Joined Ballet West in 2001, promoted to Demi-Soloist in 2010
When did you start ballet?
I started ballet as a freshman in high school. So, I was fourteen.
Where did you start ballet?
In Baltimore city at the Baltimore School for the Arts.
Is the Baltimore School for the Arts where you primarily trained?
Yeah, I didn’t have any training before then. So, that’s when I started with ballet and modern dance.
What got you into ballet?
When I was a kid I did musical theater. My mom was always trying to find activities for us to do as kids. So, I didn’t want to go to the local high school, I wanted to go to the arts high school. Then I couldn’t decide whether to go for theater or music. I couldn’t do both (music and theater), so I was having trouble deciding. The woman that was running the dance department somehow talked me into joining dance while I figured things out. She assured me that I could always leave and do one of the other things (music or theater), and I just never left.
What’s your favorite thing about being a professional ballet dancer?
I like the challenge of what we do. I like the athleticism of what we do. I think that would be my answer. I like being physical, and it’s nice doing something that you really enjoy doing as your vocation.
As far as the challenge of dancing is concerned, do you enjoy the physical part of the challenge? The mental part?
Well, I guess we do a lot of the same stuff everyday or every season, but in a way we do a lot of different stuff. So, we get to challenge ourselves in different aspects of movement, in different ways of the art form. As far as the dance spectrum goes, I think we do a lot of different things, really classical stuff and really contemporary stuff. So, it’s challenging in the sense of the adapting part, the actual dancing part.
What do you like most about being a part of Ballet West?
I like Salt Lake City a lot. I like the lifestyle here; it’s a little bit laid back. I like how, particularly now, we’re (Ballet West) forging a new path in the community. We’re kind of finding a different identity as far as what we do. We’re doing more contemporary work. I feel like we’re drawing in a fresh audience and expanding the minds of Ballet West’s older audience base. We’re trying to evolve, I like being a part of that.
Do you feel like the company has made that change because of Adam [Sklute] coming in as Artistic Director?
Well, I feel like when I first came here under Jonas [Kage], the new works that we were doing were in the same sort of direction. That was a valid direction, but I feel like with Adam we’re doing a lot of new works in different directions. It’s a lot broader.
Is there a role or a ballet that you’re dying to perform before you retire?
Not that I can really think of. I mean, when I first started dancing I never thought that I would dance for as long as I have. I was never one of those people that set a goal off like, “Oh, I really want to do this role!” or anything like that. I guess I’ve always been one of those people that’s more about the work. For me, dancing the role in the studio is almost as rewarding as dancing the role on stage. Obviously you don’t get the feedback from the audience, but for me it’s about doing the work. I find the work of getting the movement the rewarding part of it.
So, you can enjoy everyday in the studio instead of just when theater week comes around.
Do you have a routine that you do to get ready for a show?
Ummm … not particularly. I mean nothing out of the ordinary. I come in and do class and go and dance, you know?
You don’t have a ritual or anything?
No … there was a principal at Boston Ballet that would have a cup of tea before he went on stage. I don’t do anything like that.
You choreographed for Innovations last season. What did you learn from that process?
You know, the thing I took away from doing that is how good the dancers were that I was working with. I assume that translates across the company. The dancers are just so good at what they do. When I was younger in college I had to choreograph as part of the curriculum, but we had to do it so much that I didn’t really enjoy it, so it was kind of like work. So then, fast forward twelve years later after being out of school, to choreograph without the burden of it being required and to be able to explore it was a lot more enjoyable.
Do you have a favorite Ballet West moment that sticks out in your head?
I’m sure I must … ummm … well I have one but I don’t think I can put it in the blog.
I would say one of my favorite Ballet West moments was when I filled in (the role of Pinkerton) doing Madame Butterfly (Stanton Welch) the night before I was supposed to do the next matinee. I remember being at Starbuck’s and Adam [Sklute] calling me and telling me that I was going on that night. Just kind of surviving that whole experience, coming to the end of that performance, and taking that curtain call … As far as a performance highlight for me I would say that was my favorite moment.
What do you think is your biggest asset as a dancer to the company?
I think I’m a pretty good partner. I really enjoy partnering. I think I can offer a lot of good advice for some of the younger guys. I think I’m pretty good at picking things up and sorting through the logistics of things. So, when it helps to have clarity from the dancers’ side, I feel like I can sometimes be of assistance when we’re resetting works that I’ve done before, that sort of thing.
What do you like to do on the weekend?
I like to do all kinds of things. I like to play tennis with Beau Pearson. I like to cycle a lot. Road biking. Mountain biking. I like to do a lot of recreation sorts of things. Going hiking with my dogs, stuff like that.
So, you like the nature aspect of Utah?
Yeah, but not camping.
Yeah, don’t dig the bugs. Just the sleeping outside … Now, if you get a nice cabin, that I’m down with. But the tent on the ground … with the spiders … I have spider allergies actually. I got bit by a spider when I was really young in Tennessee. I had to be rushed to the hospital because it was like, “throat closing.” So, there’s a little bit of justification behind being averse to camping.
Ok … last question. If you were an animal, what would it be?
I’d be a dog.
What kind of dog? … I would probably be … maybe a dachshund.
Maybe a dachshund, you know? Because they kind of have a mind of their own. They’re willing to do what you want most of the time, but a lot of the time they’ll be like, I’m gonna do what I’m gonna do. You know? So, maybe a dachshund … I’m gonna go with that.