I have worked with Justin Koertgen for a number of years. First as a wonderful dancer who has created many signature roles in ballets of mine.
Now he is joining me as an assistant in Cleveland to help set the “Janis and Joe Suite” on Verb Ballets. Thought his inside into his job here might be of interest. He may do a couple of installments on my blog while he is here.
From Guest Writer; Justin Koertgen
I first met Christopher Fleming ten years ago, he had come to Dayton to rehearse his ballet “Playball”. We were doing a run through for him and I had to run out of the wing and do this weird trick flip thing and then catch the ball. Well I ran out of the wing and marked the trick because I didn’t think I could do it. Chris turned off the music and yelled that, “he didn’t care if I did a somersault but I had better do something”. So the music went back on, I ran out of the wing and did the trick perfect. Little did I know that this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship?
A year later we started off the season working on Chris’s ballet “Janis and Joe”. Chris cast me as one of the leads in the ballet. It was one of my first principle roles. After our first run through of the ballet he stopped me by the elevator and told me I had some pretty big shoes to fill (Judd Gibbs had originated the role). Well I thought he was going to tell me, “to work harder or that I wasn’t cutting it,” but as the elevator doors opened and he walked away he patted me on the back and told me, “ you got it, keep it up”
Well, since then Chris has choreographed a number of ballets on the Dayton Ballet that I was fortunate to be a part of.
“Tommy” in particular will forever be one of my favorite ballets and one of my favorite rolls.
I am still dancing for Dayton Ballet and when Chris is not choreographing on our company I often get a call from him to come guest dance his ballets in other cities. It is always and amazing and rewarding time to work on these ballets, “Janis and Joe” is one in particular that I love.
I always laugh at the memory of my mother (who attended the performances years ago) who still talks about how the whole audience wanted to get up and dance in the aisles during the ballet’s finale and how it was better than any rock concert she had ever been to.
So here I am now a senior dancer, traveling with Chris to help re-create this ballet on another company and new group of dancers. It is the end of our second day of rehearsals and we are almost done setting the piece.
I have to admit I am a bit jealous of the Verb dancers who will get to perform this ballet. Today we rehearse with the little kids who are used in the “You are so beautiful” section of the ballet. Brian Murphy (who will dance the role) was unavailable for the rehearsal so I filled in and danced the part to help the kids with timing and spacing. I was only marking it but the emotion of the music melding with the choreography really got to me and I couldn’t help but wish I could perform it.
There are a few ballets I have performed in my career that I have always said , “I have to do one more time before I retire”. Janis and Joe is definitely at the top of that list.
My Best- The Traveling B