Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order. A long time professional dancer with Metropolitan Classical Ballet, Katie Puder has spend much of her life in Dallas on her toes. And like a good dancer, when it was time to take a step in a new direction, she didn't hesitate. In 2012, she paired up with David Cooper, principal French horn with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, to create Avant Chamber Ballet, a small, professional dance company committed to high quality dance and live musical accompaniment. She's earned accolades from the local dance critics, and programmed show after elegant show, and this year promises to be her biggest yet as she programs a robust third season for the company, including performances with the Soluna Festival in May. And she's made it look easy.
You were a professional dancer before starting your company, what did you want to accomplish with ACB that wasn't already out there? A few things that mostly I wasn't finding in DFW and in Texas- first was the live music. For me a large part of why I move is the reaction to music and rhythm. So much of the adrenaline rush of dancing is the reaction and response to live music in the moment. Dance is a very ephemeral art form. It's gone by the time you can register what you have seen. As a dancer there is no more zen-in-the-moment world than on stage, but if you are using recorded music then you know when that next note is happening and it deadens the senses and that registers to the audience.
Next, I wanted to see variety and new works. Nutcracker followed by a repeat of a story ballet we saw two seasons ago is not my cup of tea. The nice thing about being a small company is that you can take chances and be open to doing things in a different way. Ballet Theater size companies easily get in rut and they need to sell out 2000+ seat theaters. By being small we can take our core audience on a ride and do things that they don't expect because they don't have an expectation of us other than seeing good dance.
Your performances have been praised for placing elegant dancing and music at the forefront and not dressing things up with elaborate sets or costumes to overshadow the dance. Can you describe what took you in that direction? I think it's the way I grew up and also my personal taste. I love the work of Balanchine and his seemingly simple but genius use of bodies, music and space. Ballet is a beautiful thing and it's not because of the yards of tulle and rhinestones but because of the lines of the dancer and their expression of the steps and music. I find many times the sets and costumes are distractions for the audience and take away from the dance instead of adding to it.
Tell us a bit about what you will be doing with Soluna. It's a dream program for me really. When I finally saw it on paper I had to sit back for a minute or two and let it sink in. I really had illusions that ACB would be presenting this kind of repertoire 3 years after our first little black box show with no budget. We are presenting works by 3 of my favorite choreographers - George Balanchine, Christopher Wheeldon, Paul Mejia - and then a new work by myself. Each ballet reflects the theme of "Destination: America". The choreographer or composer (or both) came to America for artistic freedom or inspiration. It is a huge step forward for a company of our age and size to get the rights to do these ballets. I still pinch myself when I think about it!
Is there something in particular you'd like to accomplish in the next year? We are seeking funding for a touring floor that would allow us to do outreach performances with our dancers and musicians in schools and out-of-the-box venues. It would be wonderful for audiences who wouldn't or can't normally buy a ticket to a theater event plus it would be more performances for our dancers which is really important for growth as artists.
If you took the temperature of the dance scene in Dallas generally is it growing? shrinking? Filled with energy or in need of a boost? I think it is definitely growing. It seems like a new generation of dance makers and leaders are coming out and I'm also seeing more Dallas-made talent stay in Dallas. My era of dancers didn't have to go to New York to fulfill their dance goals and there is something very rewarding about presenting your art and work in your own community.
Perfect day in the life of Katie Puder: Since I'm at it 7 days a week and average about 75 hours of work... I'd say it would have to start with sleeping in a little! Breakfast with my fiance, then a Pilates workout, teach and take company class, rehearsal and finish a ballet I've been working on and then home by evening and put my feet up. I'm hoping this is my real schedule soon.
ACB performances on the horizon we should put on our calendars. Our next performances at the Eisemann Center are going to be exceptional. March 7th and 8th we are presenting the launch of Women's Choreography Project. It will a program of new works by established and emerging female choreographers. Even though ballet is a female majority art form there are few female choreographers or opportunities for women to break into the field. It's been an exciting rehearsal process so far and it's wonderful to see the company dancers working in so many new styles and movement vocabularies with the guest choreographers. I think it will be a very memorable performance.
100 Creatives: 100. Theater Mastermind Matt Posey 99. Comedy Queen Amanda Austin 98. Deep Ellum Enterpriser Brandon Castillo 97. Humanitarian Artist Willie Baronet 96. Funny Man Paul Varghese 95. Painting Provocateur Art Peña 94. Magic Man Trigg Watson 93. Enigmatic Musician George Quartz 92. Artistic Luminary Joshua King 91. Inventive Director Rene Moreno 90. Color Mavens Marianne Newsom and Sunny Sliger 89. Literary Lion Thea Temple 88. Movie Maestro Eric Steele 87. Storytelling Dynamo Nicole Stewart 86. Collaborative Artist Ryder Richards 85. Party Planning Print maker Raymond Butler 84. Avant-gardist Publisher Javier Valadez 83. Movie Nerd James Wallace 82. Artistic Tastemakers Elissa & Erin Stafford 81. Pioneering Arts Advocates Mark Lowry & Michael Warner 80. Imaginative Director Jeremy Bartel 79. Behind-the-Scenes Teacher Rachel Hull 78. Kaleidoscopic Artist Taylor "Effin" Cleveland 77. Filmmaker & Environmentalist Michael Cain 76. Music Activist Salim Nourallah 75. Underground Entrepreneur Daniel Yanez 74. Original Talent Celia Eberle 73. Comic Artist Aaron Aryanpur 72. Classical Thespian Raphael Parry 71. Dance Captain Valerie Shelton Tabor 70. Underground Culture Mainstay Karen X. Minzer 69. Effervescent Gallerist Brandy Michele Adams 68. Birthday Party Enthusiast Paige Chenault 67. Community Architect Monica Diodati 66. Intrepid Publisher Will Evans 65. Writerly Wit Noa Gavin 64. Maverick Artist Roberto Munguia 63. Fresh Perspective Kelsey Leigh Ervi 62. Virtuosic Violinist Nathan Olson 61. Open Classical's Dynamic Duo Mark Landson & Patricia Yakesch 60. Rising Talent Michelle Rawlings 59. Adventurous Filmmaker Toby Halbrooks 58. Man of Mystery Edward Ruiz 57. Inquisitive Sculptor Val Curry 56. Offbeat Intellect Thomas Riccio 55. Doers and Makers Shannon Driscoll & Kayli House Cusick 54. Performance Pioneer Katherine Owens 53. Experimental Filmmaker and Video Artist Mike Morris 52. Flowering Fashioner Lucy Dang 51. Insightful Artist Stephen Lapthisophon 50. Dallas Arts District 49. Farmer's Market Localvore Sarah Perry 48. Technological Painter John Pomara 47. Progressive Playmakers Christopher Carlos & Tina Parker 46. Purposive Chef Chad Houser 45. Absorbing Artist Jeff Gibbons 44. Artistic Integrator Erica Felicella 43. Multi-talented Director Tre Garrett 42. Anachronistic Musician Matt Tolentino 41. Emerging Veteran Actor Van Quattro 40. Festival Orchestrator Anna Sophia van Zweden 39. Literary Framer Karen Weiner 38. Man Behind the Music Gavin Mulloy 37. The Godfather of Dallas Art Frank Campagna 36. Rising Star Adam A. Anderson 35. Artist Organizer Heyd Fontenot 34. Music Innovator Stefan Gonzalez 33. Triple Threat Giovanni Valderas 32. Cultural Connector Lauren Cross 31. Critical Artist Thor Johnson 30. Delicate Touch Margaret Meehan 29. Fashion Forward Charles Smith II 28. Dedicated Artist Carolyn Sortor 27. Political Cyber Banksy Wylie H Dallas 26. Dance Preserver Lisa Mesa Rogers 25. Rob 'Ain't No Creative Like A Bow-Tie-Wearing Creative' Shearer 24. Scholar of the Stage Susan Sargeant 23. Photographer of Record Justin Terveen 22. Music Man Jeffrey Liles 21. Keeper of the Safe Room Lauren Gray 20. Playwright Jonathan Norton, Man of Many Words 19. Filmmaker and Funniest Comic in Texas Linda Stogner 18. Gallerist Jordan Roth, the Art Scene Cheerleader 17. Artful Advocate Vicki Meek