This past weekend the World Choreography Institute arrived in Edgartown to have a conversation about dance. On the final day of the think tank, dance masters and interested Islanders sat on couches and pillows on the floor in the living room of the Noepe Center for Literary Arts, formerly the Point Way Inn. They were dissecting a recording of George Balanchine’s ballet, Jewels, in particular the second movement of the piece, known as Rubies.
Edward Villella, one of the original principal dancers at the New York city Ballet and founder of the Miami city Ballet, was in the room. Mr. Villella was also the original male lead in Rubies and he spoke about the origin of the piece.
“It’s a very unusual work,” he said. “It’s composed of three different styles. Balanchine loved to educate us all.”
The World Choreography Institute is a new organization aimed to broaden the discussion of dance among professionals, students and the public. The institute was founded by Ms. Taucher, former director of the Yard in Chilmark and longtime opera director and choreographer.
Mr. Villella described the three movements of the dance — emeralds, rubies and diamonds — and its progression from French romanticism, American neoclassicism and Grand Imperial Russian.
“He allows us to see the progression of dance and what it was like in various periods of styles and countries,” he said. “It’s three separate ballets but somehow connected by the idea of jewels.”
For example, Mr. Villella said, one of the inspirations for the work is horses.
“The woman is the colt and the guys are the grooms. It’s those kinds of insights that would have been more helpful in illuminating the work.”
Ms. Taucher asked him if Mr. Balanchine ever provided that insight during the choreography process.
“Never,” Mr. Villella replied. “He left you out there and you had to figure it out yourself . . . I can’t remember him giving us any kind of interior understandings.”
Other members of the inaugural weekend included Tony Award nominee Lynne Taylor-Corbett, former Alvin Ailey soloist Katrine Plantadit, choreographer David Dorfman and David Vaughan, archivist for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and one of Mr. Cunningham’s first students.
“What did you see?” Ms. Taucher asked the room at large.
“Quickness,” Mr. Dorfman said. “Quickness with amazing poise.”
“The way he uses shape and space is fascinating,” added Ms. Plantadit. “Using traditional movements and shaping it differently, and then he comes back to it like it never happened, like you almost dreamt it.”
Carol Walker, former dean of Purchase College School of the Arts in New York, said she enjoyed the levity of the piece.
“There so many things they are doing that we are told never to do in class — broken chicken wings, parallel feet,” she said. “But he does it with such a playfulness and total integrity.”
Spoken word choreographer Claire Porter said she was interested in the way Mr. Balanchine played off the soloist and stillness, and the canons and unison work.
The group then watched the third movement from the ballet La Bayadare, called Kingdom of the Shades. Choreographed by Marius Petipa in 1877, the ballet is about a love triangle involving an Indian temple dancer, a temple priest and a warrior. Kingdom of the Shades depicts an opium induced dream by one of the lovers.
“The thing about the kingdom of the shades, it does stand alone because it is a separate classical ballet scene,” said Mr. Vaughan. “It’s minimalist choreography because 30 or so corps de ballet dancers all come down a ramp repeating the same phrase and come forward.”
The group sat in stillness and watched as the dancers made their way down a ramp, repeating the same phrase of movement in perfect unison.
“We have unison,” Ms. Porter exclaimed.
“If one of our students came to us and said we’re going to do a section in complete unison we’d say that you can’t do that,” Ms. Walker added.
Ms. Plantadit said the commitment to the movement was inspiring.
“As dancers you don’t think of self as a unit but at this moment it’s a whole,” she said raising her arms to the side. “There’s an elegance of being one, and the joy of being with an amazing amount of people . . . it’s one thing to do it together. Its another to transition together, it’s wonderful.”
The theme for the first year of the institute is defining choreography and dance vocabulary and it will continue to meet and develop ideas, Ms. Taucher said, including hosting another think tank and other seminars. The institute will also be sending out questionnaires to dance professionals and the general public about their feelings on choreography. A magazine is also in the works that will include scholarly articles, choreography lesson plans, news and historic features.
“The big goal is education and advocating and identifying the difference between movement and choreography,” Ms. Taucher said. “We want to help the quality of choreography by thinking about it and trying to make things easier.”