Diablo Ballet Creates World’s First Internet Ballet: An Interview w/ Robert Dekkers, Choreographer


Hiromi Yamazaki, photo by Tiffany Fong























The Web Ballet, Diablo Ballet’s newest concept for making ballet accessible will make Diablo Ballet of California the first professional dance company to create an entirely new dance work from ideas suggested by internet users, based on choreography suggestions submitted by individuals all around the world to Diablo Ballet’s Twitter page @DiabloBallet.Cast your vote through Thursday February 14th using Twitter hash tag #DiabloWebBallet and select the music by voting on Diablo Ballet’s YouTube page: http://www.youtube.com/user/diabloballet.

After submissions close, Robert Dekkers, Diablo Ballet dancer, Artistic Director of San Francisco’s Post:Ballet, and one of Dance Magazine’s 2011 25 to Watch and Lauren Jonas, Diablo Ballet’s Artistic Director, will select seven choreographic suggestions. Dekkers will then have two weeks to utilize all of the winning ideas and create a new dance work.

I recently caught up with Mr. Dekkers for the following interview:

GC: You are charged with choreographing Diablo Ballet’s web ballet. What are your feelings on entering this project?

RD: When they approached me with the idea I was interested. I’ve been exploring limitations and I thought it was a great opportunity to impose those limitations on myself and see what paths I take to produce the final work… how they affect me and the creative process. I’m hoping to get some great ideas and off-kilter ideas. For me it’s a great challenge, something new, exciting and different.

GC: How do you see yourself putting the project into action?

RD: We are accepting suggestions until February 14th. At that point we’ll choose 7 suggestions and I’ll use those to create the final piece. I won’t be working with the dancers until February 15th. I’ll have less than 3 weeks to make the piece and get it on stage, which is a very quick time frame. The piece will be 8-10 minutes, not a full evening-length work, but still a lot of material to cover in such a short period of time… and some of the dancers are working on other pieces, not just mine, so that will be definitely be tight.

Normally I start my conceptual process months out, doing things to prepare…listening to music, viewing museum exhibits, things related to the topic I’m exploring. This time I have to be patient. But the project is about limitations and how we put them to use. The interesting piece is:how we are going to use these possibly disjointed ideas and make them one cohesive pice that revolves around a common theme and has a structure? It will be interesting. I’m a little nervous, actually. (Here he is at work in the studio):

I liken it to the show Project Runway: when they’re given $1000 and a dream budget it always turns out rather plain and boring and when they’re given $10 and four apples and a banana peel they always make things that are just amazing. This is my four apples and a banana peel kind of piece. I’m hoping that not having my usual opportunity for all the resources and time will push me to whittle through the fat and delve into the heart of the piece. The challenge will push me further and I’ll make something special… so that even after the web ballet project is over it’s a piece that can be done again and has substance to it. As a choreographer I want to make sure that the final work is indicative of my taste and choreography.

Mayo Sugano & Derek Sakaura, photo by Ashraf


GC: Just to touch on what you said about the four apples and a banana peel theory… I have a friend who says that good art is often happy accidents. When we are taken out of our normal way of doing things we come up with something totally different.

RD: Yes! Can you put quotes around that and say that I said it? Just kidding. But it’s so true. The little in-between moments when you’re not sure… the question marks… those are the magical places where the greatest things can happen. Something might accidentally happen and it redirects the whole piece – you get that “aha” that you were searching for.

GC: Is there anything else you want to share?

RD: I did pick the 3 pieces of music, so they not strange to me. They are all Classical and I have choreographed to them in the past. One of the pieces I made my 2nd ballet to when I was 17. Now that I’ve grown as a choreographer and developed my own movement sensibility and vocabulary I’m excited to come back to one of these pieces of music and have a new take on it and have to go a different route. I have a special place in my heart for these pieces of music that I grew up to.

The Web Ballet will be presented as part of Diablo Ballet’s Inside the Dancer’s Studio series March 1st and 2nd at the Shadelands Arts Center Auditorium in Walnut Creek, CA.  The winning suggestions will receive tickets to the performance and a photo from the created work, autographed by Dekkers.

Robert Dekkers was recently named a ’25 To Watch’ artist, by DANCE Magazine, and has danced professionally with Ballet Arizona, ODC/Dance San Francisco, and Company C Contemporary Ballet before joining Diablo Ballet in 2011. He has performed in works by choreographers including George Balanchine, Twyla Tharp, Paul Taylor, August Bournonville, KT Nelson, Maurice Causey, Brenda Way, Val Caniparoli, Lar Lubovich and Charles Molton. Mr. Dekkers has also been choreographing for over a decade, presenting works at venues including the Tanzsommer Festival in Vienna and the Ballet Builders Showcase in New York City. He was resident choreographer for Novaballet before founding his own company, Post:Ballet, in San Francisco. Since launching Post, he has created numerous critically acclaimed collaborations including When in Doubt, Colouring, Mine is Yours and Interference Pattern. His first work for Diablo Ballet, Happy Ending, premiered in May of 2012. In addition to his work as a choreographer and dancer, Mr. Dekkers also holds a degree in business from Rio Salado College

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