exposed to extraordinary artists, choreographers, lighting and costume design, and dancers. She has a real grasp of incredibly high quality ballet. But she’s always explored other areas of the dance world, like Broadway. She understands how exciting diversity is on stage. She’s also an intuitive storyteller as an artist. There’s going to be an arc to each evening and the audience will be going on a journey with her. Story is core to who we are and she brings that to her vision.
What is your vision, as CEO, for The Music Center and dance in Los Angeles?
We really are looking to reframe what it means to be a performing arts center in the 21st century and taking the demographics of L.A. into account. There’s a line from an old song, “the winds in this country blow from west to east.” I think the demographics now in L.A. will be the demographics of New York in years to come. We need to present art that is meaningful to our demographics. We need to be relevant. Having a diversity of styles on the stage with dancers who look like America is crucial to being relevant in our community for advancing dance. If we can’t be relevant to everyone, that’s a huge problem, not just for us but for the art form.
How do you think ballet can become more relevant to more people?
I think that there’s definitely an increased understanding that the ballet world underrepresents of a lot of backgrounds. While there’s been a lot of work done to make sure ballet isn’t just a white European art form—it really is for everyone—we do need to do more. And we need to tell new stories. We need to be updating the classics, reimagining stories, and pushing the field forward. I also think it’s important to be more versatile and integrate different dance styles.
What do you think makes Los Angeles so special as an epicenter of great dance these days?
For people who want to do really interesting, “out there” work, L.A. is a very welcoming place. It’s forgiving and open. New York is an incredible place with access to so many resources and such a history, but sometimes that history does weigh down on you. I think it sometimes feels a little stifling. L.A. is so collaborative. You don’t have that sense of “downtown artist” or “Brooklyn artist.” People are a little more “all together” here.
What have you found most interesting about your role as The Music Center’s CEO?
It’s been fun for me to be able to expand my understanding of different art forms and to get to work with the opera, the philharmonic, and national chorale. I’ve enjoyed getting to know these other disciplines and thinking about how we can bring them together. It’s also been interesting to think about the arts in terms of community or civic engagement, and how we can really use the arts to further broaden goals of democracy, bringing communities together, and exploring what makes us more similar than different in spite of political beliefs or cultural backgrounds.
How are you using dance programming to engage the community?
Reimagining what these facilities are is a good way of engaging the community differently. One of the things we’ve been working on is engaging younger audiences in general. The Music Center, like Lincoln Center or the Kennedy Center, is sort of perceived as a white castle on a hill. How do we get people who’ve never been there to come for the first time? One of the things we’ve done is a program called Sleepless. We open the theaters from 11 at night to 3 in the morning and there is site-specific work throughout. There is slam poetry, dancing, roller disco—there’s diverse and interesting art everywhere. We also have a program called Dance DTLA. We have these giant outdoor dance parties every other Friday. 5,000 people will come to do, for example, Bollywood dancing or silent disco. The arts aren’t only about going into a theater and watching something in silence. That’s wonderful, but you can also experience the arts by dancing yourself, interacting with artists in different ways, and interacting with each other in different ways. We’re trying to be a space where people can do all of this.
Photo: Dance DTLA (Photo courtesy of The Music Center)