Street Start: At 14, Sawyer and her older sister began The Rom, a dance company that combined “soap-opera story lines” with Middle Eastern and Flamenco dance. “We’d dress up our friends in gypsy outfits and roll a big cushion carpet out on the sidewalk. If you’re not entertaining people on the street, they’re going to walk away. We learned how to structure shows.”
Cult Following: In college, Sawyer started a comedy dance troupe, The Rhythm Methods, in response to how serious the modern dance scene was. “We wanted to do funny, pop-culture satire,” says Sawyer. The company performed “bizarre, very funny, kind of irreverent, satirical, comedy dance shows in the nightclub setting.”
Series Work: Early in Sawyer’s career, she choreographed and danced in a TV series called “Rollergames,” which was a cross between “American Idol” and “Fear Factor,” with “eight teams of roller derby babes and a gigantic figure-eight set that had alligators in the middle of it,” says Sawyer. “There was a cheerleading team for each of the roller teams and there were also music video segments.”
Large-Scale Effort: For the last decade, Sawyer has worked extensively (choreographing at least four shows a year and a handful of music videos) with a French-Asian music company that produces an ongoing variety show called Paris By Night. “In each show there are 10 to 14 gigantic dance numbers,” Sawyer says. Each concert is filmed for DVD release.
Creating the Circus: The Felds, who own the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and consider themselves the guardians of this national treasure, hired Sawyer through her agent. “They were specifically looking for a team that had not done circus before,” explains Sawyer. (The choreographer, Carla Kama, was one of the original Fly Girls.) The objective was to “freshen up the feeling of the show, make it more relevant to today’s audience—to today’s kids,” Sawyer says, adding that one of her first ideas was to incorporate video. “It was a long process to figure out how we could do it logistically, because the show travels every week.” An even greater challenge was introducing the video element to the animals. “We had to work very slowly to get them comfortable,” she says. “If you’re a horse galloping around headed for a fiery hurdle and you see this huge moving picture ahead of you, it’s very distracting.”
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)
Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers on their profile pages, and then vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.
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Isabella Boylston in "The Bright Stream" (Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy American Ballet Theatre)
Beloved by ballet fans for her lucid technique and onstage effervescence, by her Instagram followers for the deftly curated photos and videos she shares of her glamorous life, and by fangirl Jennifer Garner for all of the above, American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston is one of the rare ballet stars who's achieved mainstream fame. A native of Sun Valley, ID, Boylston trained at the Academy of Colorado Ballet and the Harid Conservatory before joining the ABT Studio Company in 2005. She entered the main company as an apprentice in 2006, and attained principal status in 2014. In addition to her successes with ABT, where she dances nearly every major ballerina role, Boylston has served as artistic director of the annual Ballet Sun Valley Festival, which brings high-level performances and classes to her hometown. And speaking of famous Jennifers: Boylston recently appeared as Jennifer Lawrence's dance double in the film Red Sparrow. Catch her onstage with ABT as Manon, Odette/Odile, and Princess Aurora during the company's Metropolitan Opera House season this summer in NYC. —Margaret Fuhrer