An Inside Look at BalletX’s Dance Fellowship

Savannah Green and Shawn Cusseaux share their Dance Fellowship experience.

Savannah, you are now a BalletX company member but started as a Fellow in 2019-2020. Why did you want to be a Fellow?
Savannah: When I first saw BalletX perform at the Vail Dance Festival, I felt an immediate connection to their repertory and physicality. The company’s unique blend of power and balletic finesse spoke so viscerally to me and I knew I had to be part of this incredible group. I attended the BalletX Summer Intensive in 2018 and fell in love with everything about the company! Those two weeks were pivotal for me and solidified my desire to work with BalletX, in any capacity I could. When Christine told me about the opportunity to become the Inaugural Fellow, I was thrilled to embark on that exciting journey! The opportunity to learn all the repertory, work alongside the dancers, perform on stage, and experience life as a professional dancer in my dream company was a perfect match.

Shawn, what inspired you to apply for the Dance Fellowship in 2020-2021?
Shawn: I applied to the Fellowship after attending the BalletX Company Audition. I remember leaving the Audition so inspired and hungry for the work that the company was doing. Witnessing the company members in the audition was truly a pivotal point in my decision. They displayed such confidence, versatility, and originality that it helped me see what I could also bring to my artistry.

Savannah, what was the most surprising or unexpected thing about the Fellowship for you?
Savannah: In the beginning of the Fellowship, I was shocked at how physically demanding my days were! Since I was in the beginning of my career, I had never spent so many hours consistently dancing in the day before. Even though the work days could feel challenging, I was mostly surprised by how inspiring and uplifting everyone around me was (and still is!). The members of the company welcomed me so warmly and lifted me up with their encouraging words, especially when I needed it most. Becoming part this supportive group of artists has been an unbelievable joy. 

Shawn, what has been surprising or unexpected for you?
Shawn: This entire journey has been unexpected, to say the least. I was very nervous coming in and working along with the company during this unprecedented time, but I think although unfortunate this time has brought me several opportunities to work with the dancers and premiere with them in films which I didn’t expect to be able to do at all. I have grown so much through all of the processes I have been in.

Savannah, what skills did you take away from the Fellowship and how do they impact your dancing career now?
Savannah: Throughout my time as a Fellow, I learned a ton of choreography! At times, I found it difficult to keep all the different phrases of movement straight in my head, since I was learning all of the company women’s roles. When I began to feel overwhelmed, I figured out my own methods of notating the movement either by writing it all down with diagrams or filming myself at different speeds or angles. To this day, I keep up with those methods of notation! Although I’m now responsible for a lower volume of choreography, they help me dive deeper into my work. When I don’t have to focus on remembering the order of steps, I can experiment more and find my own nuance to the movements.

Shawn, what skills are you learning that you think will most benefit you as you move forward in your professional career?
Shawn: I think the biggest skill I have learned and am continuing to build on is my confidence within my movement. Working with the dancers I can observe them all so closely and admire all of their differences. This encourages me to also shine in that same light and to let my individuality and where I come from drive my artistry and influence my style. As a professional, I never want to be a copy of another dancer; I always want to be true to myself.

Shawn and Savannah, the Fellows have a lot of responsibilities learning multiple roles and being choreographed on for Pop Ups and dancer collaborations. What is your favorite aspect of working with BalletX?
Savannah: I love being part of the creative process and witnessing the evolution of our work from start to finish! As a company member now, I’m so happy to be part of the final product. My days as an understudy were extremely gratifying, but I’m ecstatic to have my own voice present in our films and hopefully on stage soon as well!

Shawn: I love working with all the diverse choreographers. I find it challenging in the best way possible. I have enjoyed expanding my movement vocabulary and surprising myself with all the different works we have created and continue to construct. I feel the best is yet to come.

Click here to learn more about the Dance Fellowship.

March 05, 2021