Choreographer Jae Man Joo discusses “When Time Stands Still”

This year, PBT has the honor of producing the world premiere of celebrated choreographer Jae Man Joo’s When Time Stands Still. Join us as Joo discusses his work on this piece and as a choreographer.

About Jae Man Joo

Jae Man Joo is an internationally acclaimed choreographer and the recipient of the prestigious 2009 Princess Grace Choreography Award. Hailing from Korea, he brought his unique artistic vision to the U.S. in 1996, where he served as the Associate Artistic Director of Complexions Contemporary Ballet. As a former principal dancer at Ballet Hispanico and Complexions, Jae Man Joo has worked and performed with a diverse range of choreographers, including William Forsythe, Dwight Rhoden, Shen Wei, Igal Perry, and Jessica Lang, enriching his artistic journey. Jae Man Joo was invited to create new works for Jacob’s Pillow in 2017 and 2019. He received the Best Individual Artist Award from the Bagnolet International Dance Festival in Paris, France.

Joo’s artistic prowess has been recognized globally with the 2021 and 2023 Korea Dance Critics Choice Award, and the 2022 prestigious Korea E-daily Cultural Grand Prize for his full-length, evening ballet, Vita. These accolades are a testament to his profound influence on the dance world. He has created more than seven ballets for Complexions, all of which premiered at New York City’s Joyce Theater.

In 2023 he premiered the full-evening ballet Divine for Gwangju City Ballet, Korea, which received the Best Dance Art Work of the Year, 2023. He is currently an Assistant Ballet Professor at Point Park University as well as a Resident Choreographer, Ballet Master and Artist- in-Residence at Complexions Contemporary Ballet.

Joo started creating new work for Dallas Black Dance Theater for their spring season and for the newly-founded Korea Metropolitan Ballet company. For the latter he is creating his rendition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the company’s first complete evening ballet, which will premiere in the summer of 2024. In April, Joo will begin choreographing a work for American Ballet Theater’s “Unite” Series, working with ABT’s principal dancers Calvin Royal III and Herman Cornejo. It is set to be performed in August at the Joyce Theater in New York.

Read more about Jae Man Joo here!

Discussing When Time Stands Still

“Some people say being an incredible dancer is something you are born with!  For me, it was slightly different, and I started ballet late, at the age of 15. In my opinion, becoming a great dancer is through so much sacrifice and hard work every day, going through these tough experiences, having goals, and so much love and passion for it.

These days, Ballet is incredibly complex and requires years of dedication and even more practice. I don’t think Ballet is changing. I think Ballet is Expanding to a new horizon.

We continue with the traditional classical Ballet and embrace it because it is such a beautiful and inspiring sight. But these days many choreographers working on different ideas and companies are adapting new movements and new concepts. Dancers must be versatile and learn to explore the quality of their movements, in addition to traditional ballet dance. 

The ballet world in this age is a more dynamic range of styles and art forms performed by people with deep levels of passion. More than that, this devotion and dedication highlight the work’s beauty but, most importantly, what it means to be “Human.”

When you love Ballet, working in the studio, and performing in front of an audience, you aren’t aware of the time.”

It’s almost like time stops.

You are the moment—with your dance, with your partner, with your company members.

My new contemporary ballet portrays dancers—their hard work, their love, and their passion for dance. 

TOGETHERNESS—sharing experiencing moments with each dancer in the company.”

What was your favorite part of choreographing this piece?

Working in the studio, connecting with dancers and seeing their passion and energy.  In traditional classical Ballet dancers have to be Swans or Princes, etc., and be characters.

My new ballet is an opportunity for dancers to be themselves so they can share their passion and their gift with the audience.

At the same time, they can grow and continue their beautiful dance journey. I love rehearsing in the studio. It’s priceless. It’s a moment of discovery and sharing my vision, and they dance my heart out, try new things, and explore their possibilities. I loved every minute of working in the studio. I always tell dancers that performance is only the cherry on top of the cake, but rehearsal—a process of making and creating—is the cake.

Where did you draw inspiration for your piece?

“I came to the U.S. with 2 suitcases and a little bit of cash in my hands. I worked so hard to get where I am at now. I was looking back when I was a dancer and seeing these young dancers now. I felt their passion, and I wanted to celebrate their hard work and their humanity on the stage.”

What choreographers do you look up to?

“That’s a tough question. I look up to William Forsyth and Mats Ek, but I got so much inspiration from so many people, also from Current young choreographers, who are so creative and beautiful. It is so exciting to see.”

How do you begin your creative process when choreographing?

“I had my choreography assistant with me. I created substantial movement phrases before rehearsal began, and I edited a lot after I met them and found their strength, individuality, and personality.”

How many works have you choreographed?

“As a resident choreographer in Complexions Contemporary Ballet, I have created seven works, all of which premiered at the NY Joyce Theater. I have choreographed for many diverse American companies and also worked internationally. I have set many works for Korea, and I’m currently working on my rendition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Is there anything else you’d like to share with the audience?

“I hope the audience can feel and understand these dance artists’ humanity, hard work, athleticism, and pure desire to show how much they love dance. The company continues this excellent high-level ballet company’s history with a new art direction.

New history will be made again and again.”


Join us as our dancers “share their passion and their gift with the audience” in PBT’s Spring Mix from April 5-7, 2024 at the Benedum Center. Purchase tickets here!

Rehearsal Photography: Aviana Adams