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Behind the Scenes with Stager Graham Feeny

BalletX interviews Graham Feeny, dance stager for the Philadelphia premiere of Justin Peck’s ‘Become A Mountain’ for Fall Series 2022.

How has your experience been so far working with the BalletX dancers?

Working with the BalletX dancers has been incredible. I feel lucky to have each and every one of them in the space. This work in particular is fueled by their energy, and I felt it radiated strongly in this process. They are attentive to understanding the material, and it was a pleasure watching them dive deep into the work. I owe my experience to them.

Have you ever staged a work before?

Previous to this experience, I’ve never staged a work before. I’ve always been interested in the possibility of staging, so this process has been one to remember. It’s given me a lot of new understanding, both from this side’s perspective and as a dancer. Coming into this experience, I wanted to share a process that my dancer self would want, and I felt I could more easily relate because I am in their shoes most of the time. It was a big puzzle to solve, and we had fun in the process together.

Having danced in the work yourself, what is the most valuable information you feel you’ve passed on to the dancers?

I think the most important aspect of this piece was keeping the collective feeling alive for when it was first created. Everyone’s voice and embodiment was clear and personal and is what transcended it to have even greater impact. If anything, I hoped they’d find themselves within the work and bring their own personal love and freedom to it. It’s wonderful to hear the dancers speak about their experiences as well to learn where they are and see where we can take it.

Can you speak about Justin’s inspiration behind the work?

I can’t speak directly on Justin’s behalf, but when he created the work, it felt as if it was to celebrate our class. There’s a purity and joy to it that flows effortlessly, and anyone who comes to see the work can feel it. He played with many structural elements, and I believe they are what give the piece its unity. The piece is very moving, and I am so glad BalletX has a chance to share it again.

Can you speak about the music and how it drives the dancers?

I believe the music is the most influential aspect to the piece and how the dancers relate to it. Its specificity drives the piece forward, connecting one idea to the next. Although the structure and rhythm varies, the consistency stays true throughout. The many layers give the dancers an exciting journey to experience. It’s a special thing when the music is just as moving as what is danced.


See BalletX perform ‘Become A Mountain’ at Fall Series 2022, Nov 30 – Dec 4 at The Wilma Theater.