World Premiere Nighthawks: A fusion of love for two cities

Atlanta Ballet dancers in rehearsals with Choreographer-in-Residence Claudia Schreier. Photo by Shoccara Marcus.

In the final installment of our three-part series on the exclusive visual art collaboration for world premiere Nighthawks by Claudia Schreier, Atlanta Ballet talks to our very own Choreographer-in-Residence about the inspiration for her work, the significance of the unique visual art collaboration with Charity Hamidullah and Abigail Dupree-Polston, and what she is looking forward to audiences seeing on stage in a jazz-inspired piece that fuses her love for two cities.

What was your inspiration for Nighthawks?

One of the beautiful things about being a choreographer-in-residence is that it allows me to expand my reach and to stretch myself over the course of many seasons. So when Atlanta Ballet’s artistic director Gennadi Nedvigin approached me with the idea of creating a jazz ballet, I was excited by the prospect. To be able to create moves that feel like a further development of my vocabulary and are out of the realm of what Atlanta Ballet typically performs has been a thoroughly rewarding experience.

Nighthawks is inspired by urban and city life, so I have taken this as an opportunity to fuse my love for two cities, New York and Atlanta, that continue to inspire me and contribute to who I am as an artist and a person. I am a New Yorker born and raised, and Atlanta, which is renowned for being at the forefront of arts, music and culture, has become my second home and creative happy place. I wanted to take that and use it as the basis from which this new work has emerged.

You’re renowned for being a musical choreographer, tell us more about the selection of music by Wynton Marsalis and how it moved you to create.

The music is set to three movements from The Jungle (Symphony No. 4) by Wynton Marsalis. This is the second time I have worked with Wynton’s music, having had the opportunity to collaborate with him and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in 2017 and 2018 for the premiere of SPACES, an interdisciplinary, cross-genre work. It was my first taste of being surrounded by the best of the best in jazz, and the intricacies of the tonality, timing, rhythm, colors and inspiration that Wynton infuses into his music. And so to revisit his work with Nighthawks is an absolute joy. The symphonic jazz score of The Jungle is perfect for creating a ballet; there’s complexity and depth, as well as a lot of levity and playfulness.

What’s behind the title?

The title Nighthawks comes from a few places. It is, of course, the title of the famous Edward Hopper painting, which is a little nod to my New York City roots, but the nighthawk is also a bird that is most active at dusk and at dawn. While it is found all over the United States, it is known for soaring high above cities, circling around streetlights in the early to late evening. For me, it connotes people roaming the city just as the night is coaxing them to come alive. They embark on their individual journeys but meet each other and find community, and ultimately see where the night takes them.

Can you tell us more about the visual art collaboration with Charity Hamidullah and your work once again with costume designer Abigail Dupree-Polston?

A significant component of this premiere is that visual artist, muralist and tattoo artist Charity Hamidullah has created the set pieces and original artwork for Nighthawks, the latter of which have been integrated into the costumes by Abigail Dupree-Polston, one of my favorite designers to work with. This is the first time Abigail and I are jointly collaborating with a visual artist, and it means a lot to us and to Atlanta Ballet to have Charity bring her distinctive voice to the project, particularly given how much she is ingrained in the local community. Her vision surrounds the stage and envelops the dancers, and we are very lucky to have her.

What can we expect to see of Atlanta Ballet dancers?

Atlanta audiences can expect to see an entirely new side of the company. Atlanta Ballet has really embraced the style of this work, which is rooted in my own choreographic voice but pays tribute to a variety of dance genres over the ages. And another costume element sets the tone from the start, as the dancers are off and running in sneakers, not pointe shoes.

What should audiences look out for in Nighthawks?

I am particularly excited for audiences to see how Atlanta Ballet brings this multifaceted commission to life. Charity, Abigail and I drew our inspiration from each other and from a musical score bursting at the seams with the irrepressible energy and diversity of a city, and everyone sitting in the audience is a part of that.

Tickets are still available to Atlanta Ballet’s season finale. See Nighthawks as part of the Liquid Motion program, on stage for one weekend only, from May 10-12, at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.

Nighthawks is supported in part by

News tile image: Atlanta Ballet dancer Marius Morawski with Choreographer-in-Residence Claudia Schreier.