Jan 12, 2021
This week on 5.6.7.EIGHT, Aleksandra speaks with Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye, Ballet Master at the Oklahoma City Ballet. Originally from central Maine, Ryan began his training at the age of 16. During his run as a professional dancer, he danced for ballet companies across the continent and with some of the most sought-after choreographers in the industry. Most recently, Jolicoeur-Nye left his position as Artistic Director of the NWA Ballet Theatre. Now, he and his wife both hold leadership roles at the Oklahoma City Ballet. On top of all of this, Ryan is an award-winning choreographer, who has created numerous works for a variety of major ballet companies.
At this point in his career, Ryan has held a wide variety of roles in arts leadership, and, on the podcast, he discusses a wide variety of topics, including changes he’d like to see happen in the ballet world, what is inhibiting innovation in the United States, and how to find and act upon one’s passions. Ryan also explains his perspective on what he believes is most important for young dancers looking to break into the ballet industry, which may not be what you’re expecting.
"As a director, the value that I place on my ability to work with someone that is positive and enthusiastic in the studio sometimes outweighs physical talent... Your openness can carry you through your entire career."
"You can learn the technical things. You can't learn the passion."
"Where I don't see a pathway, I try to create one."
"We're not missing passion; we're just missing a willingness to take the risk. As a society, that's something we should be more willing to help people pursue."
"Every artistic director wants something different. Your job [as a dancer] is to give whichever version they want."
"Perhaps performing arts needs to move a bit more in the direction of [technological innovation] ... Creating really brilliant feature films that can live on. The valuable thing about performing arts is that it has one life — you see it on stage, and it will never be the same again. So, there's value in that. But when we're given a [global pandemic], we must move in the direction of virtual creativity with real production value."
"Education should train students for the real-life workforce — for what artistic directors are looking for in a dancer. And I would say, primarily, the answer is versatility."
"In this business, everyone is in your life for a season because dancers move around so often. You get so many different experiences with lots of different people and cultures. That's been a huge guiding force for me in developing myself as a leader, choreographer, and artists."
"A huge challenge that we've faced with dance in the past is getting stuck on the 'right' or 'wrong' ways to do things."
"What we have in the United States is a network of companies that produce the same tapestry of work over and over. So, we're behind the world in innovation and creativity."
Bullet Points (w/ timestamps) - Highlighting key topics discussed:
2:00: Ryan talks about his move from the NWA Ballet Theatre to the Oklahoma City Ballet and his vision for his new company.
4:55: Ryan discusses his ideas behind changing ballet company norms, including shifting traditional contract terms to give dancers more security.
8:11: Ryan describes a flaw in the United States dance and arts sectors which paralyzes many companies from doing truly innovative work.
13:30: Jolicoeur-Nye discusses the most important thing that can be taught to students as a part of dance education.
15:33: Ryan explains what he believes is the most marketable skill for dance students that are looking to break into the industry.
18:42: Ryan discusses his thoughts on whether or not dance teachers should be required to obtain certifications to teach dance classes.
21:01: Ryan describes his personal role models and speaks to the importance of learning from peers as you move from company to company.
24:27: Jolicoeur-Nye explains how to properly adjust to change in a dance career where one may essentially operate as a nomad, moving locations from season to season.
27:58: Ryan discusses the nature of personal passion and how to take action on that which you’re passionate about.
30:03: Ryan shares the story of how he got started in ballet and pushed through adversity to ultimately become what he is today.
Bullet List of Resources –
Oklahoma City Ballet