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Ballet Austin's New American Talent/Dance competition puts finalists' fate in audience's hands: Meet finalist Gregory Dolbashian

Austin Photo Set: News_caitlin_ballet austin_gregory dolbashian_jan 2012_1
Austin Photo Set: News_caitlin_ballet austin_gregory dolbashian_jan 2012_2

At a high-art performance such as the ballet or the symphony, you wouldn't dare reach into your bag or pocket and pull out your cell phone. However, next month, Ballet Austin is asking its audience to do just that. 

For Ballet Austin's 4th biennial New American Talent/Dance competition, audiences will assemble to watch three performances choreographed by this year's finalists. The live audience, accompanied by an industry-renowned jury, will then cast its votes by text message. At stake for the choreographic finalists is $24,000 in cash prizes. 

When the program began in 2006, Ballet Austin’s New American Talent/Dance forged a then unheard of model in this country: "investing in American choreographers by giving them significant studio time with world-class dancers and artistic staff, along with major cash prizes as decided upon by a nationally renowned jury and a live voting audience."

The idea came to Artistic Director Stephen Mills in response to a need to expose new, emerging choreographers and provide resources to those artists's voices.

This year, all three finalists hail from New York City, and as part of the New American Talent/Dance competition and performance preparation, the three finalists are currently completing 40-hour choreographic residencies with Ballet Austin Company dancers and artistic staff. CultureMap will highlight each finalist over the coming weeks.

Our first finalist, Gregory Dolbashian, Founder of The DASH Ensemble, is no stranger to the stage, having made his debut at age eight in a world tour of Einstein on the Beach. Even so, he says he didn't truly become serious about dance until he was 18-years-old. 

"I grew up playing a ton of sports — I was a big jock — and dance was the best way to be artistic and athletic at the same time," Dolbashian says.

He later graduated cum laude from SUNY Purchase dance conservatory and served as resident choreographer for several Ballet Chicago seasons.

The work that he's creating while in Austin for New American Talent/Dance pays homage to eye-opening experiences — and not always the positive kind. Rather, "It's about how those forces in our lives wake us up to things," he explains.

The Ballet Austin Company dancers working with the finalists applaud how the New American Talent/Dance choreographic competition pushes them as dancers to move and perform in ways they did not think physically or emotionally possible.

Stay tuned to CultureMap, and we will introduce you to the Dolbashian's competition: Loni Landon and Bradley Shelver. After all, you'll have the chance to decide their fate.

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Tickets are for performances are available for $15 - $74 at www.balletaustin.org. The competition will run at The Long Center from Feb. 17 - 19. 

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