The first institute devoted to the study of ballet within the humanities will be established at New York University starting fall of 2014. Launched by former dancer and renowned historian Jennifer Homans, with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Center for Ballet and the Arts at NYU is an international institute for scholars and artists of ballet and its related arts and sciences.
Its mission is to inspire new ideas and new dances, expanding the way we think about ballet and bringing vitality to its history, practice, and performance in the 21st century.
“Ballet today is adrift, in part because it is perceived as elite and inaccessible,” said Dr. Homans. “Our goal at the Center for Ballet and the Arts is twofold: to break open the increasingly narrow world of ballet as a performing art and bring to it new ideas and the full resources of a major resource university, and to bring ballet into the university as a serious subject of study and research, establishing it as a field within the arts and sciences.”
The new Center will approach the study of ballet by drawing fellows from around the world and across a wide range of fields with a shared passion for and interest in the history and practice of ballet. Initial funding for the Center has been provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which will enable the Center to fund five full fellows and several associate fellows for the upcoming semester, in addition to developing other programs. The Center’s fall 2014 fellows will include:
• John Carrafa, director/choreographer
• Gregory Mosher, Professor of Professional Practice, Columbia University, School of the Arts; producer, director
• J. David Velleman, Professor of Philosophy and Bioethics, New York University
• Heather Watts, dancer, educator, arts advocate
• Frederick Wiseman, filmmaker
• Christopher d’Amboise, director/choreographer (associate fellow)
• John Michael Schert, Visiting Artist and Social Entrepreneur, The University of Chicago (associate fellow)
“Homans’s book Apollo’s Angels brilliantly traces the social and cultural significance of ballet and delineates the causes of its current state of drift and malaise,” said Reynold Levy, President of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts from 2002-2014 and a member of the Advisory Board for the Center. “We believe the Center will bring to ballet the kind of research and debate it needs and deserves. By embracing scholars and practitioners from many disciplines, we aim to help invigorate the art form.”
In addition to Levy, other Advisory Board members include an eclectic mix of influential academic and cultural leaders, including architect Elizabeth Diller, historian Simon Schama, designer Isaac Mizrahi, choreographers William Forsythe and Mark Morris, and filmmaker Frederick Wiseman. In addition to its Resident Fellows program, the Center’s initial programs include public conversations between artists and intellectuals across a range of fields and the Lincoln Kirstein Lecture, a major public lecture to be delivered annually on the subject of dance. The inaugural Lincoln Kirstein Lecture will be held in the fall of 2015 and will feature Helen Vendler, Arthur Kingsley Porter University Professor at Harvard University, speaking on poetry and dance. The Center will also host open ballet master classes taught by accomplished choreographers, followed by a discussion with scholars and/or artists from different fields.
The Center hopes to develop collaborations nationally and internationally with other arts organizations interested in expanding ballet and has several projects in the works. Its first joint event will be a conversation with choreographer and MacArthur Fellow Alexei Ratmansky, moderated by Paul Holdengräber as part of The New York Public Library’s LIVE from the NYPL series. The event will take place on October 8th at 7 p.m. Visit here for more information.
The Center for Ballet and the Arts will mark its official opening on September 22 with a presentation by Jennifer Homans followed by a master class and discussion with choreographer Mark Morris. Space is limited; press pass requests for attendance should be sent directly to Shonna Keogan at firstname.lastname@example.org.