Ballet, choreography, and finding your place in the world with Claudia Schreier

“Once I left college, I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do. And I think for a lot of “former dancers” that becomes an issue, because when you’ve put every fibre of your being into your art form since whenever you started – at 3, 5, 13, or whatever – ballet is all-encompassing in a way that can be compared to training to become a professional athlete, or a professional musician. It takes up everything in you mentally, physically, emotionally and beyond.

So when you lose that part of your identity, in a way it’s really hard to recalibrate… College becomes a buffer in a way, and when you exit that scene it can be hard to really figure out who you are, and there isn’t really a whole lot of time to do it because everyone around you is going to med school or law school or doing banking… and you’re kind of grappling with who you were, who you are and who you want to be.”

Claudia Schreier is a choreographer who has been commissioned by organizations including the Vail Dance Festival, New York Choreographic Institute, and Joffrey Winning Works and has upcoming commissions with Ballet Hispánico and Dance Theatre of Harlem. But there was a time before all these accolades when she was working 9 to 5 in arts management, and finding time to create ballet on the side. 

Claudia and I met in 2015 when my choir, Tapestry, sang behind Claudia’s dancers for her piece Vigil (which you can watch here!). It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever had the privilege of helping to create. This was also one of the pieces that helped Claudia to launch her choreography career. Since 2015, Claudia Schreier & Company has presented several evening-length performances of her choreography and in 2017 made its Joyce Theater debut, featuring dancers from New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Miami City Ballet, and other leading companies. 

In today’s episode, Claudia and I chatted about how she became a professional choreographer and where her work has come in the last few years. A few key themes that came up in our conversation were:

  • The importance of academic pursuits to balance artistic pursuits.
  • The benefits (and necessity) of working in arts management while building your artistic career
  • Learning how to take care of yourself while giving 110% to your art when the work starts to pick up.

Ms. Schreier serves as Ballet Master and Rehearsal Associate to Damian Woetzel and has contributed to The Kennedy Center Honors and programs at the White House, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and New York City Center. She is the recipient of the 2017 Virginia B. Toulmin Fellowship at the Center for Ballet and the Arts at NYU and the 2017 Lotos Foundation Prize, and she received a B.A. from Harvard University in 2008. To learn more about Claudia you can check out her website, claudiaschreier.com, and follow her on Facebook at Claudia Schreier Choreography or on Instagram @claudiaschreier.

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