“Inspiration is around us all the time.
It’s a state of being rather than an outward thing.”
After spending 25 years in New York as a dancer and choreographer, Laveen Naidu knows the art of dance. He’s held the position of executive director of Dance Theater of Harlem and has studied under Arthur Mitchell and Michael Kaiser. He has now taken up residence at BalletNova as the troupe’s new artistic director. We spoke to Naidu about his background, his inspiration and his hopes for BalletNova and its community.
Tell us how you came to BalletNova.
For me [with BalletNova] it was about going back to the thing that I’m most passionate about, [and] that is teaching, building and engaging with community, really using the art form of ballet and dance to connect with people of all backgrounds. The ability we have to engage the multiple communities in this area is really, really wonderful. These are such culturally rich communities, but they are not communities that are not always plugged into the mainstream of NoVA. But there is so much they have to offer all of us, and the mainstream of NoVA can offer them, so that’s the great thing about art it brings us together in ways that are nonverbal that speak to our inherent commonality and DNA and celebrate our differences.
What are you future plans for BalletNova?
Engage with all parts of our community. This area is statistically affluent area. Having said that, there are lots of young people who are in schools where 80-plus students qualify for free lunches. Those are students coming from families that are at or below the poverty line. There is a disparity. A place like BalletNova is such an important resource, and we need to connect the dots with those young people who may or may not have the opportunity to study at a world-class institution. It is about not waiting for people to come to us but for us to go where people are. I want to heighten that engagement factor to have more artists in the NoVA area become aware of the assets we have available that they can use, to be an incubator for young choreographers. I wish to develop more programs and linkages that we can take from BalletNova into our communities whether they be public schools, nursing homes or after-school programs.
Where do you find inspiration for your pieces?
Inspiration comes from the most mundane and the simplest things around you. You might see a photo or a posting online, and it can trigger a burst—like an imagination injection. It sparks your mind to come up with an idea. Inspiration is around us all the time. It’s a state of being rather than an outward thing. The wonderful thing about working in an environment like this is that you walk into the hallway on a Wednesday here and there’s all these 3- and 5-year-olds that are like an army of little people. But there is such enchantment with children and the way they move and the kind of curiosity they have, and then also they lack self-consciousness. They’re honest in their movements, so just by observing that, that’s a form of inspiration.
( November 2015 )