Students often credit New York City’s endless creative possibilities with attracting them to NYU. For Adelheid B. Strelick, those possibilities were thrown into relief when she found herself sharing an elevator with composer Philip Glass at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in Manhattan, where she manages front-of-house operations.
Strelick—who graduates with a masters in dance education with a concentration in American Ballet Theatre ballet pedagogy—was struck by how unanticipated moments like an elevator ride can take on larger significance.
“I wanted to create a dance piece about New York City,” she says, “and about how you never know who or what is coming around the corner.”
An American born in Sri Lanka who spent 14 years in Germany as a dancer with Theater Ulm, a state-sponsored company located on the Danube, Strelick was enthusiastic about coming to Steinhardt to join the inaugural class of ABT masters students. The program, which launched in 2008, prepares dance educators in the principles of ABT’s ballet curriculum while grounding them in the research and science of body mechanics, movement, and health.
For Strelick, the dance piece that resulted from her fateful elevator ride encapsulates what she loves about the Steinhardt/ABT program. Wanting to set the piece, entitled In the Elevator With Philip Glass, on a classical ballet dancer, she was inspired by her fellow student, Kimberly Gerson, who had never before performed modern dance. The 7-minute piece set for three dancers, including Gerson, Jee Yun Hong, and Rebecca Oviatt, is modern in style and vocabulary and, for Strelick, demonstrates a ballet dancer’s versatility.
“I wanted to prove that ballet dancers can do anything,” she says. “As a teacher, I want to impart that versatility to my students.”
The piece was performed in February at the American College Dance Festival Association and was chosen to be one of 30 new pieces performed this May at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
“Adelheid’s honor validates our longstanding claim that in order to be a good teacher, you need to be a good artist,” said Susan Koff, director of Steinhardt’s dance education program. “Those who enter our program bring a wealth of artistry with them.”
To watch Strelick’s In the Elevator With Philip Glass, click below: