Internationally recognized choreographer and teacher Bruce Steivel has served as artistic director for Bern Stadt Theater in Switzerland, Hong Kong Ballet, Universal Ballet of Korea, and Nevada Ballet Theater, where he worked for over a decade.
As artistic director for Nevada Ballet Theatre, Steivel expanded the repertoire by adding thirty ballets — thirteen from visiting choreographers and seventeen of his own creation. His Nutcracker was a perennial favorite; also popular were his Peter Pan, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Dracula, and Good Times. Several of his works are currently in the repertoire of five major dance companies.
Frequently sought after as a guest teacher, Steivel has taught at Nederland Dans Theater, Norwegian National Ballet, Hungarian National Ballet, National Ballet of Portugal, Berlin Stadstoper, Beijing Ballet, Shanghai Ballet, Bat-Dor of Israel, the National Institute of Istanbul, and many schools in Japan and the U.S.
For the past three years, he has been the artistic and conservatory director for Peninsula Ballet Theatre in San Mateo, California. In addition to his Peninsula assignment, in 2011, Steivel was appointed artistic director for the Serbian National Ballet in Belgrade, Serbia.
California Literary Review: You are now Artistic Director for two companies, one in the States and one in Europe. Other than personal economics, what do you see as a benefit to combining the two assignments?
Bruce Steivel: Being an Artistic Director of two companies an ocean apart is certainly an interesting assignment. I plan to incorporate the dancers from both countries into several productions. I already have brought one male dancer from San Mateo to perform with the company in Belgrade and intend to bring three dancers from Belgrade to San Mateo to perform this season. It will be an interesting cultural exchange and benefit both the dancers and the companies.
What is scheduled for Peninsula Ballet’s 2012–2013 season?
We are putting on my production of Dracula October 26–28, Nutcracker in December, and hopefully a spring Gala performance.
At Peninsula Ballet, will you host any guest choreographers or present new in-house work by the dancers?
At present, we are preparing a Young Choreographers Workshop to be held here in our studios. We presented the workshop this past year, and it was hugely successful. This year, we will enlarge the evening — nine new pieces will be performed. To accomplish this, we transform our large studio into a performing space, complete with bleacher seating and some minimal stage lighting.
Any plans for guest teaching/choreography during your off-seasons?
The only off-season teaching I am doing at present is in San Mateo with our summer intensive program. I have been asked to return to Athens, Greece, but unfortunately I have not had the time to fit it in. I did take two weeks off after the summer intensive to visit my daughter in Paris.
Serbia is coming off an old company system and moving to a new one. There are, obviously, challenges in making the transition. How do you see your role in effecting the change?
Being the new guy on the block it is going to be easier for me than if there had been a local Serbian artistic director trying to accomplish the same thing. The company has been under the influence of the “old” Soviet style of ballet company for many years. The Western way of working — at a faster pace — has been a shock to some of the dancers. However, on the whole, my way of working has been received well, and I am enjoying acceptance in the ballet studio.
What do you see are the Serbian National Ballet’s strengths?
The Serbian company has some strong and talented dancers. Their basic training is the excellent Vaganova method, the most common ballet technique taught in Russia. This training enables them to do most anything. The dancers have a strong feeling for the classics, but enjoy trying new things. It is a company hungry for change.
Are there plans for the Serbian National Ballet to tour?
There are several tours planned within the Balkans, and I am trying to secure a more lengthy tour to foreign ports of call. At this point in history, the cost of touring a ballet company is extremely difficult, as funds all over the world are being allocated to programs other than the arts.
How much opportunity do you have to showcase your own choreography for the Serbian National Ballet? You said you are going to present your popular ballet, Peter Pan, in Serbia. Why did you choose this for your first full-length for the company? How many companies now perform your Peter Pan?
I haven’t had much time to do new choreography, but I will be presenting Peter Pan this November. Currently, the Serbian repertoire is quite extensive and includes all the major classics and a few contemporary pieces. I hope that in the coming years I will be able to do something fresh — and also bring in new choreographers.
Serbia needs to bring the youth back to the theater, and it is our hope that the popular Peter Pan will do just that. It is not too demanding on the dancers and allows them to have fun. The ballet, additionally, provides parents the opportunity to bring their families to the theater, as this ballet is appropriate for all ages. Four U.S. companies have performed Peter Pan — and now, this year, Belgrade.
Will you add Nutcracker to the Serbian repertory?
There is a desire by the board of the theater to mount Nutcracker; however, Serbia is in a financial crisis at the moment, so I think it may be two years before we can produce anything of that size. The theater has enjoyed for many years the distinction of being a state company — the demands on funds were not a problem as new productions were paid for by the state. The theater now has to move into a more Western way of thinking — one where it is necessary to find sponsors for individual productions. We do have several American corporations in Belgrade, and the American Embassy has been extremely helpful with funding.
Dracula — A Ballet to Die For
Peninsula Ballet TheatreOctober 26 to 28, 2012
2215 Broadway Street
Redwood City, California
For tickets and information call 650.369.7770
Former dancer, Geri Jeter, has been editing and writing for over fifteen years, writing on dance, food, music, NASCAR, technical theater, and Italian-American culture. For the past five years, she was the dance critic for the Las Vegas Weekly; in 2007 Nevada Ballet Theatre presented her with the Above and Beyond award. Now living in San Francisco, Geri is excited about covering the entire scope of West Coast dance. You can read more of her dance writing at her blog Dance Blitz (www.dance-blitz.com) and follow her Las Vegas and San Francisco restaurant reviews at DishKebab (www.dishkebab.com).