Teacher of the Arts: Gretchen Alterowitz

Since 2009, Gretchen Alterowitz has blended the aesthetic of ballet with the intent and imagery of modern dance. The associate professor in the Department of Dance at UNC Charlotte teaches ballet, pointe and dance history. A Montana native, Alterowitz chose the academic route at an early age and earned her M.F.A. at the University of Iowa.

Going to the barre: “The ritual of coming to the barre every day and going through these exercises is very grounding,” she said.

Professional vs. professor: An academic at heart, Alterowitz had to decide at 16 whether to pursue a career as a full-time ballet dancer. In the end, “it didn’t seem like a fit to me,” she said. “It seemed more important to stay in school and have a broader experience.”

Thoroughly modern ballet: Alterowitz approaches her choreography with thematic material. Last fall, one piece involved eight dancers, one of which was the “outsider” in the group. Through choreography, she asks questions about what it means to form a community or live within or isolated from it. She’s looking beyond fallen princesses needing to be saved. “That story has been told enough,” she says. “I’m interested in exploring new ways to think about ballet.”