Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Behind the Scenes: Claire Mann

Photo: Daphne Youree
Being part of a new ballet company from the ground up, it quickly becomes apparent how much goes into making new work possible. It's more than choreographing, composing, dancing, and writing; it's a combination of all that work plus behind the scenes activities to help raise the continuing support to make it happen. BalletCollective has a wonderful group of supporters, and I thought it would be interesting to get to know one of our board members. Claire Mann is a wife, a mother of three beautiful girls, a ballet aficionado, and an art history teacher. Claire has been with BalletCollective from the start. Below is my interview with her: 

What does BalletCollective mean to you? What clearly stands out about BalletCollective is the collaborative process. What makes it so much more than that, though, is how very, very talented each one of those contributors to the process is, from the librettist, to the composer and musicians, to the costume and lighting designers, to the choreographer and the dancers. Everyone is at the top of his or her game, and that collective talent makes for a very exciting and beautiful end result. 

What prompted you to get involved? Well, first of all, I was honored to be asked to be involved.  As you probably know, I have been an ardent and devoted fan of NYC Ballet for years, so it was a real treat for me to get to know Troy — and now you — as more than just dancers I had admired as an audience member.  At the time I met Troy, he was just beginning to explore ideas about what his own company could be. Troy has such genuine enthusiasm for the arts, but at the same time a real practical intelligence about how to make things happen, so when he asked me to be involved, it just seemed obvious to me I should be supportive in whatever way I could be. It has been a joy for me to watch the evolution of BalletCollective and to get to know the artists involved.

What do you love about dance? I think it is just a very visceral thing for me.  I remember back in the early 1990s I was living in London and just starting to go to the ballet regularly, when I saw a performance so exhilarating I almost couldn’t bear for it to end, and I think I am looking for that same wonderful feeling every time I go to the ballet  – or to any other sort of dance performance, for that matter. That ballet, by the way, was William Forsythe’s “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated,” with Darcy Bussell and Sylvie Guillem dancing that evening – and, for the record, I do get that same feeling whenever I see BalletCollective perform.

What's your favorite ballet? Why? I like so many that there is no way to pick a favorite, but there are certain ballets that I am always excited to see on the program, such as “Glass Pieces” or “Serenade.”  And, of course, I love the dance Troy choreographed and that the two of you performed at Chris’s and my 50th birthday party. 

What are you reading?  I am very grateful to have received so many good books from so many great friends over the last few months.  Two that I am reading now are Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford and Dear Life by Alice Munro.  

How did you become aware of Cynthia Zarin's  poetry? I actually met Cynthia about 10 years ago when our daughters were taking ballet at the same dance studio.  Shortly after that, I happened to read in The New Yorker a beautiful and very memorable piece she wrote, and I have been a fan ever since.  For me, it is such a happy coincidence that she has become part of BalletCollective.

Have you ever danced before? I have danced before, when I was young, but not in a particularly serious way.  I did love it, though, and that is probably the real reason I love dance so much. 

Troy told me that you teach. Can you tell us about your teaching?  Well, I don’t do as much teaching these days as I used to, and I miss it, but I do teach art history to a pretty adorable group of third-graders at a school in the Bronx.  I teach as part of a program called “Learning to Look,” which culminates in a trip at the end of the year to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  The program is wonderful, as are the students.  We have a great time.

Above is the dance Claire commissioned Troy to choreograph as a surprise for her husband, Chris, for their joint 50th birthday party. The dance is titled "Spanish PipeDream"! I hope you enjoy! Troy and I had a great time with this project!

Troy and everyone at BalletCollective are grateful for Claire's support and encouragement throughout the years. Since this interview, Claire and Chris, just this weekend had us over to their country home to get to know each other. Troy and I had a wonderful time chatting over drinks with them in their authentic English pub and are excited for our relationship to grow.  


  1. Great interview, picture and video.

  2. Claire and Chris are the start of a bright future for BalletCollective. Keep up the fabulous connections.