Amy Seiwert serves as the artistic director and primary choreographer of the San Francisco contemporary ballet company, Imagery. Her collaborations with artists of other disciplines and commitment to experimental work from a classical base make her a unique voice in the Bay Area dance community. As Rita Felciano wrote in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, “She quite possibly is the Bay Area’s most original dance thinker, taking what some consider a dead language and using it as a 21st century lingo to tell us something about who we are.” She was named one of “25 to Watch” by Dance Magazine, one of the “Hot 20 under 40” by 7×7 Magazine, was honored with a “Goldie” award from the Guardian, and twice her choreography has been listed in the “Top 10” dance events of the year by the San Francisco Chronicle. Twice she has worked with dancers from the New York City Ballet, participating in the NY Choreography Institute at the invitation of Peter Martins. As a dancer with Smuin Ballet she was mentored under the wing of the late Michael Smuin, and keeps a relationship with the company as their Choreographer in Residence. In addition to creating for Imagery and Smuin, she has been commissioned by Ballet Austin, BalletMet, Robert Moses KIN, Alaska Dance Theater as well as the repertory ballet companies of Washington DC, Atlanta, Oakland, Kansas City, Sacramento, Colorado, Louisville, Cincinnati, Oklahoma City, Dayton and Milwaukee. She is honored to be an Artist in Residence at the ODC Theater.
Artist Questionnaire for Double Exposure
How long have you been making your own work as a choreographer? How long have you been making work on the West Coast?
I choreographed my first ballet when I was 16. It wasn’t any good, but I was incredibly fortunate to be at a performing arts high school where we had the resources to create. It’s only as an adult I realize what a gift that was.
I moved to Sacramento in 91, then to San Francisco in 99. I’ve been creating on and off that whole while.
Who generally performs your work – yourself, your company, a pick-up company, other companies, etc.? How collaboratively do you work with your dancers?
I do a lot of commission work, where I travel to a city, live in a hotel for a while, and create on the city’s resident ballet company. There are incredible dancers across this country, in every situation I’ve found at least one artist who completely rocks my world. I also have my own company, Imagery. These dancers will play an important role in my creative process. I seek out critical thinkers who are willing to leave their comfort zone and who will delight in risk and breaking preconceptions of what ballet is and can be. Although this mindset is very common in the modern dance world where invented language supersedes received language, it is not something often asked from ballet dancers. Together, we create a unique company culture that allows everyone to thrive.
Describe your aesthetic or choreographic style.
I’m a ballet choreographer. I spent 19 years as a professional ballet dancer. I view my art form with a curiosity of where this language I love can go. In creation, I am comfortable utilizing the methodologies of modern choreographic craft. And I have a commitment to exploration.
It’s interesting, modern dance choreographers have been working with ballet companies in increasing numbers both here and abroad. What is less common is happening here, a ballet choreographer working with a modern company.
Who would you describe as your most important influences in the dance field? How would you define your artistic lineage, if any?
Having had a pretty long career, there are still a lot of physical influences in my body of the work I danced – Michael Smuin and George Balanchine predominantly. I also had exceptional coaching through a woman named Carinne Binda at Sacramento Ballet, she shaped a lot of my aesthetics. The choreographer I love most, Jiri Kylian, I never got to dance.
Traditional ballet choreography interests me less and less, mainly as I am interested in seeing where else the field can go, not where it has been. In 2009 when DV8 was at Yerba Buena, they blew me away. Crystal Pite’s “10 Duets,” which Cedar Lake performed at Zellerbach a couple years ago, took my breath away.
Where do you start with a commission like this – the relationship, an image, a piece of music, a movement phrase, etc.?
For this we started with the music.
Have you ever previously created a work this short? How does the duration impact your decisions/process, if at all?
Yep. It’s just a parameter.
Do you often create duets? How much are they a part of your larger body of work?
I love making duets, it’s where I feel creatively most at home. Ryan’s an exceptional partner, and both artists are fearless, so this has really been a joy.