AN INTERVIEW WITH LAUREN LOVETTE
Throughout the creative process it's the norm to think that ones resources are endless, as long as funding supports the idea. While still being able to support and reach goals, we're hoping to shift this perspective for creators. As artists, it's important for us to acknowledge our responsibility for the environments that shape our work and the impacts of our processes. In our efforts at ACC, we hope to encourage creatives to be cognizant of the environmental footprint of their work, while still encouraging them to pursue their artistic goals. Sustainability and artistic innovation can go hand in hand.
In this interview, we were thrilled to connect with Lauren Lovette, former New York City Ballet star and emerging choreographer, to learn about how she brought an eco-friendly approach to costuming and set design for a recent choreographic commission. We believe her work is a great example of one way that choreographers and dance companies can contribute to a more sustainable future.
What inspired your idea to create a “recycled” ballet for Oregon Ballet Theatre?
I first had the idea to make a sustainable design for a piece of choreography in 2018, but it didn’t quite land the way that I had envisioned that it would. I was commissioned to make a work for a major ballet company and worked with the extraordinary designer, Zac Posen. We had the desire to take old forgotten costumes and redesign them to give them a new life, while also visually showing the ghosts of the past in our piece speaking to a changing ballet world. We weren’t able to fully execute our idea with the old costumes in that particular collaboration, however the concept remained etched in my brain and I knew that eventually I would have the opportunity to bring it to life.
When Oregon Ballet Theatre expressed interest in premiering and showcasing some of my unfinished choreography from the Dance Lab NY residency years prior that I hadn’t found home for yet, it sparked the idea of a fully sustainable work… From the choreography itself to the sets and costumes on stage. I decided to request a hunt through the warehouses and started repurposing from the ground up all of the materials used!
I named the work Eco. I structured the choreography tell an abstract tale of a lone wanderer happening upon a group of nomadic people, connecting with a young woman from the tribe and being renewed to take on his next journey ahead.
Sustainability is one of our primary concerns as a world currently. I have followed how farming, fishing, the commercial industry, plastics, and many many other unintentionally wasted and unfocused projects have hurt our natural world and bring risk to our future generations health and wellbeing. We risk the endangerment and extinction of many plant and animal life that we currently take for granted every time we buy without considering our beautiful planet.
United States dance companies and others worldwide need to cut costs with the inflation rates rising. Our world needs a break from unnecessary waste, and I feel that getting creative with what we already have could have the most positive effect across the board. It feels like a total WIN, Win, win.
Can you describe how you approached OBT about making a sustainable ballet?
Oregon Ballet Theatre immediately met me with excitement when I presented this idea. Peter Franc (interim artistic director at the time) was instrumental in taking the idea from a concept to reality. He worked alongside the staff to find old costumes from the production of Carmen, as well as it's gorgeous set that could be separated and rehung to create a totally new look. His belief in the project allowed me to execute my ideas while being supported by the staff and production team.
Was “Eco” your first completely sustainable ballet? What else have you done in the dance world that incorporates a sustainable process?
Eco was my first creation with a total aim at sustainability, however I have also worked with Santo Laquasto to repurpose backdrops and props in a number of my works for the Paul Taylor Company. I feel a great support in this mission being Resident Choreographer there.
Can you explain how you designed and acquired your sets/costumes?
I have been a thrift shopper since I was a young girl with only really buying things from Goodwill, Salvation Army, or yard sales. At that time in my life I shopped 'used' due to an inability to afford something new, but now I shop 'used' in order to be more intentional about how I shop for new items and the way that those new items are being built.
It has become more popular amongst our general population to shop thrift/vintage due to the amount of waste “fast fashion” has caused on our planet globally. In New York City, there are plentiful vintage shops, antique stores, and online options to find and play with styles both past and future. A ballet warehouse is no different! There are racks upon racks of costumes and sets that could be auctioned off, repurposed, or taken apart to make new looks. I have made it a personal mission of mine to use recycled materials as often as possible and to work alongside designers to get creative in how we can do as little harm to our environment as possible while not placing bars on the creativity of the project.
Did you feel supported by the dancers and leadership while taking a recycling-oriented approach?
I have only just started my mission for a greener ballet world, and have many collaborators yet to work with, however I have truly felt supported by everyone involved in the companies that I have worked with so far and will continue to make this a priority in every new creation that I craft from here forward.
Do you plan on creating more works in this way/what are your goals for sustainability in arts?
I am currently working with Colorado Ballet on a new creation called “Three Views of a Mountain” and have hired on two designers that I greatly respect. Brandon Baker and Libby Stadstad are looking to maximize every resource we have and to come up with a seamless and classic design that will do minimal damage to our environment. We are still in the crafting stage of the process, but I know that the whole team is thrilled to dive into the possibilities that the Colorado Ballet has in its own warehouses to get playfully creative next week when we uncover the possibilities together!