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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 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

Trust the Timing: Artistic Internship

19 Jan

As the end of the summer was quickly approaching, I sat in my apartment and reflected upon all the change that was happening in my life; a new job, a new apartment, a new season. As I sit atop my foam roller wondering what else the universe had in store for me, I received a message on Facebook from a former ballet instructor, Lara Murphy. She asked how my time in New York had been, since I was now going on year three of post undergraduate life. After we caught up on life, she informed me that a friend of hers was looking for young people to do some administrative work at American Ballet Theatre as they develop their new Project Plié outreach program. I thought to myself, ‘another desk job?’ I had just began my career in group fitness and personal training, so I definitely wasn’t trying to return to long days of sitting in front of computers but something about the name ‘Project Plié’ sparked my interest.

After dong some research on the Project Plié program, “a comphrensive intiative to increase racial and ethnic representation in ballet and diversify America’s ballet companies,” I decided to apply. Within a few weeks I had interviewed with the Artistic Department, a place I’d soon find out was a new home, and was accepted into the internship program.

Interning with the Artistic Department has opened my eyes as a dancer. I have always only known one side of being in a dance company, so working with this department allowed me to see what all goes into running a company. I can honestly say that I will never question rehearsal times and spaces ever again. These past few months of creating rehearsal schedules for dancers, has been far from easy.   Along with creating and posting schedules, I was given the opportunity to see ABT quite a few times during their time at the Koch. The skills I learned and knowledge that I have gained from working closely with Tina Escoda and Amanda Sugino is beyond noteworthy.

Another part of this internship that I will forever cherish was the Project Plié mentorship lunches. These lunches not only nourished my body, but my mind as well. I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with almost all sides of ABT, from Ebonie Pittman (Manager of Institutional Support) and Ariel Dupas (Patron Ticketing Associate), to Courtney Lavine (Company Member), to Susan Fales-Hills (Former ABT Board Member). As much as I did not plan on enjoying sitting at a desk for hours on end, this internship has proven that everything happens for a reason and I am forever grateful for all that it has provided me.

Michelle Russell

Artistic Intern

Fall 2016

Team Reunion

29 Jun

I’ve just finished my four months at ABT, which feels like no time at all, especially because I spent that four months working toward one event—an event that began on a Saturday morning and ended in the very early hours of Sunday. This event was the 2015 alumni reunion, which brought together about two hundred former dancers of ABT, plus current dancers and some former and current staff, to celebrate the company’s 75th Anniversary. It was an enormous undertaking, accomplished mostly by a small group of people I like to call Team Reunion.

There were five of us on Team Reunion: two current members of the artistic staff, one former member of the artistic staff, the volunteer alumni coordinator, and me, the artistic intern. My duties as the artistic intern were very much focused on the reunion, but while I was working in the artistic department I was also able to observe the daily life of the company. In the offices at 890 Broadway I sat right outside the main artistic offices (the artistic administrator, artistic director, associate artistic director, rehearsal coordinator, and assistant to the artistic staff). Then at the Metropolitan Opera House, where the artistic staff moves for the company’s spring season, I sat in the green room with most of the same people.

In my own little corner, in my own little chair

In my own little corner, in my own little chair

On Team Reunion, my primary job was to keep an eye on all the information coming in and compile it into lists that made sense. I maintained and assembled lots and lots of lists. On the days I went into work, my routine was to grab my computer from the file cabinet (at 890) or the wooden crate (at the Met), check my email, and adjust my lists. Some of these lists eventually translated into such concrete things as address labels for invitations and nametags for party guests.

Nametags on nametags on nametags

Nametags on nametags on nametags

I was proud of those little adhesive pieces of paper. But the real magic was seeing those lists of names become crowds of people. Our plans, which had been started in September and to which I began contributing in February, became an actual-thing-that-happened in May. It was awesome to have the experience of seeing this enormous project through to the finish and to be an important part of Team Reunion, even for such a short time.

Seven decades of ABT history gathering for a group photo on the Met stairs

Seven decades of ABT history gathering for a group photo on the Met stairs

Bridget Jamison

Artistic Intern

Spring 2015

ABT at the Met

6 Aug

The Met Season: Nine ballets, eight weeks, up to seven (sometimes eight) casts per ballet, six days per week. What a tremendous feat for a ballet company to take on. Though if there is one company that can pull it off with great success, it is American Ballet Theatre.

I got the privilege this summer of interning for ABT as an artistic intern as well as a major gifts intern. Getting to experience both departments allowed me to witness the incredible work that goes on both artistically and administratively during the Met Season. For the artistic side of my internship, I got to work two days a week at the Metropolitan Opera House with the artistic staff who temporarily relocated their offices from 890 Broadway to the Met Opera green room. They relocate offices because the company spends the total of their time both rehearsing and performing at the Met during the season. To be honest, it’s more like the artistic staff relocated residence to the green room because “working round the clock” is not an exaggeration for them. Some nights they would leave the Met with just enough time to turn around and come back in the morning.

My primary job as the artistic intern was to verify and calculate dancer overtime/penalty pay for rehearsal and performance days. Most of those days I got to watch rehearsals, see performances and meet dancers coming in and out of the green room. The excitement of walking through those stage doors never got old. In verifying schedules and calculating overtime, I realized just how incredible of an undertaking a season like this is for the dancers performing. The level of professionalism it takes for these dancers to be rehearsing several different ballets for hours during the day then on top of that performing another one that night is simply unfathomable. Not to mention all that entails for the production staff as well.

And of course while all this goes on within the Met Opera House, there’s a whole other side going on administratively. Ticketing, VIP visits, member events, dinners and meetings: it all happens during the Met Season as well. The sheer number of events, let alone the magnitude, that the development staff puts on is incredible. It is an endeavor only accomplished through much commitment, time, and effort from everyone involved. As a major gifts intern, I was able to see how all the planning and preparation made these events come to fruition.

Though it is a busy time and an extraordinary effort, watch an ABT performance during the Met Season and I think you’ll agree that it’s all worth it. It was without a doubt one of the most thrilling and enjoyable times to be an intern at ABT and I’m so grateful I got to be a part of it!

Katie Currier

Major Gifts and Artistic Intern

Summer 2014

Testimony of a Duo-Department Intern

25 Jul

By Alexis Stanley, Education and Artistic Intern

Hello potential ABT intern applicants! My name is Alexis Stanley, and I am a rising sophomore at Duke University. Having developed a passion for ballet since I began dancing, I applied to ABT’s Internship Program in order to gain a greater understanding of the administrative and interdepartmental aspects of running a non-profit dance organization. Now nearing the end of my third month interning with ABT, I could not be happier I chose this program to help me gain the background necessary for pursuing a career in arts administration.

As an intern with both Education and Artistic, I have had the opportunity to see how ABT operates on several levels, from the professional company to the educational outreach programs designed for ABT’s youngest audience members. In a typical week during ABT’s busy 2012 season at the Metropolitan Opera House, I spent two days interning with Artistic’s Cristina Escoda (Artistic Administrator), Miki Shintani (Rehearsal Coordinator), and Amanda Sugino (Assistant to the Artistic Staff) in the green room of the Met, and four or five days with Education’s Dennis Walters (Director of Educational Outreach), Kevin Edwards (Manager of School Programs), and Steven Kaplan (Education Coordinator) at ABT’s 890 Broadway location. Now that the company’s Met Season is over, I spend all of my time with Education and will continue to do so until the end of this internship semester.

As an Artistic Intern, my primary tasks included verifying the dancers’ timecards with rehearsal schedules and casting “basics” and calculating dancer payroll (overtime/penalty) for rehearsal and performance days. Often I was given the opportunity to watch rehearsals, see performances, and meet the dancers and other members of the Artistic staff—all while experiencing firsthand the day-to-day triumphs and occasional challenges of working with a professional ballet company. Of course, not a day went by when I didn’t feel star-struck walking through the Met’s backstage and being in contact with the dancers and administrators I have revered since entering the world of dance.

With Education, I have become involved in a medley of tasks and projects which have ranged from updating department filing and working in the Pointe Shoe Store to creating a new costume inventory database for ABT’s outreach programs. Earlier in the semester, I also had the chance to use my creative skills by preparing activity stations for Pre-Performance Workshops (my personal favorite: an A Midsummer Night’s Dream-themed hockey game!) and serving as a teaching artist assistant for events with young dancers. Recently I have been working closely with Kevin Edwards on creating a new intern/personnel database and with Steven Kaplan on archiving videos of ABT’s Summer Intensive performances. And to top it all off, Kiley Griffith (a fellow Education intern) and I have just begun a new project of taking inventory of the huge collection of costumes located in Education’s various back rooms.

Whew! It certainly is turning out to be a busy summer here at ABT, but I confidently can say that I would not trade my time here for anything. I’m sure my fellow interns would agree that if you are looking for a rewarding hands-on experience in arts administration, ABT is a great place to be!