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Rising Stars: Meet Robert Poe

Today we’d like to introduce you to Robert Poe.

Hi Robert, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I originally came to St. Louis MO in the summer of 2011. I had been dancing with the Nashville Ballet which is where I met my friend, and now business partner, Rachel Bodi.

Life directed both of us to St. Louis at the same time and we even performed together for a few years with The Missouri Ballet Theatre! I quickly became wrapped up in a brand new dance company at the time and became a founding member of The Big Muddy Dance Company. For 10 years I had some of the most amazing experiences of my career performing and occasionally choreographing on and with those dancers.

Throughout this whole time I kept up my friendship with Rachel (even becoming roommates for a few years) and we started to notice a small void in the dance community here. We noticed there were many dancers who, for several reasons, were not able to commit to a full dancing schedule. Some of them had their own companies, others had children and some didn’t feel that they fit into the existing dance companies that were already here. That’s when we got together, filed our nonprofit status, and officially launched our own ballet company in 2019. We call it, Ballet 314!

Since then, our small but mighty group has performed a St. Louis centered version of “The Nutcracker and the St. Louis World’s Fair”, wrote and published a children’s book of the same title and I just produced a full-length dance rendition of “Ragtime, The American Experience” loosely based on the Novel by E. L. Doctor this past July!

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
The road has definitely not been smooth. I don’t think there is such a thing.

I helped start Ballet 314 while I was still dancing with Big Muddy so it was incredibly difficult to keep up with the needs of both organizations AND maintain a full teaching schedule in the evenings. Meanwhile, Rachel was with the dancers, basically running the company by herself at times. I constantly battled the feeling that I was letting the company down and that I wasn’t even equipped to be a director in the first place. I had a strong case of “imposter syndrome”.

Now that I am concentrating more fully on being a director, I am starting to find my stride. After the pandemic hit and we were able to resume rehearsals in person again, I was able to dive into our latest project “Ragtime”. That’s when I really found myself bonding with the dancers, learning who they were, becoming more confident in myself as a choreographer and a leader. Their confidence and patience helped me settle into a rhythm.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
As a dancer/choreographer who is learning to be a director, I’ve always had a great passion for the dance arts for as long as I can remember! I thoroughly enjoy teaching it, discussing it, and helping to evolve and redefine it!

Part of my personal mission is championing a big change in classical ballet, starting with my little corner of the world. Since premiering “Ragtime”, I really see that project as something that can be used to redefine what we think of when we envision classical ballets. Ballet doesn’t have to only tell stories about European fairy tales; men falling in love with swans and fairies and things. It can tell stories that deal with racial prejudice and systemic racism, women’s independence, and fight for power. The content of these stories can be directly relevant to what we are seeing and feeling all around us today. The characters can look like all of us, not just some.

Who else deserves credit in your story?
The first prize goes to my parents for putting me in dance, music lessons, gymnastics, and everything else when I was a kid. They drove me all over my hometown to get me to these lessons and even made it possible for me to leave home and attend a boarding arts high school, hours away from home. Their honest support and love for me have made this career possible.

I also take around with me every single critique or praise I’ve gotten from a teacher, director, or choreographer throughout my career as well as a handful of dancers I’ve danced alongside who I admire.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Carly Vanderheyden, Alexandra Guillossou, Martin O’Connor, Natalie Cooper, Revol Studios, Gerry Love, and Ken Howard.

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