Edwaard Liang.(Courtesy of Washington Ballet)

At 36, Edwaard Liang has made the transition from ballet dancer to a nationally respected choreographer with a creative prowess even stretching into costume design. His work “As Above, So Below” is currently making its debut by the Washington Ballet at Sidney Harman Hall as part of its production of Carmen.

Liang, who started his ballet training at the age of five and joined the New York City Ballet in the early 1990s, talked to us between rehearsals about his creative journey and how his experience as a dancer influences his role as choreographer.

“Music is what starts the whole process of choreography for me. I just keep listening to the music over and over again... the ideas and images start coming to me. I usually know that if it gives me chills... then I really want to use this piece of music for my choreography.

“First day of rehearsal is always the best for me. It’s like a blank piece of canvas waiting to be filled. It makes me feel like there are endless possibilities. I am usually pretty nervous on opening nights. The feeling is not that enjoyable. I love the process so much more than the end product.

“ I don’t really have a strategy (for inspiring dancers). I try and understand what the dancers’ needs are to mentally and physically flourish. I try to inspire them by making choreography that is tailored to the dancers and make them feel comfortable. I usually have a clear idea and point of view about my work... but try my best to be open to how they feel in order to make the choreography better.

“I think having been a dancer in the past makes me work at being respectful of the dancers that make my work come alive. They use their body, mind and soul to create the ballets for me and with me...I am always really humbled by them.”