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Postcard from New York City: Valerie Harmon Dances in the Big Apple

ValIf I had to sum up my summer experiences thus far in one word, it would be “inspiring.” I’ve had the privilege of working with choreographer Darrell Grand Moultrie for the last few weeks in New York for an exciting performance at Summerstage in Central Park. You may remember his new work, Frequencies Lit, from Three performed this past spring. Darrell hand-picked a group of dancers from all over the country to be a part of this performance, and it includes Josh Reynolds and myself from Milwaukee Ballet.

We are quite a hodgepodge of dancers coming from Ballet West, BalletMet, the Juilliard School, Alvin Ailey, freelance artists, Oklahoma University, a previous So You Think You Can Dance contestant and more! I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to work with people from so many different backgrounds. There is always so much to learn from everyone you meet, and I have to say that every single one of these artists is supportive, intelligent, driven and talented. It is also amazing how small the dance world is—almost every single one of the people I’ve met has worked with other dancers I know at some point!

There are certainly challenges to working with such a mixed group, but they are all wonderful challenges. Since we all have different movement styles, making ensemble pieces look clean and together can be a Threechallenge. In a company you have the advantage of seeing each other every day and getting used to the manner in which everyone moves. That can make the rehearsal process a bit easier because you know what to expect from everyone. But a process like this requires that your eyes and ears are always open, and more importantly that you are always willing to experiment with movement and push your own comfort zone. I think this is what makes it so fun though! Everyone brings different strengths to the table, and while this is the case at our beloved Milwaukee Ballet, it is a wonderful eye opener to learn from new people. After all, isn’t pushing your comfort zone the best way to progress?

Rehearsal space in New York can be hard to come by as well, so we really have to make the most of all of our time. It’s not unusual for us to “split the room” so multiple groups of people can be working together at the same time. Also, since everyone has varied schedules and commitments (mostly those living and freelancing in New York) there have been many days where not everyone can be there. This means we all have to know choreography and corrections inside and out in order to catch everyone up when they are there.

Darrell’s piece is a combination of several musical pieces that all represent various important parts of his life as a dancer/choreographer/person living and working in New York. Every piece is different from the one before so there is certainly something for everyone! It is fun for the dancers, as the music varies from Vivaldi, to a local DJ’s podcast, to a beautiful rendition of Wonderful World with dancers both on and off pointe throughout. Did I mention we’re performing in Central Park?! I don’t think it can get more fun than that!

Since we have all summer off from Milwaukee Ballet, this is the perfect opportunity to grow as an artist, and become inspired and motivated by new people. Darrell chose this group with the awareness that everyone brings something special to the table and now it’s up to us to make the most of all the talent and joy of dance that are among these people. I hope to bring some of this inspiration and perspective back to Milwaukee with me and let it be a driving force for all of my work for the coming season. It’s certainly been an experience different from the norm for me, but one I wouldn’t trade for anything!