SEATTLE DANCE COLLECTIVE‘S NEXT CREATION FOR THE SCREEN WILL BE A SOLO WORK FOR SARA MEARNS, CHOREOGRAPHED BY BOBBI JENE SMITH. DUE TO PREMIERE THIS SPRING, SARA AND BOBBI HAD JUST BEGUN THE CREATIVE PROCESS IN NEW YORK AT THE TIME OF THIS WRITING.
We can all agree that the COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the hardest things to navigate in our lifetime. For Sara Mearns, Principal dancer with New York City Ballet, the beginning of the shutdown happened just at the height of her physical career. “I was exactly where I wanted to be physically and mentally. I was at such a high place that I wasn’t able to understand what was going on. I couldn’t believe that all of a sudden everything was just stopping.”
Although this is her first time working with SDC, Sara has been creating work for herself since last July. She built a studio in her second bedroom where she has spent all her free time. Around the globe there may have been a lull, but Sara never stopped. She was hustling - as New Yorkers do - to make things happen, even when it seemed impossible.
“With the connections I’ve made outside of NYCB, I was able to connect with people, institutions and collaborators, to make a lot of things happen last fall. I couldn’t believe how busy I was doing different projects, new creations and films. I couldn’t fit it all in at some points.”
For SDC’s current project, Sara is collaborating with former Batsheva dancer, Gaga teacher, and choreographer, Bobbi Jene Smith. “Bobbi has been on my radar for many years. We’ve always been in each other's world but never connecting. It’s never been the right moment to ask her to do something.” Schedules finally aligned when the SDC opportunity came along and they jumped at the chance to connect and create something together.
The style of this new work fits in the contemporary vein, which Sara often turns to during her NYCB lay-off periods. “I’ve joked that when I’m on lay-off I never put my pointe shoes on! It’s really hard to create anything ballet right now because you have to have a certain type of floor for pointe shoes, adequate space, and a sprung floor for jumps. I’ve been able to do a couple of pointe shoe pieces, but whether it’s sneakers, barefoot, flat shoes, or high heels, it is easier to do that right now.”
It seems that making dance films is one of the few ways to create and share art right now. Sara was drawn to work with Bobbi for many artistic reasons, but she also knew that Bobbi is well connected with skilled craftsmen in the film industry. Sara says, “I have people that I can go to that know about live performing and making a production [for the stage], but not necessarily a film. I am really lucky that Bobbi has that circle around her already.”
It is difficult to look into the future right now with so many unknowns, but Sara is doing everything in her power to make things happen while we wait. “We don’t know until we are there. We have to change our mentality about how we go about presenting dance and how many ways it can be done. We have to make people feel comfortable because we rely on all of those ticket sales to be able to run. It’s a huge uphill battle.”
Many artists may relate to Sara’s hard work ethic and it is these people that will carry this art form into the future. “I can’t deal with just stopping, because I’m healthy and able to dance, so I’m going to find ways to do it.”