Penelope Freeh

Hometown Love

Posted by on Jan 31 2016, in Uncategorized

I saw the premiere of my new ballet Native Copper last night. I am in Ohio and the group is Gem City Ballet, a youth company of the most professional order, led by my teacher/idol/mentor growing up, Barbara Pontecorvo.


This is my second ballet for GCB, the first being Zinc in 2014. With both works I engaged in a process that I would’ve had with professionals. I recognize this both as a maker and now, as a viewer. It was so good to see the piece last night! It was like meeting up with an old friend I’d forgotten I liked so much. It’s funny, putting my art out there then letting it go, relinquishing control. Like giving birth, I imagine, these things get born then take on a life and trajectory all their own. I make them, but it’s their interfacing with the world that makes them what they are.


Barbara wants to bring me back next season (GCB’s 25th) to complete this Elements Trilogy. Next will be Cobalt, a pas de deux. I am still ruminating on casting: so many interesting dancers to choose from, all so unique and worthy.


This is a deep thing, being back here at home and doing what I do: making work, teaching, mentoring, connecting with these dancers in ways that I craved and had the benefit of receiving when I was their age, before I was thrown into a tailspin. I want to be there for them, offer advice and warm support, but also somehow convey that though of course it is all so precious, so too it is all so…what?…quotidian? Their struggles and questions are the stuff of life, and the simple act of keeping going is what ultimately makes the difference. Any pathways they take can be made great and true. The negotiating, questing, building capacity for the flow and coming to terms with the dry times keeps happening.


Our existence as dancers is so transitory and yet so indelible. Our bodies contain the DNA of all the ballets we’ve ever encountered, in doing or viewing or being in the room with. I’m starting to identify that I’m engaged in a constant quest for submergence in the fertility of my lizard brain, the good primitive part that just is and accepts many things as valid, without second-guessing. The recent Abu Dhabi process confirmed my, uh, relevance, and is yet another amazing thing born out of my hometown. I crackle with gratefulness.