New York City Ballet principal Taylor Stanley rehearsing with Kyle Abraham (photo by Erin Baiano, courtesy NYCB)

NYCB Principal Taylor Stanley on Kyle Abraham's Groundbreaking New Ballet

New York City Ballet's fall gala always promises new ballet delights. This year, the company is offering not one, but three world premieres by a diverse lineup of choreographers: Matthew Neenan, Kyle Abraham, and Gianna Reisen. At 19 years old, Reisen is the youngest choreographer to ever work with NYCB, and Abraham will be the company's first black choreographer in more than a decade. We sat down with principal dancer Taylor Stanley to get the inside scoop on Abraham's new piece.

What has working with Kyle Abraham been like so far?

It's been a real pleasure for me. It feels like a moment to let my hair down a little bit. Kyle is a very patient and open-minded person. He's really established his own style, but you can tell there are so many influences in the movement that comes out of him. I love what he's created so far. He allows the picture to be painted very slowly. It's super-collaborative.

What's the new piece like?

Right now, there are small doses of hip hop, with some popping and locking aspects. It also incorporates ballet technique and long lines—he seems to be enamored of the ballet vocabulary, as well. The group is small. I'm not sure what the final number of people will be, but right now, it feels very intimate.

What's been most challenging about the process?

I love dancing his choreography, but since it's not from a part of my brain that I use for ballet, it does feel challenging—in the best way. Even the way we've been learning the phrases is so different from learning a Balanchine ballet, where you're already pretty familiar with the vocabulary. It's not about perfect technique.

Why are you excited for audiences to see this piece?

We haven't really had a lot of African-American choreographers come in, and I think that's exciting. I think it brings a new essence to the piece that will broaden the audience's perspective. I think the world will come together thanks to Kyle's voice.

A version of this story appeared in the September 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Gala Glam."

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