Ballet Austin: So you think you can choreograph

Caroline Sutton Clark, Kennesaw State University


From 2006 to 2014, the professional US company Ballet Austin hosted an ambitious biennial competition, New American Talent/Dance, as an experimental platform to support “emerging” choreographers. However, after five seasons of this competition and despite self-reported success in meeting project goals to provide new learning experiences for participating choreographers, dancers, and audiences, Ballet Austin suspended the event. The reasons behind this decision, along with the insights gained through the process of producing these shows, reveal dimensions of US contemporary ballet in practice. This chapter illuminates how ballet pedagogy often fails the needs of contemporary ballet artists in the education of both future choreographers and the dancers who work with them, impacting not only the lives and careers of these artists but also, more generally, field aesthetics and development. The research further describes how audiences judged emerging choreographers, an analysis that may inform future lines of inquiry with regard to contemporary ballet and the sustainability of the field in the United States.