Q&A: Ida Saki of Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet

Photo courtesy of Cedar Lake.
Photo courtesy of Cedar Lake

Dancer Ida Saki on coming home to her native Dallas and performing with Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet.

Dallas — Dallas is truly a breeding ground for some of today’s most talented dancers. Just ask Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet company member Ida Saki. Born and raised in Dallas, Saki attended Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and Dance Industry Performing Arts Center in Plano before heading to New York to continue her training.

Saki was the only female dancer to be selected by the U.S. Presidential Scholar Program to meet President Obama and be named a Presidential Scholar in the Arts in 2010. She was also named modern dance winner by the National Foundation’s YoungArts, Texas Young Master, Iran’s person of the day as well as New York City Dance Alliance’s outstanding dancer of the year. This is Saki’s first season with Cedar Lake.

TheaterJones asks Ida Saki how it feels to perform with her dream company and how growing up in Dallas prepared her to dance in New York.

Saki and the New York-based Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet will be making their triumphant returns to the Winspear Opera House on Saturday as part of the TITAS season. The one-night only performance includes works by famed Czech choreographer Jiří Kylián, UK-based Hofesh Shechter and Canada’s Crystal Pite.

TheaterJones: How does it feel to be performing in your home town?

I can’t tell you how excited I am! To return to my hometown during my first season with the company, I am just ecstatic. My family, dance studio and peers at Booker T. are also really excited. We have a huge dance community in Dallas and I am so excited to show them what I have been up here in New York.

What was the audition process like for Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet?

I actually started working with the company through workshops and master classes. Instead of auditioning through the company auditions I auditioned for the company’s summer intensive. That’s how I really got to know all the company members and the company director. So, when one of the dancers got injured last year I was asked to assist them in some performances in France and that was kind of my introduction into the company. Through that experience I got to know them better and they got to know me and we’ve just found it to be a really great fit.

How does Cedar Lakes movement fit on your body?

The interesting thing about the company is that it doesn’t focus on one particular movement style or movement genre. They bring in choreographers from all different realms so every single piece is a completely different world. And I think that’s why I’m so intrigued by the company. It wasn’t about doing one movement style that fit me really well and that I enjoyed doing, but it was more of a constant challenge trying to interpret all of these different choreographers’ works.

Did you get to collaborate with any of the guest choreographers?

Every choreographer works differently. We have worked with some choreographers who are very interested in what the dancers’ have to say through their movement, but we have also learned set works like Indigo Rose, which we are performing in Dallas. Another great thing about the company is that we get pre-set works as well as pieces that are created specifically for the company and its members.

How did growing up in Dallas prepare you for your dance career?

Photo courtesy of Saki
Photo courtesy of Saki

My dance studio and Booker T. were both very opened to any kind of career in dance and really any career in life. They prepare you to be a strong individual with self-discipline. They really cultivate all these characteristics that make a great employer or employee. Booker T. was super supportive and really encouraged me to do summer intensives and workshops even if it meant flying up to New York just for a weekend.

Through the dance industry I really found my calling with company work. Cedar Lake came to Dallas one year and that’s when I really fell in love with company work. So, the dance industry actually introduced me to Cedar Lake and through the company I got the education I needed to be successful in that world.

One of the hardest decisions a dancer has to make is whether or not to go to college. What factored into your decision to go to NYU?

That was an extremely difficult decision. I had half the people I was getting advice from telling me that a dancer’s career is short so I should go into it right away; while the other half was telling me there is nothing more important than getting an education. It was a huge dilemma for me, but in the end I decided to go to NYU.

I am a little bit of a nerd when it comes to academics so I knew that moving to New York I needed some structure in order to get acquainted with the city and my new life post parents and post Dallas. It ended up being the perfect fit for me because NYU is extremely opened to the individual just like Cedar Lake is. NYU have so many different individuals and they really cater to each one. So, it was a nice fit because I had structure, but I wasn’t babied at the same time.

What makes Cedar Lake stand out from other dance companies?

It’s a very interesting company and there is not another one like it in the world. You see these 16 individuals who look so completely different, they don’t look the same, they don’t dance the same and they don’t act the same, and cohesively it just works. It’s something you just have to see to believe.

We also have direct access to these European choreographers and the works that they do. A lot of companies especially in the U.S. don’t have that opportunity and so we are really becoming that bridge between Europe and the U.S.

This Q&A was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.


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