BWW Blog: Christine Chen of ARB - Alexander Dutko on Becoming The Firebird for the World Premiere of Douglas Martin's FIREBIRD

BWW Blog: Christine Chen of ARB - Alexander Dutko on Becoming The Firebird for the World Premiere of Douglas Martin's FIREBIRD

Alexander Dutko on Becoming The Firebird for the World Premiere of Douglas Martin's Firebird

"It's been a bathtub week."

I met ARB Dancer Alexander Dutko (Alex) last Friday morning before class to talk about how he's been taking on the challenge of being cast as The Firebird for Douglas Martin's newest premiere. The company had only been rehearsing the new ballet for four days, but even though the choreography is still brand new in his body, it was clear Alex had been thinking deeply about how he was embodying the physicality and character of this quintessential role.

Alex may be best known to ARB fans for his unmatched pirouetting pyrotechnics, but it is his artistry - the intensity of his gaze and intention, his ability to expand every line through space, and the way he oozes organically from one movement to another while never straying from his impeccable technique - that keeps your eye on him, even when he is standing still. No doubt, this is why Artistic Director Douglas Martin thought of Alex when he decided to tackle The this spring - despite the fact that a female ballerina traditionally performs the role.

Still, Douglas and Alex are both taking this gender reversal in stride, seeking to capture the essence and power of the mythical creature, rather than focus on its gender. Alex points out that, as an animal, birds are typically as androgynous as they come (with apologies to male peacocks and their beautiful plumes).

Alex never grew up dreaming of being chosen to play the role, as some young girls do, and though he saw many New York City Ballet performances while a student at the School of American Ballet, he never actually saw The Firebird when he had the opportunity. He does, however, remember his first encounter with the ballet: While reading Gelsey Kirkland's memoir Dancing on my Grave, he saw a picture of the young ballerina getting a fitting for The Firebird - a role George Balanchine created for her. The image he says, engrossed him. "It made an impact on me - I saw the Firebird as one of the most glamorous roles."

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Guest Blogger: Christine Chen Christine Chen, former American Repertory Ballet Executive Director, joined ARB after a career in the dance world as a performer, choreographer, journalist, educator and manager. She is now Director of Adult Programs at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan, where she lives with her family.

Chen led ARB through a financial turnaround to three straight years of surplus budgets, while also expanding the company's artistic and educational programming. She left the organization at the end of January 2014 following a landmark year which saw the premiere of two major works by Artistic Director Douglas Martin as well as a record-breaking 50th Nutcracker season.

Chen received her early dance training at the Princeton Ballet School, and was a member of the school?s pre-professional division. After earning her undergraduate degree at Princeton University and her MFA in Dance at the Ohio State University, she began her professional performing career in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she danced with AXIS Dance Company, Flyaway Productions, Dandelion Dance Theater, Paufve Dance and other independent choreographers. Christine joined New York-based STREB, an "extreme action" company in 2003. With STREB, Christine toured nationally and internationally, performed on Late Night with David Letterman and was featured in Cirque du Soleil's production of Midnight Sun. While performing, Christine worked as Programs Manager at STREB and Development and Communications Manager at Flyaway Productions; was a columnist for several print and online publications; and taught in many public and private schools and universities throughout the San Francisco Bay and the New York Metropolitan areas.

After retiring from performing, Christine earned her MBA at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management while working in Marketing at the Napa Valley Opera House and consulting at other arts and advocacy organizations. She was recently one of 10 artists featured in Dance Magazine and Dance Teacher Magazine's "Beyond Performance" Supplement, on the lives of dancers post-performance.

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