Unfortunately, it looks like you are using an outdated browser.

To improve your experience on our site and ensure your security, please upgrade to a modern browser such as Chrome, Firefox, Safari, or Edge.

Skip to main content

You have the promo code applied

From the NYCI: Fall Session 2023

Explore the Art and Artists of the Latest Institute Session


The New York Choreographic Institute pairs rising, international talents in choreography with the dancers of the School of American Ballet (SAB) and New York City Ballet (NYCB), encouraging experimentation, invention, and originality. The purpose of these sessions is to encourage and support both the choreographers and the dancers by fostering a safe, progressive space that welcomes both creators and performers to embrace the choreographic process. In keeping with these goals, the Institute has begun leaning more intentionally into a "continuity of care" approach by inviting choreographers to return for more than one session—sometimes several—over the years. The five works developed throughout the Fall Session 2023 reflect this objective. 

These five works are decidedly distinct from another: they are scored by music from contemporary composers and fellow dancers; feature casts ranging in size from six to 15 dancers; explore inspirations both wildly abstract and deeply personal; and utilize styles that by turns incorporate, respond to, or move in conversation with classical ballet. Artistic development, the process, and collaboration come up throughout these choreographers' descriptions of their pieces, and blossom within the footwork itself—and in the dancers' performances. The resulting portrait is one of many voices sharing a congenial space and a uniquely supportive infrastructure, as the leadership of the Institute essentially intended.

"Choreographing for the New York Choreographic Institute felt like a wonderful expansion to my life," shares Harrison Ball, who recently retired from performing with the Company. "Entering the New York City Ballet studios just 6 months after ending my career as a principal dancer was a somewhat disorienting experience. It was a strange sensation to feel like an insider while being, by definition, an outsider. Initially, I struggled to stay present and playful. I had to scrap my original concept after the first day. The session began at the same time as the war between Israel and Hamas. It was difficult to feel grounded in the building.

"I decided to slow down and redirect my attention to pieces of music I have wanted to work with for years but had never felt like I was in the right place to do so," he continues, referring to the three pieces by Philip Glass he used for the score—Tiquiê River, Japurá River, and Aliens with Extraordinary Abilities: Triptan. "Alas, I hit the brakes and created this movement as well as fragments of a larger ballet (the fragments are not recorded)."

Regarding the process of developing Aliens with Extraordinary Abilities with dancers from NYCB, Ball reflected on the educational opportunities it afforded as well as the personal growth he achieved through the session. "The experience at the Institute revealed to me what I want to make and more importantly, what I don’t want to create. Of course, I am hoping that this will usher more opportunities, so I can continue to hone my voice and do what I love. Working in this context with NYCB, the dancers, my friends and colleagues, was the catharsis I needed to fully move into my next phase of life."

Aliens With Extraordinary Abilities

Choreography by Harrison Ball

Gabriella Domini, Emily Kikta, Charlie Klesa, Shelby Mann, Alexa Maxwell, Davide Riccardo, Peter Walker, Andres Zuniga

Antonia Grilikhes-Lasky, Dramaturg

For choreographer Sarah Foster-Sproull, visiting from New Zealand, the Institute provided a similarly personal period of growth and exploration. She shared the following message about the creative process:

My young daughter Ivy started having seizures last year. She explained the experience predominantly as a void, bereft of memory, aside from some small glimmers of the experience that revealed an inky blue place. There, a woman sang to her far in the distance, she walked through buildings with Corinthian columns, and saw hybrid beasts. It sounded to me like a wish, or a memory.

Sometimes, the way I process life’s challenges is through making art, and (with Ivy’s permission), I was inspired to make Inky Blue as a means to digest our family experience, Ivy’s experience. However, the work you see on film is not about Ivy’s physical experience, it’s more about the process of transformation she has undertaken in managing her condition. It’s about strength, resilience, and community. Symbols layered through the work capture some of the imagery of this transformation. These things include, for example: a crown, fingers pointing between the earth and the sky, elbows up in ‘power pose’, circling the hands indicating multiple planes of existence.

And Inky Blue would not have materialized in the way it did without its dancers. We met each other for the first time on day one of the Choreographic Institute and worked fast. The creative process I run requires intelligence, collaborative skills, and curiosity, which the Inky Blue eight had in droves. The team was so beautifully open and prepared to experiment with my ideas, and play in zones that could sound a little whack-a-doodle (if you don’t know me). The dancers also took established movement and transformed it, and contributed movement ideas of their own to the work. I am lucky to have worked with such a talented and receptive collection of dancers.

Now that I have been involved in an in-person NYCI session in New York, I am hoping to have an opportunity to visit again to make another work. This is because the context of making choreography is culturally contingent. The form of ballet might be similar internationally but the environment and mechanisms of operation are different depending on the location. Now that I have some experience here, I want to build on the work I have begun. I’m so very thankful to Adrian for the opportunity to choreograph on the NYCI, in New York, where I momentarily felt a part of its magnificent energy. And to Annabelle, who has saved me at airports, and entertained me with such wit and intelligence.

I dedicate Inky Blue to Ivy Foster, my beloved daughter, who is strong and intelligent, creative, and kind beyond her years.

Ngā mihi nui,


Inky Blue

Choreography by Sarah Foster-Sproull

Oscar Estep, Sierra Griffith, Allegra Inch, Noah McAuslin, Maxwell Read, Grace Scheffel, Cainan Weber, Shane Williams

Sarah Lunnie, Dramaturg

"The piece is all about collaboration," says Houston Thomas. The Fall 2023 Session was his third with the Institute; beginning with 2020's An Afternoon of Angelic Voices, created over Zoom, these opportunities to work with NYCB dancers have played a meaningful role in shaping him as a choreographer. "It's been two years and a lot has happened—I've had a lot of practice to figure out my choreographic voice, what I want in my creative process, what are the things that I use to help create the piece; for me, the process is all about collaboration. The start of this particular process was my collaboration with Johannes Goldbach."

In addition to composing electronic music and working as a techno DJ, Goldbach is a dancer with the SemperOper Ballet—the company of which Thomas was also a member for ten years, until he retired from performing to focus on choreography. "Johannes usually begins with a few samples," explains Thomas. "We sit down and talk about them, and then we start to assign the samples to actual projects. Eventually, we make the arrangements. We work hand in hand, talking about how the piece develops, what I see for each moment. He really helps create the piece, acting as a map for the structure.

"I see it as a journal entry, allowing me to self reflect—to understand where I am in my artistic career," Thomas continues. "I wanted to show how the music really defines the piece and the choreographic devices that I use. I also hope that the creative process that I produce is presented in the work. It's a collaboration. I want the dancers to be just as visible as my steps, and I hope to see them just as much as I hope to see myself in the ballet." 

Prior to joining the SemperOper Ballet, Thomas was a student at SAB, training alongside some of the same dancers with whom he has collaborated via the Institute. "I understand this world and the dance language that they speak, so in a sense, it's always like returning home. I'm able to pick up that conversation where it left off, even though that was 10 years ago—it continues naturally." This shared vernacular is key to the collaborative process Thomas has developed, aided, in part, by his continuing relationship with the Institute itself. "The New York Choreographic Institute has done a lot for me," he says. "It has really helped push me in a particular direction. It's allowed people to see my work. I feel supported by the Institute—they really are investing in me. Having the opportunity to create work alone is a privilege, so I'm really grateful that Adrian keeps inviting me to work with these incredible dancers." 


Choreography by Houston Thomas

Olivia Bell, Meaghan Dutton-O’Hara, Kennard Henson, Alec Knight, KJ Takahashi, Emma Von Enck

Sarah Lunnie, Dramaturg
Keto Dancewear, Costumes

Like Ball, Eliza Blutt retired from dancing with New York City Ballet prior to this latest Institute session; her experiences as a performer inevitably, and intentionally, shaped her work with the Institute. "Working with SAB dancers was a profound experience," she shares. "Having been a student of the School not long ago, I was able to intertwine my experience and the passage of time into my choreography as a tool for traversing a decade of personal and artistic growth since my time at SAB. Inspired by dance and film luminaries like Lucinda Childs, Maya Deren, and Chantal Akerman, I aimed to weave mathematical formations and cinematic elements into the piece while holding onto my own style and knowledge. I was also given the chance to work with a dramaturg, Cat Rodríguez, whose deep knowledge of theater and humanity gave the piece another perspective and dimension. To have real-time feedback while making art is a gift which makes the piece more informed and multifaceted.

"Reflecting on my repeated engagements with the Institute, I recognize how the passage of time has shaped my approach," Blutt continues. "The silence and peace in the studio is a privilege that I have become increasingly more aware of. I aimed to foster an environment where dancers felt each other's support, both physically and emotionally. Drawing from Simone Forti's Huddle, I sought to convey the essential nature of holding others up, acknowledging the weight and necessity of interconnected existence. My objective was for the dancers to be acutely aware of their surroundings, understanding that art and life constantly inform each other, creating a dynamic circuit of presence and connection."

I'm Afraid of Revolving Doors and Escalators

Choreography by Eliza Blutt 

Kate Bivens, Ava Gray Bobbitt, Ethan Collins, Peter De Carlo, Corbin Holloway, Claire Kim, Manuela Lira, Hugo Mestres, Tanner Quirk, Jonah Schwartz, Athan Sporek, Theodore Swank, Joshua Tyebkhan, Kyle Vernia, Huscia Waldman

Cat Rodriguez, Dramaturg

Raja Feather Kelly's work, most often with his company the feath3r theory, combines dance, theatre, and media, and represents a collaboration between dancers, actors, filmmakers, musicians, photographers, and designers; the vocabulary he brings to the Institute is thus relatively fresh and unique to the SAB students who've had the opportunity to participate with him. "There's a huge educational component to what I'm doing when I work with the Institute," he says. "These artists are studying ballet; most of the time they spend in school, what are the themes? What kind of physical information do I think is contemporary, or aligned with my version of experimental dance theater? I build a lot of ensemble work, so it becomes important to ask: How do you dance with a group of people, while holding on to your individuality? Flocking, flying, and falling were the themes that started the movement generation for Sisyphus and Friends." 

As Feather Kelly notes, most audience members will have associations with the myth of Sisyphus, and may well be able to imagine what is Sisyphean about the performers' work. The collaboration created through this Session emerged from these connections. "Our process had a lot to do with conversations around, for example, what do you want to do with your lives? And what do you want to do with your careers? And how do you maintain joyfulness and determination, so that every time you approach something, it's going to feel new?" he says. "That's the Sisyphean ideal: you're rolling that boulder of success, or hope, or career, or technique, or whatever it is, up, and then the year is over. Next year, you start again—or even on a minute level: you go to class, you do your pliés, then you do your center work, then your barre work. Then you leave, and then you go to another class, and you do your barre work, your center work. You're in a cyclical lifestyle. How do you not let that bog you down, and rather continue to find freedom, again, and again, and again? And, it becomes universal, including the people watching the ballet: "Do I, as a person watching, have a relationship to Sisyphus? I get up, I go to work, I feed my kids, I mow the lawn. I have to do that year after year, or day after day, or moment by moment. My hope is that you feel like you have a connection to it, and not just find it beautiful. The dancers are so beautiful, but they're really working hard. Being able to bring light to the effort of what it takes to be a performer, and connecting that to the life of a person observing, is exciting to me."

Returning to work with the Institute a second time has also had an impact on Feather Kelly's practice. "I have never thought of myself as a choreographer of repertory work; when my company makes something, it takes us about a year or two and we're not likely to do it again after we perform it. However, working with SAB and the Institute, among other things in my career, I've developed an interest in the idea of creating work that could be staged again and again, or creating something that can be used as a practice. With me, they're learning an approach: How do you approach this movement? And how do you approach the performance of this movement so that when you do it again, you can ask yourself the same questions, so that the performing of the dance is the answer? That can change as the students grow as performers. Flocking and falling won't always be the same as their bodies change and as the choreographies change. But that's a tool, and something that I'm also starting to put in my toolbox, so that when I'm introduced to people that I'll only work with for a finite amount of time, I can think about, how do I introduce them to my work? And how can they take that information with them? That has a timelessness to it. I'm trying to build a cache of that in my own practice—repeatable information that is timeless, but also has the ability to develop. And that is the creation of an approach." 

Sisyphus (and Friends)

Choreography by Raja Feather Kelly

Eloisa Edginton, Veronica Hanson, Becket Jones, Keenan Kiefer, Sophia-Cosette Massa, Jonathan McCray, Maya Milic, Simeon Neeld, Alexander Perone, Kylie Williams

Risa Steinberg, Choreographic Mentor
Alexandria Giroux, Choreographic Assistant

About the Choreographers

Harrison Ball is an actor, choreographer, writer, and dancer. Mr. Ball began his ballet training with the Charleston Ballet Theatre in South Carolina before enrolling as a full-time student at the School of American Ballet (SAB) in 2007. Mr. Ball joined New York City Ballet in 2011 and retired as a principal dancer in 2023. Mr. Ball choreographed for NYCB’s First Steps program in 2022, which garnered his first professional commission, Purcell Suite, with New Jersey Ballet. For this fall’s New York Choreographic Institute Session, Mr. Ball is presenting segments of a larger concept of a ballet he has titled Aliens With Extraordinary Abilities.

Sarah Foster-Sproull is a New Zealand-based contemporary choreographer and Senior Lecturer in Dance Studies at the University of Auckland. Sarah’s choreographic research traverses large scale works for up to 100 performers to intimate performances involving one or two dancers. Sarah was appointed Choreographer in Residence with the Royal New Zealand Ballet since 2020 and was a Resident Fellow of the Centre for Ballet and the Arts at New York University (’21). In the summer of 2020, she was a choreographer for the New York Choreographic Institute’s remote session, making a collaborative dance film under lockdown conditions between Auckland and New York. Sarah is the Artistic Director of Foster Group Dance, which has been government funded by Creative New Zealand since 2015, and was Creative New Zealand’s Choreographic Fellow for 2017-2019. To date, Sarah’s choreographic work has been performed in New Zealand, Singapore, China, the United Kingdom, and Fiji. In her career as a performer, Sarah was a founding dancer and choreographer of The New Zealand Dance Company. In addition, Sarah is a distinguished graduate of the New Zealand School of Dance, and her PhD in creative practice through the University of Auckland is currently under examination.

Houston Thomas, born and raised in Chicago, began his dance training with the Joffrey Ballet's Outreach Program under Pierre Locket's direction. He later attended the Joffrey Ballet's Academy of Dance while also studying at the Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts) under the direction of Lisa Johnson-Willingham. In 2011, Houston enrolled as a full-time student at the School of American Ballet, and after completing his training at SAB in 2013, Houston joined the Dresden Semperoper Ballett, rising to the ranking of second soloist. After ten years with the company, Houston decided to leave the Semperorper Ballett to focus on his choreography entirely. In 2018, Houston created his first work, Moonlit Variants, for the Semperoper Ballett's Young Choreographers evening. The following year he was commissioned to create Alice in Wonderland alongside four other choreographers. In his first work for the New York Choreographic Institute in 2020, Houston collaborated with NYCB dancers completely over Zoom, resulting in the film An Afternoon of Angelic Voices. Houston created his second work with NYCI, The Return Studies, for its 2021 Fall Session, featuring both NYCB dancers and SAB students. Houston has since then created works for Cincinnati Ballet, The Juilliard School, School of American Ballet, ABT Studio Co., Hamptons Dance Project, Marcelo Gomes, and Ballet San Antonio. In July of 2022, Houston premiered Follow the White Rabbit at the Young Emergent Choreographers Contest in Biarritz, France, winning a commission to create his work, Skywatcher, for the Opera National de Bordeaux.

Eliza Blutt is a dancer and choreographer, born and raised in New York City. Eliza danced with New York City Ballet from 2016 until 2021. She has also danced in music videos and films, including John Wick III. Eliza participated in numerous New York Choreographic Institute sessions as a dancer, and in 2021, she was selected as a choreographer for NYCI’s Fall Session, in which she created the dance film On Certainty & Doubt. Eliza explores all realms of visual arts, aiming to incorporate multimedia influences into her creations. In 2021, she led a collaborative called "Enhance the Dance," an immersive dance experience involving fifteen artists, from dancers to composers and graphic designers. The performance was an embrace of collaborative creation and empathetic leadership.

Raja Feather Kelly is a choreographer, director, and the Artistic Director of the dance-theatre-media company the feath3r theory, for which he has created 18 premieres, most recently UGLY Part 3: BLUE at the Chelsea Factory. The company’s newest work, The Absolute Future, will premiere in 2024. Raja’s most recent work was choreography for White Girl in Danger at the Second Stage Kiser Theater, written by Michael R. Jackson and directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz. Raja also choreographed Jackson’s Broadway musical A Strange Loop (Lyceum Theatre, premiered off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizon), winner of two Tony Awards, including Best Musical. In addition to Jackson and Blain-Cruz, his Off-Broadway collaborators include Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and Sarah Benson. Among many recent works are the Pulitzer Prize-winning productions Fairview and A Strange Loop. In addition to White Girl in Danger, Raja’s current projects include Lempicka and The Listeners. Additional recent works include Bunny Bunny (UC San Diego) and Scenes for an Ending for the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company. Raja’s accolades include a Princeton Arts Fellowship, three Princess Grace Awards, an Obie award, an Outer Critics Circle honor, a Creative Capital award, and many others.

Stay closer to the action

Enter your name and email address to receive email communications from New York City Ballet, including special offers, on-sale dates, and other updates.