25 Years of Student Choreography

With prolific choreographer George Balanchine as SAB’s co-founder, it should come as no surprise that fostering the future of ballet choreography is of major importance to the School. While SAB’s mission may be first and foremost to train dancers, we also want to ensure that our alumni will have the opportunity to dance in plenty of new ballets in the years to come, as well as established repertory. Seeding choreographic interests is therefore considered a vital component of our students’ training as they reach our advanced division levels. With the aim of nurturing the next generation of choreographers by providing students the opportunity to explore the art of choreography, SAB initiated the annual Student Choreography Workshop.

Established in 1997, the Student Choreography Workshop encourages students from our most advanced levels to try their hand at choreographing an original, short ballet on their peers. The student choreographers have roughly two weeks to put together their pieces before presenting them in a studio showing to SAB Members, parents, faculty and staff. In that time, they must select their music and dancers from the advanced division, choreograph, and rehearse in their limited free time between regular classes and schoolwork. It is no easy task, but the limited time also serves to prepare all the participating students for making and learning new ballets in a company setting, where new works are often mounted surprisingly quickly.

Even with their incredibly packed schedules, the rehearsal period for these new works is one of the creative high points of our Winter Term. Not only are the students learning how to hone their choreographic processes, but rehearsals also give them time to communicate and collaborate with their peers in an innovative and exciting way.

Now in its 25th year, this program has been incredibly impactful – providing students with invaluable learning about the choreographic process as well as helping to launch the careers of some of ballet’s most acclaimed choreographers working today. One alumnus of the program, New York City Ballet’s Resident Choreographer and Artistic Advisor, Justin Peck, returned this year to serve as a mentor to our student choreographers. His expertise and guidance was truly inspirational for this cohort of young choreographers, as he provided them with information about his own choreographic process and encouragement as they experimented with their own.

SAB Alumnus Justin Peck introducing the 2022 Student Choreography Workshop showing

At this year’s studio showing, Mr. Peck shared a bit about his own time as a student participating in the SAB Choreography Workshop. “I have amazingly fond memories of doing this program,” Mr. Peck remarked. “Before I even knew I wanted to become a choreographer, it was my chance to explore the craft of dancemaking…and I took a lot of tools away from that first experience, the main ones being how to communicate with others, how to collaborate with others, and how to connect with my peers. Those are the mantras I’ve tried to impart to the students this year.”

The showings proved that Mr. Peck’s mentorship certainly made an impact, and just as in years prior, the program highlighted the incredible value of the sheer process of choreography.