Q&A: Emilie Skinner of Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet

Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet Co-Founders Victoria Dolph (left) and Emilie Skinner (right)
Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet Co-Founders Victoria Dolph (left) and Emilie Skinner (right)

The co-founder of Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet talks about collaborating with local dance companies and guest artists for its upcoming Spring Mixed Repertoire Concert.

Plano — Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet (DNCB) continues its mission to establish a supportive, healthy environment in which dancers, artists and musicians can express their passion for the arts with its upcoming Spring Mixed Repertoire Concert, April 14 at the Courtyard Theatre in Plano. The program includes new works by DNCB,Collin County Ballet Theatre (CCBT), Danielle Georgiou Dance Group (DGDG) and guest choreographers Anna Ward and Michael Scott.

Growing up, Emilie Skinner trained with Gilbert Rome and Victoria Vittum in Houston. She has performed roles in The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, Giselle and Swan Lake with the Houston Repertoire Ballet. And while her primary training has been in ballet, Skinner also has training in modern, jazz and contemporary dance.

Since graduating from the University of North Texas with a BA in French and a minor in art history, Skinner has been teaching, performing and choreographing in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. In addition to her role as co-founder of Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet alongside Victoria Dolph, Skinner also performs with Contemporary Ballet Dallas.

Theater Jones asked Emilie Skinner about the inspiration behind the Spring Mixed Repertoire Concert, the benefits of working with local dance talent, and what DNCB has in store for the future.

TheaterJones: What was the inspiration for this year’s Spring Concert?

Emilie Skinner: With the exception of our principal dancer, Lea Essmyer, we have a whole new group of dancers this spring, and we wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to bring fresh, new choreography to the stage. Apart from one of my pieces most of the works are more contemporary, which is rather atypical of us. We really wanted to explore and extend our choreographic boundaries in order to show the versatility of our company. Up to this point the majority of our work has been largely classical in style.

What specific works will your company be presenting? Any premieres? Who are the choreographers?

Victoria Dolph has set two new contemporary pieces to the music of Balmorhea, a local band from Austin, and I have three new pieces to present, one of which I am extra enthusiastic about. What a Doll! set to music by Fats Waller is a collaboration between DGDG’s Danielle Georgiou and myself. This piece comments on the increasingly bizarre norms of our society due to the mainstreaming of social media and mounting lack of personal connections, which can result in complete social incompetence. Despite its meaning the piece is fun and quirky and we hope to make the audience LOL.

Courtesy of DNCB
Courtesy of DNCB

We are also featuring three guest companies and works by guest choreographers Anna Ward and Michael Scott. Michael Scott’s piece is a romantic pas de deux performed by company members Jaclyn Brewer-Poole and Brandon Chase McGee. Anna Ward’s piece is set to music by Native American singer Buffy St. Marie and exhibits a primitive nature layered on top of classical choreography. It is conceptually based on a community which has been all but erased from our society, but remains the axiom of the Native American culture.

Have you worked with Collin County Ballet Theatre or Danielle Georgiou Dance Group previously?

Yes, we have worked with both companies. We have performed as guest artists for CCBT and the directors, Kirt and Linda Hathaway, graciously donate rehearsal space to DNCB weekly. My partner Victoria Dolph also teaches and choreographs for the Hathaway Ballet Academy.

We had the pleasure of working with DGDG last spring when they guested as our “moon people” for the premiere of Kaguya-Hime at the Bishop Arts Theatre Center. This section of the ballet was choreographed by Danielle Georgiou and inspired by the Butoh style which originated in Japan in the early 1950s. Ms. Georgiou has also invited DNCB to perform at events such as the HARAKIRI: To Die

For performances at CentralTrak last May and, as I mentioned earlier, is collaborating with us on the upcoming performance on the 14th. We have a great deal of respect for the aesthetics DGDG regularly brings to the stage.

What do you enjoy most about working with other local dance companies?

It is extremely important to us to create opportunities for companies who share our passion for the arts to perform and express themselves. Dallas is full of small, independent dance companies who have a lot to offer, and the best way to generate growth of the dance community and produce quality art is through collaboration. I love seeing what these companies bring to the stage. We are never disappointed.

What challenges can occur when working with guest companies?

Although we have yet to run across this issue (luckily), I always worry about having to pull a guest piece due to artistic differences or for any other reason. We try to work with companies who share similar goals with DNCB in order to avoid uncomfortable situations such as this.

What piece(s) are you most looking forward to seeing?

I suppose I am anticipating seeing my pieces the most and to see what kind of feedback I receive just for my own personal reflection and growth as a choreographer, but I am really excited to see the whole show come together. With all new works there’s no way to foresee how the audience will react or what kind of review we will get, which is both exciting and a little scary.

Courtesy of DNCB
Courtesy of DNCB

What would you like the audience to take away from the performance?

I would love for them to come away with a sense of satisfaction; for them to feel they witnessed a full range of dance and passed an evening well-spent supporting the arts.

What can we expect to see from Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet in the future?

We’ve been around for just about a year and half and already I feel we have proven ourselves to be a well-rounded company. We started off performing short pieces at the MAC, Texas Theatre and CentralTrak and premiered our first original ballet, Kaguya-Hime, last spring. We have a strong group of dancers that is continuously growing. We plan to continue creating new works and perhaps take on another new full length in the not-so-distant future. We are gaining momentum and only hope to keep developing, creating and performing in order to fulfill our mission as a company.

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

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