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pnb: choreographers’ showcase – interview with stanko milov

Jonathan Porretta and Maria Chapman in
Milov’s Edin (photo © Rex Tranter)

When Stanko Milov was a principal dancer with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, he received a Princess Grace Foundation Dance Fellowship Award. He joined Pacific Northwest Ballet as a principal dancer in 1999. Check out his personal website for some images and video clips of his PNB performances.

Milov has choreographed several pieces set to his own music, including one for Pacific Northwest Ballet School in 2003 and three for PNB’s Choreographers’ Showcase (2004, 2008, 2009). In 2008, he formed Absolute Ballet, a company which performed in New Orleans.

Can you tell me about the very first piece you ever choreographed?

My first choreography was for my graduation performance from the State Choreographic School in Bulgaria. It was set to a song named “Caruso” performed by Luciano Pavarotti. It was a love letter to my country. I knew at the time that I was going to leave to America.

What drew you to choreograph that first time?
Choreography is a way of expressing a thought, idea, and concept through dance. I find it is an extension to my dancing. It is a different and exciting way to express my self.

How many pieces have you choreographed? This will be number…
Number 8.

What drew you to choreograph this time?
I really wanted to complete my piece Edin from last year!

That’s great. I loved that piece. It was so dark and energized.
Dimensions are the prequel to last year’s piece. When you work for a choreographers showcase, your time in the studio is limited—as well as the time to complete the lighting. As a choreographer you have to make an executive decision to how far one should stretch himself.

Which of all your works is your “favorite” so far? Why?
Every work has a special meaning to me. Every time an artist dives into a new work it helps one discover and improve their vocabulary and style.

What was your initial goal or focus this time?
The piece is called Dimensions and, as I’ve said, it completes my piece from last year’s Choreographers’ Showcase. Initially I started working on the male duet of Dimensions for my touring group Absolute Ballet’s performance in New Orleans in the spring of 2008 with PNB dancers Casey Herd and Seth Orza. However working with students has its own challenges and opportunities. As a choreographer I have the chance to really influence and help the development of the students—not only as dancers and artists, but to help them learn work ethics that go far beyond dancing. I believe in the potential of dancers and that the energy feeds from me as a choreographer to the dancers and vice versa. When choreographing on students, I want to give the students a glimpse of how it feels to be a part of a real piece of choreography, and my main goal is to help them reach high professional look in the final performance.

Did that goal change?

Did you reach a goal with this piece?

Can you tell me about the process you used for this piece?
I always begin with the concept and type of dancers, and then I work on getting the right music. After those elements are in place, I can begin the creative process.

Is it the same process that you’ve used before?
No. The one thing that I have developed is use of video recording and editing, so I can reduce the repetition for the dancers in the studio to a minimum and increase my creative productivity.

What are some things that you love about this new piece?
I really like the suspense and counter balance of the dancers, and the use of light and choreography to showcase the dancers and my ideas throughout the piece.

Do you want to choreograph more?
I love choreographing! It is pertinent for an artist to practice its craft. As a dancer, I have worked very hard to establish my own voice; the same is valid for choreographers. Every experience and opportunity that I have as a choreographer builds my confidence and ability to express more clearly my ideas through movement!

You’re also a composer. In what ways does your knowledge of music impact your choreography?
Music is instrumental to the impact and success of any choreography. To me it is the driving force for the choreography. Dimensions is my fifth choreography set to my own music. I’ve used Peter Gabriel’s “Passion of Christ” to open the piece; it is very powerful and emotional piece of music, although I needed to add some beats to it to keep the dynamic of the choreography. The second part of Dimensions is a music composition I’ve created that really embodies the choreography.

Let’s talk a little about your last two Choreographers’ Showcase pieces. They were so different: one so lyrical and the other so in-your-face. What were your goals with those two pieces? Did you have a preference?
You are talking about Heartfelt and Edin. When choreographing, I am usually inspired by an idea that I may have; this is what sets the style of the choreography I make. When I choreographed Heartfelt in 2006, I had just released my piano solo compositions album named the same. The album was very lyrical and was inspired by the birth of my son. Last year, I wanted to create a piece that explores different dimensions in a dancer and this is how Edin was created. I am happy to see that with Dimensions this year I have finally completed the piece I’ve started last year.

Can you tell us a little bit about Absolute Ballet?
In 2007, I founded Absolute Ballet, a chamber dance company.

One of my main objectives is to utilize my passion for the arts to rejuvenate and inspire enthusiasm for dance. I want to present established classical and neoclassical works, as well as nurture the creation of new and exciting choreographies. Composed of dancers from Pacific Northwest Ballet, and featuring guest artists from other major companies, the ensemble is sure to thrill and captivate any audience.

It is a vehicle for me to explore other possibilities and also to learn about the business side of dance.

Absolute Ballet has done several projects so far. It was invited by New Orleans Ballet Association to be a part of their season and to help the rebuilding of the arts community of New Orleans after the devastating effect of hurricane Katrina.

That’s great. I look forward to hearing more about it in the future.