In the second part of our interview series, we’re thrilled to introduce you to two of our new Emerging Artists! Many thanks to our sponsor for this interview series, ZLC Financial.
Sarah Pippin graduated from The Juilliard School in May 2020. She is a National YoungArts winner and the recipient of the Irving B. and Joan W. Harris Endowed Scholarship and the 2020 Martha Hill Award from Juilliard.
Jacob Williams performed in musical theater for many years, until he found a love for dance at the age of 16. In 2018, he joined the Arts Umbrella Graduate Program, Ballet BC’s training school, where he graduated in June.
Kristen Lawson met with Sarah and Jacob over their lunch break on October 29, about three weeks after they started their season with Ballet BC.
How did you learn about the Emerging Artist position, and what made you want to pursue this as a next step in your career?
Sarah: A lot of the people in classes above me at school were auditioning for Ballet BC. I heard about this position through them. We get to be immersed with the full company members. I was really excited to be able to dive into that process, and still be given space to find my way into working full time in this profession.
Jacob: I found out about Ballet BC by watching videos on YouTube. It’s a wonderful opportunity to get to work with a company that has such a diverse repertoire, and engaging artists.
So what was the transition like moving from a shortened school year due to the pandemic and then into working in-studio with professional dancers?
Sarah: It was very jarring. I never got to see my classmates again. There was this period of having to sit with the uncertainty, and try to let go, be present in the moment, and hope that things would work out. Thankfully they did! Ballet BC was able to move forward in offering artist contracts, and I was able to accept.
Being in this new space — it’s surreal. We started quickly, diving right into the work. Months ago, at home, I didn’t have a space that I could dance in, and I missed moving with other bodies in space. I keep reminding myself to practice gratitude. I’m so thankful to have this time being able to dance and work with the company.
Jacob: As dancers, we have this hyper fixation on getting a career, and having a job. We have all this momentum built up from constantly working, training, going to summer programs. It’s really rare to have this time to reflect on our motivations and inspirations as artists. It’s easy to lose yourself within the pursuit of this career — constantly training and trying to achieve great dance. I’m trying to take the time to find myself, to hold onto those initial passions that set me on this journey. It’s easy to become overwhelmed now that we’re back on a tight schedule. It’s been challenging, but also really wonderful so far.
You’ve only had a few weeks with us, but what has been your biggest takeaway so far?
Jacob: Holding true to your identity as an artist, and trusting your collaborators to see that, and accept it. As I’m new to the company, I feel all these pressures to prove my value to the room. Honouring my integrity as an artist, and the things I want to present in my art, not the things that are the most impressive, or showy. There’s something so valuable in someone who’s so invested in the things that they’re bringing forth into the room. You are more than enough.
Sarah: As we see COVID cases in some places going up again, it’s made me so grateful I am able to be doing this, and able to be in a profession where I get to connect with other people. When I was home with family I missed being able to connect through movement. Even though we’re maintaining six feet, and we can’t connect in the normal ways, just to be moving in unison, and sharing energy together in one space, has been really special.
Which choreographers inspire you?
Sarah: So, so many choreographers! Ohad Naharin, Sharon Eyal… a lot of the choreographers Ballet BC brings in. I grew up at a studio where I trained in a bunch of styles so I’m drawn to many different choreographers with different things to offer. I love not only watching the work, but also embodying it, and finding the different dynamics inside it.
Crystal Pite is the first choreographer I was really drawn to. I remember watching Crystal’s work and being so captivated, and inspired, and seeing a kind of dance that I just felt so connected to in such a visceral way. We’ve gotten the opportunity to have workshops with her this week, and it’s been this huge dream to be able to work with her in the studio.
Jacob: Crystal has also been a huge influence on me, especially at Arts Umbrella. Having the opportunity to work with her on such a personal level, with such regularity, has been a blessing. I’m so grateful to get to experience her point of view on dance. I really enjoy the theatricality of Crystal’s work, and Alan Lucien Øyen. I love to be dramatic in my dancing, to really connect emotionally.
Also choreographers like Sharon Eyal and Marco Goecke. They are both so idiosyncratic in the way they create work, and the way they’re so true to themselves and their passions. That’s what’s most exciting about dance, really seeing these different choreographers perspectives on movement, and the world.
Sarah: I will also add Pina Bausch.
Sarah: She’s one that I love, love, love, love, and I couldn’t leave her out!
What are you most looking forward to this season?
Jacob: I’m excited to see the collaboration that can happen between all of us. I missed being able to collaborate with other people when we were all stuck in our homes. Medhi‘s asking for our voices, and for our ideas to be present in the room, even as emerging artists. I’m grateful to be here at this time, with this new artistic director. It’s an exciting moment to define the next steps for the company.
I’m also looking forward to doing some repertoire. I want nothing more than for someone to set a phrase on me. There were times during the pandemic that I became creatively exhausted, trying to create by myself or with other people over video. It’ll be nice to find myself within the rigour of a set piece of choreography.
Sarah: It’s super exciting, the fact that we’re having to take it a day at a time, a week at a time, because we don’t know what’s going to happen in a month. It’s also scary, but it’s fun to be a part of the ride alongside everyone else. It’s been a great opportunity for us to get to know Medhi, and to have this intimate time with him that might not have otherwise happened. As far as the rest of the season, definitely there are hopes for the pieces that we’ll be able to learn, and that the company will hopefully be able to perform. It’s really exciting to have the opportunity to question, and innovate.
By Kristen Lawson, Ballet BC Marketing Coordinator
Support for this interview series is generously provided by ZLC Financial