Sara Mearns Performs “Beyond Ballet” in Jacob’s Pillow Exclusive Production

July 29, 2019–(Becket, MA) In the Jacob’s Pillow-exclusive production Sara Mearns: Beyond Ballet, New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns performs in multiple cross-genre collaborations in the Doris Duke Theatre, August 14-18. Acclaimed as a “a dancer who leaves everything she owns on the stage while realizing movement fully, all the way to her fingertips” (The New York Times) and the recipient of a Bessie Award for sustained achievement, Mearns has expanded notions about what it means to be a versatile dancer today. Mearns performs No. 1 with Honji Wang of the French hip-hop duo Wang Ramirez; the world premiere of Opulence with Jodi Melnick choreographed by Melnick; a new solo by Christopher Williams from the developing ballet Daphnis & Chloé; Liz Gerring’s Duet alongside Ashley Bouder; and Ekstasis by Martha Graham.


“Sara Mearns is arguably one of the most extraordinary dancers of our time in great measure because of her deep curiosity and interest in exploring new movement worlds that challenge her. We are thrilled to have been an artistic home for her investigations and are delighted to produce a performance that unites innovative dancers and choreographers who value artistic exchange,” says Jacob’s Pillow Director Pamela Tatge.


Created in 2017, No. 1 is a Pillow-commissioned work that brings together French hip-hop duo Wang Ramirez (Honji Wang and Sébastien Ramirez), recipients of two Bessie Award recognitions (2013 award for Outstanding Performers and 2017 nomination for Outstanding Production) and Sara Mearns. Developed at Jacob’s Pillow as part of the Creative Development Residency program under the artistic direction of Wang Ramirez, No. 1 is a dialogue between Mearns and Wang, who communicate through their seemingly disparate movement vocabularies. As Mearns hovers in pointe shoes and Wang slides in sneakers, the two interact playfully by imitating and initiating the other’s movement. Dance critic Deborah Jowitt says “…[Mearns and Wang] display their different senses of the same steps, sometimes in synchrony, sometimes patterning them as a question-and-answer session” (DanceBeat). No. 1 received additional development and co-commissioning support from Fall for Dance Festival (New York City Center) and Fall for Dance North Festival (Toronto).

In the world premiere of Opulence, a new duet choreographed by and performed with postmodern dancer Jodi Melnick, Mearns explores idioms through a postmodern movement lexicon. A recipient in the first group of Doris Duke Impact Awards and two-time Bessie Award winner for Sustained Achievement in Dance (2001 and 2008), Melnick had a close collaborative relationship with the late Trisha Brown. Designing intricate movement to explore the dynamic relations between human beings, “Melnick smudges the line between being and doing with it often appearing like the movement happens to the mover” (Erin Bomboy, Dance Enthusiast). Mearns and Melnick met during Danspace Platform 2015, curated by Judy Hussie-Taylor and Claudia La Rocco. Their creative relationship continued in 2016 when Mearns was craving to work with a female choreographer. She approached Melnick, who creates highly celebrated works with a refined vocabulary of nuanced, silky, everyday movement that Mearns wanted to experience. The duo went on to have a residency at Jacob’s Pillow and then at the Guggenheim’s Works & Process series.

In a new solo by Christopher Williams from his developing ballet Daphnis & Chloé, Mearns plays Chloé, a shepherdess made to dance for her pirate captors. Hailed as “one of the most exciting choreographic voices out there” (The New York Times), Williams’ work commingles elements of mythology, folklore, and literature with contemporary movement, puppetry, and intricate costumes. Set to Maurice Ravel’s 1912 composition for the Ballets Russes, Williams’ developing designer-driven project reimagines the original ballet through a contemporary queer lens with costumes by Reid & Harriet Designs. Costumers Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung (of Reid & Harriet Designs) curated an evening of dance based in costumes at the Guggenheim Museum Works & Process, where excerpts from Daphnis & Chloé premiered in May 2019.

Duet is a pas de deux for Mearns and fellow New York City Ballet principal Ashley Bouder, choreographed by modern choreographer and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award-Winner Liz Gerring with music by Michael J. Schumacher. The duet originally premiered to music by Anna Webber in a triple bill of female artists at Symphony Space in 2017. Duet was deemed by Alastair Macaulay of The New York Times to be “the evening’s most remarkable and most experimental piece.”


Mearns also performs a reimagining of Martha Graham’s monumental solo Ekstasis. Believed to be Graham’s 37th choreographic creation dating back to 1933, Graham stated that the genesis of Ekstatis emerged from a pelvic thrust gesture that she discovered one day, which is now a foundational movement characteristic of her technique. Mearns performed the pivotal solo in April 2019 at The Joyce Theater with the Martha Graham Dance Company as part of their annual gala and The EVE Project, the Company’s season theme celebrating female empowerment and the upcoming 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.


Sara Mearns, originally from Columbia, South Carolina, has been dancing since the age of three. Mearns entered the School of American Ballet in the Fall of 2001 and became an apprentice with New York City Ballet in the Fall of 2003. She joined the corps de ballet in June 2004, was promoted to soloist in 2006, and to principal dancer in 2008. Mearns is known for her roles as the Swan Queen in Swan Lake and for Balanchine ballets including Jewels (Diamonds) and Symphony in C, among countless others. She has originated roles in ballets by choreographers including Justin Peck, Kyle Abraham, Alexei Ratmansky and Christopher Wheeldon, to name a few, and has appeared as a guest artist with the Paul Taylor Dance Company with Dances of Isadora (Isadora Duncan Dance Foundation), The Martha Graham Company (2019 Gala in Etkasis), The Ashley Bouder Project (Duet by Liz Gerring) and Company Wang Ramirez (No. 1). Mearns appeared in New Bodies, a collaboration with Jodi Melnick, which performed at the Spoleto Festival in South Carolina and at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. At New York City Center, she has appeared in the Fall for Dance Festival (2013, 2014, 2017, 2018), where she most recently performed the piece Dances of Isadora Duncan – A Solo Tribute, and the 2018 Balanchine Festival. Mearns was a guest artist alternating the role of Victoria Page in the U.S. premiere of Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes. She recently collaborated with Pam Tanowitz Dance in Time forever dividing itself toward innumerable futures, a world premiere performed outside at the 2019 River to River Festival in New York. She is a Benois de la Danse and Princess Grace Award nominee and winner of the 2018 Bessie Award for Outstanding Performer. Mearns made her musical theatre debut as the Angel in New York City Center Encores! I Married an Angel in March 2019, directed and choreographed by Josh Bergasse. In April 2019, Mearns was a performer in the Night of 100 Solos: A Centennial Event in New York City, celebrating what would have been Merce Cunningham’s 100th birthday. This coming fall Mearns will premiere in a new commissioned piece by Kim Brandstrup at the Fall for Dance Festival at New York City Center.



Under the direction of internationally renowned choreographers Honji Wang and Sébastien Ramirez, Company Wang Ramirez produces dance-theater pieces that splice together genres as divergent as hip-hop, ballet, contemporary dance, and martial arts. The company’s unique choreographic language–with means of expression built on technical virtuosity, poetry and humor–has been recognized with numerous awards such as two New York Bessie Award recognitions and the 1st and Special Audience Award at the International Contemporary Dance Competition in Hannover. Wang & Ramirez have earned invitations to collaborate with big-name artists from the dance, plastic arts, film, and music worlds, including Madonna, Nitin Sawhney, Akram Khan, Rocío Molina, New York City Ballet principal dancer Sara Mearns, Constance Guisset, Osgemeos, Andy Serkis, and Hussein Chalayan, among others.

In 2016, Wang and Ramirez were commissioned by Sadler’s Wells to direct and perform a hybrid piece of dance-musical theatre made to Nitin Sawhney’s album Dystopian Dream.  The duo’s latest commission will see them appear alongside choreographer, acrobat, and dancer Yoann Bourgeois in a program named Beyond, performed by the GöteborgsOperans Danskompani. Company Wang Ramirez has produced more than nine highly-demanded and critically acclaimed works including Monchichi (2010), Borderline (2013), EVERYNESS (2016), No.1 (2017), and W.A.M. (2018). The Company tours in numerous cities around Europe, Asia, America, and beyond.



German Korean choreographer and performer, Honji Wang is recognized as an artist who brings contemporary and hip-hop together in an exceptionally organic fashion. Her dance language is an abstraction of hip-hop and has influences of earlier martial arts and ballet training. Wang’s first collaboration with Sébastien Ramirez, a duet titled AP15, was in 2010. Soon after, she became Co-Artistic Director of Company Wang Ramirez and ever since the duo has been creating larger scale works that have established them in the contemporary dance scene. Wang was selected in Madonna’s final auditions and earned an invitation to tour and perform in the Rebel Heart Tour. Wang has also collaborated with flamenco dancer Rocío Molina, with British choreographer Akram Khan, as well as with New York City Ballet principal dancer Sara Mearns in a series of duets. In 2014, Wang was appointed Associate Artist at L’Archipel, National Theater of Perpignan and in 2018 at Théâtre de la Ville in Paris.



Jodi Melnick is a NYC-based choreographer, dancer, and teacher. She graduated from SUNY Purchase with a B.F.A. in Dance. Melnick is part of the first group of Doris Duke Impact Award recipients, a 2012 Guggenheim Fellow, the recipient of the Jerome Robbins New Essential Works Grant (2010-2011), the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grant (2011), and has been honored with two Bessie Awards for sustained achievement in dance (2001 and 2008). In 2012 Melnick collaborated with Trisha Brown on the solo One of Sixty Five Thousand Gestures. Her work Fanfare, with set décor by Burt Barr, was performed at the Pillow in 2011 after being chosen as one of TIMEOUT New York’s ‘Best in Dance’ 2009. In 2007 she collaborated with John Jasperse and Becky Hilton to create Becky, Jodi, and John, which was chosen by The New York Times as one of the top five dance gems of 2007, and as one of the 2008 highlights of the coming year. She has also collaborated with choreographer David Neumann on JULY and Jon Kinzel and Vicky Shick on The Apple Narrative.


Christopher Williams, hailed as “one of the most exciting choreographic voices out there” (The New York Times), is a New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” award-winning choreographer, dancer, and puppet artist who has created over thirty original and collaborative works in New York City and abroad since 1999. In addition to touring internationally in France, England, Italy, Spain, Holland, Colombia, Russia, and Malawi, as well as nationally in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Kalamazoo, Princeton, Carlisle, and Interlochen, his works have been presented in many New York City venues including Lincoln Center, City Center, Danspace Project, Dance Theater Workshop, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, La MaMa, P.S. 122, HERE Arts Center, the 92nd Street Y, and Judson Church. His recent commissioners include New York Live Arts, Opéra Royal du Château de Versailles/Opéra National de Bordeaux, English National Opera, Teatro Real/Perm Opéra & Ballet Theater, Danspace Project, Philadelphia Dance Projects, American Opera Projects, Reid & Harriet Design, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, The Blanket, and HERE Arts Center’s Dream Music Puppetry Program. Williams has received fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, The Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the Center for Ballet and the Arts, and the Bogliasco Foundation for multiple residencies at the Liguria Study Center for Arts & Humanities in Bogliasco, Italy, and has also held creative residencies at Robert Wilson’s Watermill Center, Captiva Island via the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, the Anderson Center, the White Oak Plantation, Kaatsbaan, Yaddo, and the Yard.

Since graduating from Sarah Lawrence College and the École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in Paris, he has danced for Douglas Dunn, Rebecca Lazier, Tere O’Connor, Yoshiko Chuma, John Kelly, Sally Silvers, and Mina Nishimura, among others, and as a puppeteer, has worked with the award-winning master puppeteer Basil Twist and Dan Hurlin.


Liz Gerring was born in San Francisco in 1965 and grew up in Los Angeles where she began studying dance at age 13.  Gerring studied at the Cornish Institute in Seattle and in 1987 received a B.F.A. from The Juilliard School. Gerring formed the Liz Gerring Dance Company in 1998 and has been presenting her work in New York City and abroad continuously since that time. Gerring was awarded the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award in June 2015 and a Joyce Theater Residency the same year. Between 2013-18 she  was commissioned for three works in collaboration with composer Michael J. Schumacher for Peak Performances at the Kasser Theater in Montclair NJ. In 2017-18 she was awarded a City Center Choreographic Fellowship and in 2019, was one of five artists to receive the Cage Cunningham Fellowship from the Baryshnikov Arts Center. Gerring is currently working on a project for the ICA in Boston with composer John Luther Adams. She lives in New York City and upstate NY with her husband Kirk Radke, her three children, two dogs, and a cat.



Ashley Bouder was born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and began her ballet training at the age of six at the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet with Marcia Dale Weary. After attending the 1999 Summer Program at the School of American Ballet (SAB), the official school of New York City Ballet, she was invited by SAB to continue her training during the Winter Session. As a student, Bouder performed featured roles in Balanchine’s Danses Concertantes and Stars and Stripes for the School of American Ballet’s 2000 Annual Spring Workshop. Bouder was named an apprentice with New York City Ballet in June 2000 and became a member of the corps de ballet that October. She was promoted to the rank of soloist in February 2004, and in January 2005, Bouder was promoted to principal dancer.


Honji Wang and Sara Mearns performed a work-in-progress of No. 1 at the 2017 Season Opening Gala. This work was commissioned by the Pillow and developed at Jacob’s Pillow as part of the Creative Development Residency program.


Company Wang Ramirez performed the full-evening Monchichi in the Doris Duke Theatre in 2015.


Mearns made her Pillow debut at the 2015 Season Opening Gala. She returned the same year for a residency with Jodi Melnick.


Liz Gerring is a winner of the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award (2015). After first performing on Inside/Out in 2006, her company presented seasons in the Doris Duke Theatre in both 2012 and 2015.


Christopher Williams was a dancer in the Pillow’s Choreographer-Composer Lab in 2001, and he also performed at Jacob’s Pillow with Basil Twist and Rebecca Lazier.


Jodi Melnick shared a program in the Doris Duke Theatre with David Neumann in 2011, and her work was also performed by OtherShore on Inside/Out in 2012.


Ashley Bouder made her Pillow debut performing the work of Avi Scher on Inside/Out in 2010.


Doris Duke Theatre, August 14-August 18

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 8:15pm

Saturday and Sunday at 2:15pm

$65, $55

A limited number of $20 Under 35 tickets are available; adults ages 18-35 are eligible. One ticket per person; each guest must show valid I.D. when picking up tickets at Will Call.

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