What goes into creating a new piece of dance?

Colby Damon has been dancing with BalletX since 2008

Dance is an ethereal art form. Even if caught on film, nothing can fully replicate the experience of watching someone dancing live. The process of dance-making can, therefore, be very hard. A choreographer cannot tape a sequence and then go home and edit the steps together in the way they would prefer; the dancer becomes the medium through which the choreographer articulates their vision in real time. During the creation of a new piece, dancers are required to repeat a section twenty or thirty times, replicating steps that tax the body in unusual ways. Often the dancer has no idea how the overall piece looks at all- they are simply one color in the overall palate which is gracing the space. And yet, that is also the excitement and intriguing part of being a dancer taking part in a new creation; you never really know what the piece looks like until you can reflect on it later.

These are the sentiments I am feeling now, working on the BalletX Fall Series, which premieres on November 20th at The Wilma Theater. This show will feature three world premieres, which is a gargantuan feat to accomplish in a month and a half, on a company of 10 dancers.  Because again, we cannot go into rehearsal, learn steps which have already been laid down, and focus on honing and perfecting them; we must first help the choreographer figure out what the steps are, clarify their intent, construct them into a working order, set them to musical cues, and then hone and perfect them. It’s very physically and mentally demanding work. 

And yet, though my body is admittedly hurting right now, there is an immense thrill in the knowledge that this movement is unique to me, that no one has ever moved in this exact way, and that I am helping contribute the realization of someone’s vision. I am a part of something larger than myself, something which I have no way of seeing completely in the present moment, but which I am eager to see wholly. And besides that, the exploration process contains within it gems of ecstatic movement (which are a serious perk of my day job). Who knows what will happen on stage later this month? I hope you will consider taking the ride with me.

BalletX Fall Series is November 20-24 at The Wilma Theater. Visit www.balletx.org for tickets and more information.


Colby Damon has been dancing with BalletX since 2008. He received his training at the Richmond Ballet, the Boston Ballet, and the Virginia School of the Arts and has danced professionally with Sacramento Ballet, Metropolitan Opera Ballet, Mark Morris Dance Group, Amy Seiwert's Im'ig-ery, Northwest Dance Project, Avi Scher and Dancers, and Thang Dao Dance Company, among others. Colby is a student of Chinese language, energy work, and martial arts, and is pursuing his BA in Dance through the New York LEAP program.

BalletX is Philadelphia’s premier contemporary ballet company, performing three times a Season at The Wilma Theater. BalletX unites world-class choreographers with an outstanding company of professional dancers to forge new works of athleticism, emotion, and grace. BalletX is committed to producing new works of the highest quality and integrity that bring the combined visions of choreographers and dancers to life and cultivate in audiences a collective appetite for bold new dance.