During the summer I thought of an idea to bring the community closer to Ballet West by interviewing a randomly selected dancer each week. I hoped this would help everyone learn more about the dancers they see on stage. This idea made me think of James Lipton, so I’m calling the blog segment Inside the Dancer’s Studio with Beau “Lipton” Pearson (of course). Along with the title comes a bit of humor (I can’t help it) as I and many others correlate with James Lipton’s genius (I also can’t help writing side notes in parentheses). The first dancer who’s name was pulled from a [green, very expensive] hat was Whitney Huell, and I had the privilege to sit down and talk with her.
Joined Ballet West II in 2007, Ballet West in 2009
The famous question, when did you start ballet?
When I was five years old. I didn’t start dancing seriously until high school at the South Carolina Governors School for the Arts and Humanities. We did ballet about six hours a day.
Why did you start dancing when you were five?
I saw one of my sister’s [ballet] recitals when I was little, and my Mom asked me if I wanted to do that and I said yes, so I started ballet. One day in class my teacher showed the students a video of the Kirov Ballet, and I saw adults dancing. I didn’t realize that dancing is an actual profession, so I was like, oh cool, I want to do that. I also did gymnastics from age eight through eleven.
What is your favorite thing about being a professional ballet dancer?
Having a fun job … not having to put on work clothes. Getting up in the morning and taking ballet class. I know that sounds weird but I love ballet class in the morning. And just the fact that we don’t have a desk job. That we get to move around all day.
So, that’s your favorite thing about being a pro. What’s the hardest thing for you about being a professional?
Probably how physically tired I feel, especially during Nutcracker. Waking up feeling physically drained knowing you have to do thirty three shows of the same thing. Also, if I have an injury that’s bothering me.
What do you like the most about being a part of Ballet West?
I like the rep that we get to do; it’s full of classical and contemporary. I like that we do an even mix of everything.
Do you have a favorite role you’ve performed here at Ballet West?
Fairy Temperament [from Sleeping Beauty 2011].
What did you like about that role?
It was my first real solo, and I just like it. You’re in the entire ballet and it was classical. I like Sleeping Beauty more than I thought I would. Oh, another role was second theme from The Four Temperaments (Balanchine) .
Are there any roles you’re dying to do before you retire?
That’s a good question … I wouldn’t mind just doing something with thirty two fouettes in the end, like a big pas de duex. I want to do Tchaikovsky pas de duex (Balanchine), that doesn’t have fouettes but I love it. Black Swan. Oh, and I definitely want to do the turning girl in Who Cares (Balanchine).
Not that the role is a bad choice, but why the turning girl?
It’s just so fun! It had all these tricky turns in it. I did the variation at IU, but I want to perform it with the company.
What do you like to do when you’re not dancing?
Let’s see … I like to go out to eat. I love eating out. I like to watch movies. I like to talk on the phone. And I like to shop, but I usually end up window shopping because I have buyer’s remorse.
Is that because we’re “starving artists,” or would you feel that way even if you were rich?
That’s just how I am. If I had a lot of money it wouldn’t be as bad, but I would still feel that way.
What food do you like to go out for?
I like sushi, pizza … about every two months I want a good burger. Like a real one, not a fast food burger.
What about movies?
Dramas … You want to know what my favorite movie is?
Nice, Whitney … So, how do you get ready for a show?
Well, I eat an early dinner, usually pasta, around four. Then I try to chill out for our break [before a show]. I get to the theater about an hour and a half before the show. I get ready pretty early doing my hair and make-up. Then when I get my tights on I warm up a little bit, not a whole class. When I get up on stage I do a little inward prayer in the wings. Like, please don’t let me fall …
What was your favorite Ballet West moment? Can be anything while you’ve been here.
When Alex [MacFarlan] and I were learning the second theme from the Four Temperaments, we were on the fence about performing it. The best moment was seeing my name up on the cast list that we were actually going to get to do it. Oh, and when Adam [Sklute] told me I was in the “25 to Watch” in Dance Magazine. I didn’t believe him at first …
What do you think is your biggest asset as a dancer to the company?
I like to jump. I like big jumps and I like to turn. I’d like to think I’m ok at them.
And the final question … What is your favorite word?
My favorite word? (laugh) I’ll have to think about that one … you mean my favorite word ever?
Mmm hmm …
Beau, that’s a weird question! I’ll have to get back to you on that one.
You’ll have to get back to me?