BYU’s Theatre Ballet performs Shayla Bott’s work in Philadelphia
Shayla Bott, a professor in the Department of Dance and artistic director of BYU’s Theatre Ballet, was selected as a presenter at the Women in Dance Leadership Conference, held this year in Philadelphia. Bott’s choreography, “Weaker,” was chosen from over 400 entries from 21 countries, a record number for the organization. Dancers from BYU’s Theatre Ballet performed the piece at Drexel University’s Mandell Theatre.
Presented by Women in Dance Leadership LLC, the Women in Dance Leadership Conference promotes the work of female choreographers, researchers and artistic directors in a field where leadership positions are disproportionately held by men. The conference provides opportunities for female dance artists to perform and present, and fosters discussion on the empowerment of women in dance.
“I think that in the field, men get a little more mentoring and resources than women, and that’s why they are where they are,” said Bott. “I’m glad to see a lot of organizations starting to put more resources behind women. But so often women don’t seek the resources, and they don’t invest the time into making good on those opportunities.”
“Weaker” abstractly explores the contributions of women in the lives of the people around them. The movement vocabulary — or set of stylized motions — was drawn from the dancers’ experiences with their mothers, and from Bott’s own life.
“I don’t think the piece is particularly ‘about’ anything, but it’s heavily seated in my personal experience,” said Bott. “There are a lot of moments where the dancers are going and going and going and going, and all of a sudden they’re overcome by fatigue. They start to melt to the ground, and right when they get to the ground, they get up and run to go do other things.”
“That’s kind of how I feel as a woman,” she continued. “You go until you’re so tired you think that you just can’t go anymore — and then you jump up and keep going.”
Upon hearing of the Women in Dance Leadership Conference, Bott thought it would be a perfect opportunity to showcase BYU ballet students’ skills and prepare them for professional careers. She hopes that this experience has inspired her students — male and female — to be more proactive and sensitive in their own spheres of influence.
“I brought only one male dancer, and at the beginning, I was wondering if he was going to get something out of this conference,” said Bott. “As I thought about it, I realized that in ballet particularly, he’s surrounded by women. I know he’s going to be a leader in the field someday, so why wouldn’t he need to go and learn more about women in dance leadership?”
In addition to performing, the students received free attendance at the conference, an opportunity ripe with learning experiences.
“It’s an exciting experience for the students to perform alongside professionals, and to have that professional development opportunity,” said Bott. “It was definitely an honor for me as well and such a great form of peer review and peer evaluation to get feedback on my skill and craft as a choreographer. That was validation that we’re doing the right things here and trying to move the field forward in the ways that we can.”