Interview with Daniel Ojeda

We sat down with company member and choreographer Daniel Ojeda to discuss his new ballet, The Monster and the Gift, which will make it’s world debut at this month’s Winter Repertory. Ojeda’s ballet will run February 10 and 11, alongside Concerto Barocco by George Balanchine and Peter Anastos’ Night Crawlers.

Ballet Idaho: What inspiration do you look for when creating a full ballet?
Daniel Ojeda: Most of the work I create, big or small, tends to be conceptually driven and preferably current. Whether that means a current reflection of my own personal struggles, or something more universally topical, I do my best to be consistently creating in the now otherwise I see no point attempting to create anything.

BI: What about ballet/dance gives you the most joy?
DO: To me, Dance is the best vehicle for the purest form of expression. Before we could talk, we could move and emote. I love being able to use my body’s unique physicality to express myself, it’s like therapy, really painful therapy.

BI: How/when in your life did you begin choreographing?
DO: I began choreographing here, at Ballet Idaho as part of our NewDance, Up Close series. The ‘how’ is a combination of things. When I danced at Pacific Northwest Ballet School as a professional division student, there was a program where company members would create original work for the students to be performed at the end of the year. This was my first exposure to the choreographic process. I loved dancing the work but I loved the process of working to create something more. This is why I decided to give choreography a shot.

BI: What do you love most about choreography in contrast to dancing?
DO: The ability to create work on different bodies is probably my favorite thing about choreography. My own body can sometimes be very limiting, so being able to make tangible the things I see in my brain but can’t necessarily execute is really interesting. There is an intimacy and trust that comes with having a piece choreographed on you. But when you are in front of the room and you’re the one creating that environment, it’s very rewarding.

BI: How did you begin your process for The Monster and the Gift? Does the ballet have a story?
DO: The process for this ballet has been longer than most. The idea to do a collaborative work, especially one involving original artwork has been on my brain for a little over a year. The ballet stems from an original narrative I have created. From there, the artwork and score were created. So yes, the ballet certainly has a story. The title refers to the artist, their talent, and how oftentimes the most talented people are monster in their personal lives. The work comes at a cost, sometimes it’s at the cost of ones humanity. Since the artist’s life is her work, we see bits and pieces of her life through the process of her creating the art and where she was in her life during that creation.