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Who Are the Bosses? 2 Friends, 1 New Festival, 1 New Ballet

The festival, on Tuesday through Aug. 24 at the Sun Valley Pavilion, is a way for Ms. Boylston to bring ballet to her hometown. The cultural scene has expanded since she grew up there, not watching television but playing outside and cultivating her imagination. (Her father, a musician, performed in bars and at weekly outdoor performances during the summers.)

Ms. Boylston had long wanted to organize a program, but had no idea where until she was scouting wedding locations for herself in Sun Valley. “I saw the pavilion,” she said. “It’s this beautiful amphitheater and I just thought, ‘This definitely has the capability for a world-class ballet performance.’”

Certainly, the dancers are world-class. Ms. Boylston is showcasing Kimin Kim from the Mariinsky Ballet; Ida Praetorius from the Royal Danish Ballet and Alban Lendorf (also a Ballet Theater principal and one of Ms. Boylston’s partners), who will dance an excerpt from Bournonville’s rarely seen “The Kermesse in Bruges.” And Ms. Boylston will perform Jerome Robbins’s “Afternoon of a Faun” and Justin Peck’s “The Bright Motion.”

She wants to spark the next generation, too: She has included an education day consisting of free classes for children and a choreography workshop led by Ms. Bond.


Isabella Boylston.

Nathan Bajar for The New York Times

Her hope? “That people will be transported.”

Below are edited excerpts from a conversation with Ms. Boylston and Ms. Bond.

You want to bring ballet to your hometown. Did you see much dance growing up?

ISABELLA BOYLSTON I had VHS tapes. I never actually saw a performance until I was probably a teenager. It’s so weird.

Yes, especially if you’re a developing artist in any discipline. Has it been difficult pulling off this festival?

BOYLSTON It was really naïve for me to think that it was a good idea to commission a 25-minute ballet. It was a good idea, but it’s so hard to get 10 dancers to rehearse all together on their off time.

But I wanted to break up the formula of a festival. Otherwise it would have been all pas de deux, and it was important for me to have new work and also to have a more substantial piece, so I thought, “Let’s do it.”

You two have been friends since Gemma arrived at Ballet Theater in 2008. What attracted you to each other?

GEMMA BOND I had come from the Royal Ballet. Isabella was one of these crazy talents that was in the corps de ballet. She was doing her first pas de trois [in “Swan Lake”], and it was a big deal because they didn’t give those opportunities out lightly. I was like: “You’ve got this. This is easy.”

She was always really friendly to me in the studio and some people weren’t. Especially the smaller dancers.

BOYLSTON Competitive?

BOND Yeah. It was tricky for me, because I already had a repertoire. And I remember in casting, people didn’t get what they wanted because I had arrived, so there was a weird tension at first. But never with Isabella. She was like, whatever.


Gemma Bond.

Nathan Bajar for The New York Times

BOYLSTON I just thought Gemma was a free spirit, and I was always impressed and drawn to her creativity. Since I’ve known her, Gemma has been doing a million different projects — whether it’s painting a mural on the wall of her apartment or doing some insane felting project or making costumes.

BOND I get a little restless. My boyfriend is always like, “Sit down and read a book!”

What’s the idea behind this new piece?

BOND There’s an obvious two-team thing going on.

The suns and the moons?

BOND Yes, and the idea that before an eclipse there’s tension and a buildup. Everyone’s anticipating it and it happens and then it’s back to normal.

Judd and I were talking about the anxiety of knowing you have to do something or meet a group of people you don’t know. Once you’re there, it’s like, Oh it’s just people. So then it became more about society today.

How so?

BOND People segregate themselves into communities, especially with all the racial tension. It’s a difficult time, so we were talking about how it’s the same kind of anxiety.

What is your part like, Isabella?

BOYLSTON It’s really athletic. My first entrance is a solo that’s fast with jumping and turning, and then I have a pas de deux. Sometimes Gemma will show something and I’m like, “Oh God, this is going to look so bad on me,” but I try it and it totally works. Things that feel a little quirky or awkward resolve themselves in interesting ways. This will be my first time in Gemma’s work.

What do you make of the lack of prominent female choreographers in ballet?

BOYLSTON It’s just not in ballet — it’s in every profession pretty much. And then when I started reading more about it —

BOND [Laughs] You’re like, “That’s true!” It’s a tricky situation. I did a show earlier this year and it was to celebrate females and I wasn’t very happy about it because I felt like they were forcing the issue. It seemed a little desperate to me. The curation wasn’t very strong.

BOYLSTON I want to say that I picked Gemma because I like her work, not because she’s a female. It just made sense.

And you could also be in it?

BOYLSTON Exactly. [Laughs] I wanted to work with her too. I’m a very selfish director.

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