Sessions in the Studio | Tan Dun and Lauren Lovette

Sessions in the Studio | Tan Dun and Lauren Lovette
Lauren Lovette in rehearsal, photo by Erin Baiano

Lauren Lovette was born in Thousand Oaks, California, and began studying ballet at the age of 11 locally at California Dance Theatre. In October 2009, Lovette became an apprentice with NYCB and joined the Company as a member of the corps de ballet in September 2010. She was promoted to soloist in February 2013 and to principal dancer in June 2015. Her repertoire includes: Balanchine, Robbins, Peck, Wheeldon, Ratmansky, Bournville, and Brandstrup. Lovette received the Clive Barnes Award for dance in December 2012 and was the 2012-2013 recipient of the Janice Levin Award.

Lovette has choreographed two works for New York City Ballet and her third creation, The Shaded Line, will be premiered at New York City Ballet’s Fall Fashion Gala and then join the repertory for the Classic NYCB program. 

For Clara premiered at the Company’s Fall 2016 Gala where Lovette chose Robert Schumann’s Introduction and Concert Allegro, Op. 134, with costumes designed by fashion designer Narciso Rodriguez. For the 2017 Gala Lovette created Not Our Fate set to three movements from Michael Nyman’s Concert Suite from Prospero's Books featuring costumes by Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim of MONSE and Oscar de la Renta.

Watch: For Clara Not Our Fate

For the 2019 Fashion Gala Lovette has created The Shaded Line, a work inspired by Tan Dun’s Fire Ritual - Violin Concerto  a score deeply influenced by ancient Chinese ritual music and court music.

Lauren Lovette
photo by Paul Kolnik

In conversation with Lauren Lovette

Where did you first hear Tan Dun’s Fire Ritual score?

I actually first heard Tan Dun’s score on Spotify while exploring a 'based on what you listen to' playlist. I had been looking for fresh-sounding works for full orchestra, and when I heard the fifth movement of Tan Dun’s 'Fire Ritual,' it completely drew me in, and I added it to my choreographic musical wish list straight away. 

Previously you have used scores by Nyman and Schumann: what elements of the Fire Ritual composition spoke to you creatively for choreographic inspiration?

I love the dark, unexpected elements of this particular piece and feel a great deal of emotion in the violin solos. I wanted to enter new territory creatively by choosing a piece that was so brilliantly unpredictable. I was also drawn to Tan Dun's creative use of percussion with the score's pages being tossed back and forth, and I found his decision to use vocal sound as an added shade of feeling genius.

Are you using all five movements of the score and does the concept relate to ancient Chinese ritual?

Because I had limited time to create the choreography, I decided to request that some sections of the music be reduced so as to keep all the movements, but with an end result of 20 minutes of music to choreograph to. Tan Dun was very generous in allowing us to reshape the piece slightly for the stage. I find his work to have this incredible ability to transport the listener into different colorful worlds. 

The ballet does not specifically reference ancient Chinese ritual. What I took away and what designer Zac Posen took away upon first listening to the score were very different, and I find it fascinating that one piece of art can evoke so many different interpretations. I really responded to the call to change that this music elicits so well. My ballet is an abstract story of how a young dancer can inhabit a world as traditional as ballet, but still live in the empowerment of today. I wanted to raise questions of what we should keep in the past, while expressing hope for the future.

This is your third creation for NYCB’s Fall Fashion Gala, had you chosen the Fire Ritual score before you met with couturier Zac Posen to explore concepts?

Yes! I chose the music first and often do. I find the best way to connect to another creative collaborator is to share inspiration, so I sent Zac Posen the music immediately and he brought me what he saw and heard from his perspective in the world of fashion. We worked through many different ideas over the summer months, and I wouldn’t trade our work together for anything. We have had a genuinely fun time interpreting this music in a different way together.

NYCB is your dance ‘family/colleagues,’ do you create a choreographic vocab prior to being in the studio with your cast or creating ‘your feet’ in the studio?

Every time I have experimented with setting steps outside of the studio without my dancers, I find that it falls flat and doesn’t feel as true to the moment as creating in real time with them personally. That being said, I always have an idea of what I will do before arriving in the space. There is no worse feeling then wasting your collaborators’ time. I can honestly say that I have enjoyed every moment of these weeks leading up to the premiere


Experience a first-of-its-kind retrospective that showcases the incredible artistry of the New York City Ballet (NYCB) Costume Shop. The costumes on display were created for NYCB’s Fall Fashion Gala—one of the most exciting and anticipated events on New York’s cultural calendar. The Fall Fashion Gala was conceived by NYCB’s Board Vice Chair, Sarah Jessica Parker, and launched in 2012 with the legendary designer Valentino. On display is the work of twenty-six top fashion designers who collaborated with Marc Happel, NYCB’s Director of Costumes. Accompanying the costumes are videos documenting each of the collaborations.


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