Two Choreographers Come Together at Joyce

Written by Susan Reiter on . Posted in Arts & Film, Dance.


If you’re a freelance choreographer, you go where the work is. For Peter Quanz, that has meant trips to Cuba, Siberia and Hong Kong. Jodie Gates’ choreographic assignments have taken her to Berlin and many U.S. cities, including Washington, D.C., Denver and Philadelphia. Both have found a home base from which to coordinate and balance their travels, and this weekend, both are getting a brief but significant New York showcase for their recent works.
The enterprising Gotham Dance Festival has paired these two choreographers for a Joyce Theater program that gives three different companies a chance to be seen by local audiences. Quanz’s Q Dance is affiliated with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet (RWB), performing programs of his choreography in between seasons by the main company. Q Dance will offer two of his recent works: Luminous, to music by Canadian composer Marjan Mozetich, and In Tandem, to Steve Reich’s Double Sextet. Gates’ half of the program will feature her two most recent works: Embellish, performed by Colorado Ballet, and Delicate Balance, performed by the Philadelphia-based BalletX.
In separate phone interviews, the two choreographers spoke admiringly of each other and the process of planning the program; they look forward to finally meeting at the Joyce this week. Quanz spoke from Winnipeg, his home base since he formed Q Dance in 2010, while Gates was in her office at University of California at Irvine, where she is a professor in the dance department. She also founded and directs the annual Laguna Dance Festival.
Both have been increasingly busy choreographing over the past decade, but most of their work is seen outside of New York. Quanz did create Kaleidoscope for American Ballet Theatre’s 2005 City Center season, and In Tandem was made for the Guggenheim’s Works & Process series in 2009. Gates’ work has been seen here in the repertory of ABT II and Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet.
Quanz, a Canadian in his early thirties, trained at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, where he began choreographing very early, and danced with Stuttgart Ballet. But he always knew choreography was his passion, and it has been his focus since 2002.
He has made works for such eminent companies as the Kirov Ballet and National Ballet of Cuba, and last year made a full-evening work for Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. But with Q Dance, which makes its New York debut with these performances, he has established something special.
“Q dance is basically a lab for me to develop repertory that may or may not enter the RWB repertory,” he explained.
When he graduated from the Winnipeg school in 1999, he didn’t expect the city to become so central to his creative life. But after earlier choreography for the company, he developed an association that led to this unique arrangement, an opportunity to work with up to 25 Winnipeg Ballet dancers and cultivate an ongoing connection, rather than the fly-by-night experiences he has as a guest choreographer.
“Having this really intimate knowledge of this group of people allows me to go into material in a far deeper way than I ever could as a guest,” he said. “I have grown tremendously from this company, from this group of dancers—and I really believe in them.”
In Tandem was made with RWB dancers, and four of the original six will perform it here. Having created it for the intimate, uniquely shaped theater at the Guggenheim, Quanz has since developed and adapted it further. He also staged it for a program of his work by a Siberian company that performed it on the Bolshoi stage.
Quanz’s Luminous, a work for eight dancers made for the Hong Kong Ballet, takes its inspiration from Mozetich’s “very emotional” music and a quote from Michael Onddatje’s The English Patient. “Each dancer has two duets with different partners. I’m trying to show how each partner brings out different qualities of those dancers,” he said.
Gates’ two works showcase contrasting sides of her choreography. A leading dancer with the Joffrey Ballet from 1983 to 1995, she went on to perform with Pennsylvania Ballet and Frankfurt Ballet before leaving the stage in 2004, so her work incorporates many varied influences.
“For BalletX—a wonderful company with well-rounded dancers—I made a very contemporary work for all 10 company members to scores by various contemporary composers,” she said. “The Colorado Ballet piece, for 12 dancers, is more neoclassical: on point and utilizing the ballet idiom. I had never choreographed to Mozart, and I chose selections from a variety of his scores. The ballet is whimsical; I had a wonderful time playing with classicism.”
In these two complimentary recent works, Gates feels she’s found her own choreographic voice. “Yes, I’ve been influenced by many great master dance makers whose works I performed. But I think these works really represent more distinctively who I am.”

Peter Quanz & Jodie Gates
June 2, 8 p.m. & June 3, 2 p.m., Joyce Theater, 175 8th Ave. (at 19th St.), www.joyce.org; $10–$39.

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