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Aleisha Walker. Photo: Tina Franklin.
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December 17, 2020
In August 2020, Amy Hall Garner created a new virtual work for ABT Studio Company, Visceral Harmonies, with music by the students of Collective Conservatory. The collaborative work recently premiered online.

"The virtual choreographic process was an eye-opening experience and something new to all of us."

By Aleisha Walker

In August, ABT Studio Company had the opportunity to create a virtual ballet with choreographer Amy Hall Garner, set to music composed by musicians from The Collective Conservatory. This virtual choreographic process was an eye-opening experience and something new to all of us.

During this unusual time, we are extremely fortunate to keep up our ballet training through Zoom technique classes, but it was vastly rewarding to be able to create a piece together again. Participating in a virtual piece is something we never could have imagined pre-pandemic, but we were so grateful for the opportunity.

Aleisha Walker in Amy Hall Garner's <i>Escapades</i>. Photo: Jojo Mamangun.
Aleisha Walker in Amy Hall Garner's Escapades. Photo: Jojo Mamangun.

Most of us in ABT Studio Company have previously worked with choreographer Amy Hall Garner. In the beginning of our 2019-2020 season, she created the ballet Escapades on us during our residency at Kaatsbaan Cultural Park, in upstate New York.

Amy is a very detail-oriented choreographer who always strives to make us better artists. Personally, working with Amy has been very beneficial because she pushes me out of my comfort zone. It was amazing to reunite with her.

In addition to working with an outstanding choreographer, we had the opportunity to collaborate with talented young musicians from The Collective Conservatory, who composed original music to complement our virtual ballet. This was my first time dancing to music that was commissioned specifically to accompany our choreography.

Rehearsal over Zoom for Amy Hall Garner's <i>Visceral Harmonies</i>. .
Rehearsal over Zoom for Amy Hall Garner's Visceral Harmonies. .

The final cut of music was unique and paired well with the movement. It was fascinating to hear the progression of drafts from first to final cut.

We began the virtual piece in August and created the choreography in a span of two weeks. We had rehearsal during the week Monday through Friday for three hours each day. Amy then split these three-hour blocks into rehearsals for small groups and individuals before reconvening us all back together again. This process was similar to how we normally rehearse.

The recording process was new to me, although since the beginning of the pandemic, I have gained more experience filming myself. Because I do not have a mirror in my makeshift home studio, filming has been crucial for me to be able to self-correct. For the filming process, we were given the option to record inside of a studio and/or outdoors. I recorded my sections both in my home studio and outside.

My mom helped me with the recording in my house. It was especially tricky finding ways to film in a smaller area. For the second part of my filming, I filmed outside.

Aleisha Walker in Amy Hall Garner's <i>Visceral Harmonies</i>.
Aleisha Walker in Amy Hall Garner's Visceral Harmonies.

I was on a road trip in Colorado with two of my best friends, so I had plenty of gorgeous spaces to film in. One of the places where I filmed was Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.

There were many people throughout the nature park, so it was challenging finding moments to film without others in the shot.

The experience of working on this virtual ballet was one of the silver linings to an uncertain time.

Aleisha Walker joined ABT Studio Company in 2019.

Watch Visceral Harmonies now!