The BAE Pre-Professional Division students have had the honor of working with; New York City Ballet dancer, Silas Farley, in his new work, Excelsis. The ballet will have its premiere at the BAE 2020 Winter Performance, at the Ailey Citigroup Theater, February 6-8th. Lucia Betelu, a BAE Level 9 student, interviewed Silas about his history, experiences, and the inspiration for this ballet.
When did you know you wanted to pursue choreography in addition to performing?
From my very first days of dance training, I knew that I wanted to devote my whole life to the art of ballet. So, I wanted to cultivate the different facets of the dance life: dancing, teaching, coaching, choreography, and scholarship. It all feels like one calling to me.
What was your first choreographic experience like?
There was a student choreography program at my ballet school in North Carolina, Charlotte Ballet Academy. We had the chance to perform our own pieces each year. When I was eleven years old, I made my first ballet for that presentation. It was a solo for me, set to gorgeous music by Vivaldi. Baroque scores are still my favorite.
Who are some choreographers that you’ve worked with who have inspired you the most? Why?
When I was ten, I had the honor of originating a solo role in a ballet by Alonzo King. He taught me that ballet was a powerful form of communication and that you had to approach every step with intention and honesty.
I have also had the privilege of participating as either a dancer or an understudy in the creation process of about seven of Justin Peck’s ballets. That has been a wonderful education. I admire the clarity of his thinking, his ability to effortlessly maneuver large groups of dancers, and his keen musicality.
What is your inspiration behind the piece that you are choreographing at BAE?
My inspiration for this piece is the exquisite music by Ola Gjeilo and the beautiful BAE dancers themselves. Gjeilo’s score is a setting of the sacred hymn called the “Gloria.” Much of the sung text has to do with majestic and soaring praise. I have tried to show that in the steps, especially in an extended allegro section.
How does working with professionals differ from working with students?
Most of my ballets use the classical ballet vocabulary. Whether I’m working with professionals or students, I focus a great deal on sharpening their technique. When I work with students, I feel the responsibility of helping them foster their artistry and expression in addition to the more technical coaching.
What are you hoping the audience will experience?
I hope the audience will experience some of the same joy that the dancers and I had in the making of the ballet.
What do you want BAE dancers to take away from this experience?
I want them to feel empowered to “sing” their movements, combining their strong technique with a sense of exultation.
Top photo of Silas Farley with Darla Hoover and bottom photo of Lucia Betelu by Rosalie O\’Connor