Verb Ballets is proud to have dancer Kate Webb step into a different role as choreographer in the studio the week of September 11-18, 2019. Kate Webb has danced with Verb Ballets since 2015. She grew up in Richmond, Virginia where she danced both as a student and as a trainee with Richmond Ballet. This is her fourth work she has choreographed on the company.
In this new work she is creating a new full ensemble ballet to the music of Akron Jazz icon, Pat Pace. Webb’s new work is titled Stellar Syncopations and is inspired by the life cycle of a star. Mirroring the voracious piano, the stars can be placidly smooth, or unexpectedly syncopated. The company premiere will feature live accompaniment by the musicians of the Chamber Music Society of Ohio. The Akron premiere will take place at Tuesday Musical’s Fuze Series on October 10, 2019 at EJ Thomas Performing Arts Hall. This piece was curated with the show honoring the work of Heinz Poll because he also created a work to the same music that premiered by Ohio Ballet in 1982.
Don't miss the premiere!
Tuesday Musical Fuze Series: Akron Legends of Jazz and Dance
Thursday, October 10, 2019 EJ Thomas Hall
Interview with the choreographer
How are you working with the music?
The music has been especially challenging. The best I can squeak out on the piano is chopsticks, so I am no match for the score of Pace Pace’s “Excursions”. However, I am a dancer who appreciates a strong connection between music and movement, so I must know phrasing intimately to generate choreography that naturally responds to the musical accents. This is particularly difficult with “Excursions” because it has so many meter changes and seemingly random overlaying melodies—it has taken me dozens and dozens of hours to map out the music so that I can understand it. I write a lot of notes, make a lot of mistakes, do lots of scratching and erasing, but eventually figure it out. Once I finally internalize a section of music, the movement easily comes to mind!
Your piece is about stars. Where did the inspiration come from?
Ever since I was a little girl I have always taken an interest in astronomy. My dad and I frequented the science museum and used to read “Scientific American” together, so I probably have a bit more knowledge about celestial objects than your average ballerina. When I first heard the music, I couldn’t help but notice the tings and chimes and how they reminded me of a star’s glinting in the night sky. After that thought came to mind, I began visualizing how the various musical movements each seemed to reflect a certain stage of a star’s lifecycle. It was an astronomical idea to abstract a stellar lifecycle, but one that I kept coming back to.
This show features live music—how has that impacted your process?
As a dancer, it is a gift to perform to live music because you collaborate in every moment to make stage magic even richer and more dynamic for the audience. As a choreographer, it is exciting to know that your work will be brought to life in that way, but it also forces you consider other details like cuing (i.e. how the musicians know when to start playing a certain section), tempos, where the musicians are placed in relationship to the dancers, etc. I have attended the musicians’ rehearsals as well as had phone conversations with the flautist, George Pope, to make sure that our line of communication is clear. We will have one rehearsal together at Verb’s studios before moving to the theater.
What is your process in developing a new work?
Usually, I find music that inspires me and see what general theme or idea naturally spawns from it. Then I start playing around with improv while listening to the music, noticing when certain steps or motions are palatable and jot them down in my notebook. I’ll also use my phone or iPad to capture some of my improvisation so I can go back and pull ingredients from it later. Once I have a solid idea of my theme and a well stocked pantry of steps, I get to work cooking them up into phrases of choreography. Once I give the meal to the dancers, I sometimes make tweaks based on what best suits their needs so I can cater to their taste and aesthetic.
What do you always do while stepping into the choreographer role?
I try to be both humble and prepared to lead. I work diligently outside of the studio to make the best use of the company’s rehearsal time leading up to and throughout the rehearsal process so I can create the best work possible in the time given. I also keep my mind open to changes—what you see in your head is often not what comes out in the studio…and sometimes that is for the best!
Is it hard to step out as a dancer and work with your colleagues in a different role?
It is and it isn’t. It throws my headspace off a bit because as a dancer, you are a team player, and it is rarely (if ever) your place to direct the room. I have to do a “mental quick-change” of sorts when I begin rehearsing my piece so that I switch gears to become an effective leader. My colleagues have been incredibly supportive of me in this choreographic role, so that definitely makes it easier. I can’t thank them enough for their patience and empowerment 🙂
Kate Webb grew up in Richmond, Virginia where she danced both as a student and as a trainee with Richmond Ballet. She trained around the country at numerous intensive programs such as Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Boston Ballet, and Complexions Contemporary Ballet. Upon graduating from Appomattox Regional Governor’s School for the Arts, she attended Butler University on both dance and academic scholarships. While dancing with Butler Ballet, she performed in Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. After fulfilling her degree in three years, she graduated cum laude in May of 2015 with a BS in Dance-Arts Administration and high departmental honors. Kate joined Verb Ballets in 2015 and has been featured in works such as Peter Pan and Aposiopesis.