1. How did you become involved in dance?
Our house was musical, my father was a semi-pro musician and always played his guitar (alone and jamming with friends). The natural response to music is to move, so I always danced around the house as a child. I couldn’t sit still. I learned social dances by imitating dancers I saw on American Bandstand. When I grew older I was lucky enough to find dance in the public schools. I had my first formal dance classes, modern dance, in the 7th grade – it was love at first bison leap!
2. What are you currently doing in the field?
I changed my artistic focus from modern dance to ballet. I’m getting Beauvais Ballet, a small, neoclassical company, off the ground, pardon the pun. I choreographed modern dance for 30 years. Then, in 2003 I started to choreograph ballets here and there along with my modern dance works. In 2010 I decided to explore and choreograph solely ballet – with modern sensibilities of course :).
3. Can you share a special moment from your career?
As a dancer – I was a member of Nancy Karp + Dancers (a San Francisco based company) and we were on tour in what was then Yugoslavia. A short time after we returned home their civil war broke out and some of the cities we performed in were destroyed. I realized I was a global citizen with a responsibility to do good not just for myself but for the greater good of the world. As a result I conserve, take care of the natural environment, and get involved in social issues.
As a choreographer – Mark Morris is my choreographic hero, his work is consistently excellent. I studied with him for a bit and in 2000 he and his company came to Maui to perform. I had the chance to socialize with him and it was fabulous to talk shop with my idol. He gave me advice on how to treat a difficult piece of music I was working with (I was commissioned to use this music, I didn’t choose it).
4. What advice would you offer other dancers?
The dance industry is difficult but so much of dancers’ limitations are self imposed. Often what dancers believe is opinion (someone else’s or your own)which is subjective or based on untruths, not fact. So, I would say to dancers, know what your strengths are and exploit them. Know what your limitations are and learn from them, if they can’t be changed, accept them, discover how they can help you despite the fact they are limitations. Examine your beliefs on a regular basis, are they based on fact? You will find you can do much more than you thought you could.
5. What have you had to struggle against in dance?
Maui is rural and provincial, an unlikely place for a ballet company. No one has ever brought contemporary ballet to the island, incorporated it into the local culture and then shared it with the world. I find that very enriching and inspiring. I aim to bring an understanding and appreciation of ballet that enhances the local culture and inspires others.
6. Do you have a favorite dancer or choreographer? If so, what is it about them that makes them stand out?
Mark Morris is still my favorite modern choreographer with Nacho Duato a close second. Both of them are superbly musical and great at movement invention. Matthew Bourne has a unique perspective. I love his re-workings, he is great at turning traditional works on their head.
As far as dancers go, there are many gorgeous dancers out there, but I have to say my favorite is Daniil Simkin. I’ve only seen him on video not live. But, his movement quality and personae are stunning. He reminds me of Nureyev but with way more technique!
7. What is the best advice you have ever received regarding dance?
“If you want to be a choreographer, you have to choreograph.” – Mark Morris
In other words, don’t wait to be invited, don’t wait to be asked, don’t wait to be paid, get out there and do the work.
8. Where do you think dance is going as an art form?
Ballet needs a new face, one for the 21st century and that’s what I’m trying to create.
9. What is it about dance that you love so much?
It’s rich, complex, and fun! Dance is part music, part visual design (shape, color, perspective), and sometimes tells a story. As both a performer and an audience member, dance touches the deepest part of my being.
10. What is next for you?
I recently choreographed a ballet titled Holo Mai Pele. It’s based on a traditional story of the Hawaiian goddess Pele expressed in totally contemporary ways – neoclassical ballet, original costumes and Western music (Shostakovich). Upcoming performances are at the GWS Invitational Festival on February 18 & 19 in Huntington Beach, CA and again on February 25 & 26 at the sjDANCEco’s choreography festival in San Jose, CA. You can find out more about the project or get involved by visiting indigogo.com/Holo-Mai-Pele-Here-Comes-Pele-Ballet?a=58514&i=addr
BIO: Dancer and choreographer Renée Beauvais is the founder and artistic director of Beauvais Ballet and the former TILT Dance Company. Beauvais has been performing, teaching and choreographing dance for 33 years. She danced with the Elayne Neuman Dance Co., San Francisco’s Nancy Karp & Dancers, and Janlyn Dance Company. She worked with ODC San Francisco, Kenneth Rinker, Laura Dean, Karl Schaffer and Eric Stern, Helen Dannenberg, Christopher Beck, and Ellen Bromberg. She performed faculty works with the repertory companies of both Arizona State University and Mills College.
She studied dance at Arizona Sate University and Mills College (BA) and at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and Jacob’s Pillow. She studied choreography with choreographers Mark Morris, Lucas Hoving, Lila York, Murray Louis, and Bella Lewitsky.
The Maui Symphony Orchestra, Moving Arts Dance, Ebb & Flow Arts Ensemble, Instinct DanceCorps and Arts Education for Children have commissioned her choreography. Beauvais’ works were performed by her previous company, Beau Danse Compagnie, at numerous venues in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland, California. Her choreography was also showcased in a performance sponsored by the Bella Lewitsky Dance Company. She was an interim dance instructor at Maui Community College, was on the state Artist-in-the Schools Registry for 10 years and was the state director for National Dance Week.