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A Chat with David Tamaki

NYIBC 2000 Alumnus, David Tamaki, has been dancing with New Jersey Ballet since 1999. David presented “Suite for Six”, his choreographic debut for New Jersey Ballet, at the Mayo Performing Arts Center this past February. In a recent interview, David shared with us his choreographic process, and insights about the impact his participation in NYIBC had on him as a dancer and choreographer.


How long have you been working for New Jersey Ballet and how did the opportunity for you to choreograph arise?

I have been working with New Jersey Ballet for fourteen years. Before I was hired as a dancer, I trained at the New Jersey School of Ballet for nine years and had the opportunity to work with many great teachers.I have choreographed for the school’s annual workshop performance for many years and have been looking forward to choreographing for the company. At the beginning of the season, the West Point Band approached New Jersey Ballet to discuss a collaboration and director Carolyn Clark offered me the opportunity to create a work for the company.

Can you tell  us a little bit about your choreographic process?

David: I tend to interpret music literally and choreograph movements that I would do if I were dancing to the music. One of the dancers offered her time prior to the company starting rehearsals, which allowed me to experiment with some of my ideas. It is important to me to respect the dancers’ time, so I make sure I come into rehearsal with a clear idea of what needs to be accomplished. I give the dancers the material quickly so they have time to absorb the material and I can devote most of the rehearsal time to cleaning. Gustav Holst’s music that I used for Suite for Six is high energy, and my choreography technically and aerobically challenges the dancers.
What was it like choreographing for a company you had been a part of for such a long time? Was it comforting to work with dancers with which you were familiar?

David: It was a wonderful experience creating this work on dancers that have been friends of mine for a long time. I was fortunate to be able to choose the dancers for my piece and I chose dancers that I knew would work well together.

I appreciated having dancers who understood how important this opportunity was for me. In 2009 I had a knee injury that has prevented me from dancing for the past two and a half years and I miss the feeling of expressing myself on stage.

Choreographing has allowed me to express myself in a new way, which is extremely gratifying. The dancers know how much this work means to me and have devoted themselves to making this work a success; I cannot thank them enough for their support during this process.

How did your experience with NYIBC impact your experience at NJ Ballet as both a dancer and choreographer?

David: NYIBC provides a realistic professional working environment, which teaches dancers to learn choreography in a short time and rehearse and adapt to multiple styles quickly. Dancers move from studio to studio learning classical and contemporary works. In a professional company, dancers follow a similar routine and must learn quickly. The dancers were also cast in other works and would walk into my rehearsal and need to change gears right away. NYIBC helped me build confidence, both as a dancer and a choreographer. It is not easy to get on stage in New York City and dance a well-known work in front of an illustrious panel of judges.

What advice do you have for aspiring dancers/choreographers?

David:  Never stop trying and believing in yourself! Obstacles are a natural occurrence in life and we must face them if we are going to move forward and succeed.

Anything else you would like to share with us?

David: NYIBC is a very special organization that inspires its participants to be the best they can be and learn to work as a team. Even though NYIBC is a competition, everyone who participates becomes family, and NYIBC nurtures a healthy working environment where all the dancers work toward the same goal: becoming a better dancer and person.


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