BEYOND BALLET: empowering dancers through artistic collaboration

Presenter: Melissa Bobick; Assistant Professor, University of Utah


I believe it is possible, by intentionally nurturing individual creativity in the studio, to teach young women studying ballet that their unique voice can be their most powerful asset both personally and professionally. Teaching students to participate in an intentionally open process draws out the individual so that they might participate more personally in the creation of new works. This type of individual decision-making engages the brain in ways not traditionally associated with ballet training. Historically, one finds that ballet dancers are rarely asked to participate in their own dance education or to take part in a creative process. Countering this historical precedent is the focal point of my research. My presentation examines the outcome of true artistic collaboration. Supported by historic and contemporary research in the areas of ballet history, psychology, acting technique, and contemporary rehearsal practice, and incorporating personal interviews with dancers who have taken part in my previous creative projects, this study demonstrates the causality between process and product. By synthesizing my research, my own methodology, and historically established acting techniques, I aim to create a replicable process of true artistic collaboration, one where choreographers can both foster excellence through an enriching artistic experience for their dancers and ensure a byproduct of greater agency in the female dancer. This empowerment is something that both the university ballet student and professional alike can carry into their future pursuits, thereby bringing to light the contributions ballet brings to society.


Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, Melissa Bobick graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in ballet and nutrition from Indiana University in Bloomington and received her Master of Fine Arts degree in choreography from Purchase College Conservatory of Dance in New York. Melissa is also an ABT® Certified Teacher and earned the status of Affiliate Teacher while teaching in New York City. As a performer, Melissa danced for six seasons with The Eugene Ballet Company and Ballet Idaho where she was featured in many classical roles and numerous contemporary works. After moving to New York City, Melissa performed for the National Choreographer’s Initiative and was one of four dancers engaged by New York City Opera for their new production of Massenet’s Cendrillon. As a choreographer, Melissa was commissioned to choreograph three new works for Ballet Idaho. She worked as an Assistant Professor of Dance at Mercyhurst University from 2012 to 2016. Melissa is currently working at the University of Utah, School of Dance as an Assistant Professor and the Ballet Program Head. There, she has choreographed three original works for the Utah Ballet, Legacy, 135, and Fractured. Recently, Melissa was named a Choreographic Development Resident at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. During the residency she was fortunate enough to be mentored by Helen Pickett in the creation of her new work, A Beautiful Disquiet. Additionally, Melissa was named a finalist for McCallum Theatre’s Choreography Festival.  She took her work 135 to the competition in Palm Desert, CA.