A Summer of Change

22 Aug

When I took on the position of Artistic Intern for the summer semester, I had no idea what I would expect. Coming from a musical theatre background and very little knowledge about the artistry of ballet, I really didn’t know what I was walking into. Sure, there’s a job description with weekly hours and logistics. But, still, nothing can truly prepare you for the crazy, magical, stressful, beautiful world that is the American Ballet Theatre’s Artistic Department. I was brought on at a considerable time of change and growth for the department and the almost 80-year-old company: beloved Artistic Director, Kevin McKenzie, was retiring after 30 years of impeccable guidance to ABT and, in addition to such a high emotional transition, this was also the first summer season at The Metropolitan Opera House since the Covid-19 pandemic. Needless to say, pressures were high for the company, and I was walking into the eye of the hurricane, ready to be of service and help in any way, shape, or form.

I began working at the office and rehearsal space of ABT, where I would assist in the preplanning for the company’s summer season at The Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center. As I said, I was coming into a pivotal point in the company’s history, so there were lots to be done, and I knew I would have my hand in many different tasks and projects in my three short months here. I worked closely with the Assistant to the Artistic Staff, Allison Sugino, and communicated with Playbill.com to get the programs together for the season, as well as assisted them with other projects around the office. I also got the crates we would take from the office to The Met organized and ready to go out. Overall, my time at 890 was short, filled with getting to know the staff and dancers, and was a great introduction to what was to come.

Once I got to the Metropolitan Opera House, it was a completely different world full of long, maze-like hallways and the typical hustle and bustle of backstage life; something I was very familiar with growing up in musical theatre. Our offices (known as the Green Room to the Touring Company) were at the center of it all: a place of high stress to get all the moving parts together, yet fun banter and memories that would balance out the intensity of the environment. I was in charge of calculating overtime for the dancers, distributing schedules around the Met, and communicating with different departments on tasks for the Artistic team. It was then rewarding at the end of the day to watch these gorgeous ballets night after night and experience the level of artistry in full effect.

While at The Met, my mentor, Director of Artistic Administration, Tina Escoda, and I were planning a massive celebration for outgoing Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie. Tina and I worked long hours and leaned on each other to get all of the pieces together. I was responsible for managing, organizing, and communicating with the VIP guest list, communicating with a video production company to curate a tribute video for Kevin, compiled COVID tests for the event, met with different departments to discuss what Artistic would need, and, most importantly, made sure the event was running smoothly so that patrons and the staff could celebrate and have a good time. Together, Tina and I worked to achieve a successful, smooth, and enjoyable evening.

Overall, I had dipped my toe in as many projects as I could and all with one goal in mind: to be a helping hand to this historic company during such a pivotal time of change. While the projects and experiences I had were incredible, none could hold a flame to the inspiring people I met this summer. As I said, I didn’t know what to expect, and I really didn’t expect to build such a strong relationship with the staff and dancers of ABT. These people welcomed me with open arms and were the kindest, warmest souls I have ever worked with. The dancers were friendly, talkative, and beyond talented, and the staff was hard-working, dedicated, and trusting in me. The one person who had the most significant impact on me this summer was Tina Escoda, my mentor. Tina took me under her wing and included me in everything to engulf me in this magical world of ballet. She would take me to watch tech rehearsals in the house to escape the pressure cooker of the green room, encourage me to sit in on rehearsals at 890, walk around together to chat with dancers, and introduce me to high-profile people in the industry. We would even watch curtain call together at the end of each show at The Met. Tina and I built a great, trusting work relationship and, over time, a friendship. Tina Escoda will forever stay with me as one of the most incredible, hard-working, and inspiring humans I have ever worked with.

It’s hard to sum up my summer with ABT into one experience or memory that encapsulated my time with them when, in fact, I did more than I ever expected to do, and it’s worth sharing. This company is going through an enormous change, and I was there to help at the beginning of that vast adjustment. I do not doubt that my path will cross with ABT in the future, regardless of the scenario. These people and experiences have changed my life, and I am eternally grateful.

Nate Jones

Artistic Department Intern

Summer 2022


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