It's no surprise that New York City is a hotbed for creative innovation. So it's understandable that, after Ballet Austin sent out a nationwide call for dance choreographers to enter their fourth annual New American Talent/Dance series, all three of the finalists chosen to compete in the 40-hour residencies here in Austin call the Big Apple home.
Along with his fellow finalists Gregory Dolbashian and Loni Landon, choreographer Bradley Shelver is an up-and-coming choreographer that can benefit greatly from this competition. Not only will Shelver be able to debut his latest choreographed masterpiece for Austin audiences and an industry-renowned jury on the Long Center stage, but he has the opportunity to walk away with the $24,000 grand prize.
Shelver, who hails originally from South Africa, holds advanced diplomas in Tap, Jazz and Ballet through the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing in London and attended the National School of the Arts in Johannesbug. He is the Artistic Director of the Bradley Shelver Contemporary Dance Theater and on the teaching faculty of The Alvin Ailey School in New York, and still finds time to conduct master classes across the globe.
His international perspective and daring physicality are exhibited in his latest work, set for its world premiere at the Long Center on Feb. 17 - 19. "This piece was inspired by ancient Jewish folklore," Shelver explains. "The story goes that in every generation, 36 men are born and shoulder the responsibility, the pain, the anguish, the disasters that mankind faces."
The piece features all male dancers, providing unique challenges and also some interesting possibilities. As shown in the video above, the rehearsals during the choreographer's 40-hour residency have been grueling and demanding on the dancers.
Ballet Austin company dancer Jordan Moser says, "We knew that it was going to be really aggressive. It was like, awesome, an all men's piece, let's really dig into it. But we were also a little bit scared. The bruises come and go..."
Shelver's work is visceral and urgent, as the assembled dancers thrash and rage and explode against the approach of the impending apocalypse. With such high stakes, the piece is sure to take the audience on an evocative journey with which they may not be familiar .
"I think that some people come to the theater and have a very passive experience with the art. And with this particular project, they can't do that," explains Ballet Austin Artistic Director Stephen Mills. "They have to be engaged, they have to very carefully analyze what they're seeing."
After each night of performances, audience members will be invited to cast their votes via text message as to which choreographer should be declared the winner. In the end, the champion will be awarded the national acclaim and the bragging rights to take back home to New York City.
There are three chances to see New American Talent/Dance at the Long Center for the Performing Arts, Feb. 17 - 19. Tickets are available at the Ballet Austin website, starting at just $15.00.