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All About ABT Incubator

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All About ABT Incubator

What happens when five promising choreographers are given the freedom to set their wildest ideas into motion with a group of the world’s best dancers? ABT Principal Dancer David Hallberg wanted to find out.

Work in Progress

Zimmi Coker, Xuelan Lu, Virginia Lensi and David Hallberg.
Photo: Samanta Casolari.

Introducing ABT Incubator: a two-week choreographic workshop providing dancemakers with a focused lab designed to generate new ideas and inspire innovative movement.  “It has always been my vision to establish a process-oriented hub to explore the directions ballet can forge, now and in the future,” says Hallberg, Director of ABT Incubator.

Choreographers for the workshop were selected in October by a panel of dance luminaries, including David Hallberg, ABT Artist in Residence Alexei Ratmansky, ABT Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie, Danspace Executive Director Judy Hussie-Taylor and choreographers Jessica Lang and Lar Lubovitch. In partnership with The Howard Hughes Corporation, participants were provided resources including studio space at ABT’s headquarters in New York, a stipend and mentoring to help them create on American Ballet Theatre dancers.

The workshop was held from October 31 – November 10. Read on to see some familiar faces and meet the new talents that made the inaugural workshops of ABT Incubator a success.

Meet the Choreographers

Dancer-choreographer Kelsey Grills is known for integrating dance and media—she’s choreographed for PORTER Magazine and for films by various tech companies and clothing brands. For ABT Incubator, Grills challenged four ABT corps de ballet dancers to explore movement that evokes the human experience in her work, Things We Keep.

Choreographer Gabrielle Lamb is the director of a contemporary dance company in New York, and has won numerous choreography competitions and awards, including the Princess Grace Award for Choreography. While Lamb admits that her “choreography takes ballet technique apart at the seams,” she was impressed by ABT dancers’ ability to transfer “between choreographic languages with grace and humility.”

ABT dancers Sung Woo Han, Duncan Lyle and James Whiteside took the leap from dancing to choreographing with ABT Incubator. Born in Seoul, South Korea, Han became a member of ABT’s corps de ballet in 2013.  Han, a first-time choreographer, was inspired by artwork he saw during a visit to the Museum of Modern Art that Hallberg organized for workshop participants.

Duncan Lyle, originally from Melbourne, Australia, joined ABT’s corps de ballet in 2012.  Lyle finds inspiration not only by listening to the music, but also by studying a physical copy of the score.  His work is also informed by his dancers’ personalities: he found it easy and enjoyable to work with his corps member colleagues Courtney Shealy, Carlos Gonzalez and Tyler Maloney on his ABT Incubator piece, The Same Cage.

Principal Dancer James Whiteside also flexed his choreographic muscles for ABT Incubator.  Whiteside chose friends and fellow Principal Dancers Isabella Boylston, Gillian Murphy and Soloist Catherine Hurlin for his piece, “City of Women,” to classical music by Franz Schubert.  “Schubert is one of my favorite composers,” Whiteside explains. “I wanted to make a dance for people I absolutely live for to music I absolutely die for.”

Ideas in Motion

The workshop culminated on the final day with a private studio showing of the works by ABT Incubator choreographers Kelsey Grills, Gabrielle Lamb, Sung Woo Han, Duncan Lyle and James Whiteside. The evening also included a special showing by ABT Women’s Movement choreographer Gemma Bond.

So what’s next for ABT Incubator? Hallberg has high hopes for growing his vision in the coming years and believes that supporting budding choreographers is an important “investment in the future of dance.”

"It has always been my vision to establish a process-oriented hub to explore the directions ballet can forge now and in the future."

- David Hallberg, ABT Principal Dancer

"ABT has always provided a door into the creation of new choreography. Our mission includes extending the great canon of classical dance. ABT Incubator offers artists the time and resources to experiment, develop and create."

- Kevin McKenzie, ABT Artistic Director

"ABT Incubator embodies our commitment to the exploration of the creative process, and to the unique and vital talents shaping our communities today."

- David R. Weinreb, CEO, The Howard Hughes Corporation


Lead Support for ABT Incubator is generously provided by The Howard Hughes Corporation.

Apparel and footwear provided by Nike.