Pursuing Excellence, Uniquely

In January 2009, physics concentrator Merritt Moore '11 traveled to Boise, ID, where leading U.S. choreographer Trey McIntyre created an original solo for her, to be performed later this spring at "Dancers' Viewpointe 10." She reflects on this creative experience, and what made this particular trip so special for her.

In preparation for whatever dance moves Trey McIntyre might throw at me at the end of January, I spent my entire winter break training with the National Ballet of China in Beijing and The Universal Ballet Company in Seoul. I thought the hardcore Communist Chinese training regime as well as the intense Korean program would brace me for anything--even the intense scrutiny of a choreographer/artistic director creating a new work directly on me. Little did I know.

When I danced professionally with the Zurich Ballet Company and performed as a guest artist with Alonzo King Lines Ballet on a tour of Italy last year, the pieces I performed were works created for dancers years ago. Performing works by William Forsythe, Jiri Kylian, and other world-class choreographers was exciting, but nothing matches the thrill of having a choreographer in that league create a piece directly on a dancer.

So you can imagine my excitement when I found out that the OFA Dance Program commissioned Trey McIntyre to create an original solo on me. It is like having the best designer from Ferrari custom-make a car for you. Nowadays, even for the best dancers in the world’s major companies, it is very rare that something is choreographed on them. Trey McIntyre is one of today's most sought-after choreographers. He has created works for the best companies in the world such as the American Ballet Theater, New York City Ballet, and Moscow Ballet Theater. And I, a physics concentrator at Harvard, get an original solo set on me.

So what made working with Trey so much more intense than the hours that I spent in China and Korea training? Trey forced me to explore unconventional and exigent ideas of movement. Most companies demand traditionally-defined technical perfection, and oddly there is something very comforting about striving for this established ideal. But Trey had me explore terrifying boundaries that were unfamiliar and challenging; this, of course, turned out to be the most rewarding. It made me realize why the creative process is so crucial to development. Textbooks can give you information, give you a step-by-step formulaic method of finding a solution, but the creative process forces one to break boundaries, and dare to be uniquely excellent, not cookie-cutter perfect.

[Caption: Merritt Moore '11 performing her original choreography for the Harvard Ballet Company in 2008.]