Click below for the Dracula (Ben Stevenson) review from opening night (October 21st) by Kathy Adams.
Click below for the Dracula (Ben Stevenson) review from opening night (October 21st) by Kathy Adams.
The opening night jitters are here! Tonight we start the ghoulish run of Ben Stevenson’s Dracula. We’ve been in the theater this week rehearsing, getting used to all of the crazy flying, working with the orchestra, and costumes (not to mention the biting). For anyone that didn’t see the KSL news spot on Dracula, click the link below.
Joined Ballet West II in 2007, Ballet West in 2008
What got you into ballet?
Well, I did a lot of sports when I was a kid. Somehow that translated into me starting to do musical theater. I’m not really sure how, but when I was twelve, I started doing plays and community theater and stuff like that. Then, when I was in high school, I started taking a lot of jazz dance and tap. Then I started hearing from different people that I should take ballet to improve my technique for all my musical theater stuff and have an edge up, be a better dancer for broadway and shows that I wanted to do. I took a [ballet] class based on the advice of Sarah Blodgett, who I went to high school with and who used to dance for Ballet West 2. I went to the Academy of Ballet in San Francisco and started taking some ballet classes, and then I kind of fell in love and never turned back to musical theater.
Do you ever feel urges to go back to musical theater?
I did when I started dancing professionally; while I was training, not so much. I was just trying to be invested in that at the time. I did a show or two, but that was kind of on the side. When I first started with Ballet West I would think about it every once in a while. I mean, I think every dancer kinda goes through this when they first start out. Especially in a second company situation, when you’re wondering if you’re gonna get a job and wondering if you’re gonna have to re-audition and go through all of that. I think it was just me at the time preparing myself for if I don’t get this thing that I want, I know I have this [other] thing that I know I’m very comfortable doing.
Speaking of Ballet West 2, what did you take from your experience in the company?
My experience with Ballet West 2 was up and down. There’s a lot of stress and pressure involved in that situation. Like I was saying before, you’re just kind of always wondering if you’re gonna get a job and, you know, how that’s all gonna pan out. I tend to think ahead a lot anyway, so I was already planning for the next five years of my life, at least. And I was wondering where I was gonna be, as far as that goes. But, mostly it (Ballet West 2) was good. You know, I learned a lot, as far as what it meant to be in a corps and to be in a company. I think the best part about it, honestly, is just being able to be in a studio and observe the people who have been doing this for ten years, twelve years, whatever; how they handle themselves, how they compose themselves on a daily basis. And, to gain from that as much as possible. And to just really put yourself in the best position to succeed.
Do you feel like Ballet West II was a nice …
I didn’t really want to say that, but that’s the only word I could think of.
No, in a lot of ways I did consider it a buffer. As much as there is the pressure, looking back on it, there’s also kind of an aspect of it where you can not necessarily take more risk, but you can make more mistakes, because, I think a little bit less is expected of you on a regular basis … that sounds weird. That sounds really bad actually. That’s not what I mean. I think you’re just given the time and the attention with your separate classes a couple of times a week. So, you get the focus in situations like that. You know, you have your own rep where it’s just the ten of you or eleven of you being critiqued. When you’re with the [main] company you do your corps stuff and you’re kind of part of the larger being, part of the group. So, it’s much less specific – the corrections you get in that vein. Whereas, when you’re working with your own Ballet West 2 rep, you’re doing featured roles, you’re doing soloist roles. In that way you gain a lot … don’t put that part in about that weird thing that didn’t make sense.
It all goes in …
D*#n it …
Except for the d*#n it part (I lied, obviously). Being a ballet dancer is being a part of a young profession. I feel like dancers change a lot as people during their career (and fairly quickly), because they are learning how to live adult lives at the same time. The question to you is; what have you learned about yourself as a person and as a dancer the last four years that you’ve been here with Ballet West?
I think the biggest thing is that I actually consider myself an artist. I never considered what I did, whether I was doing musical theater or any other kind of performing, an art form. Even more than I would call myself a dancer sometimes, I would call myself an artist. So, I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve come away with the last four or five years.
Not only artistically, but did you feel like you’ve grown personally, as an individual the last four years?
Absolutely. I mean, I fully consider the environment we work in [to be] a family. Like, a family environment that we really do a lot to support each other. You know, with all of the good and bad that comes with that familial aspect, you do learn a lot about yourself. You start to respond more instinctively as every year goes on. You become more comfortable with your job; you become more comfortable with the people that have been there with you every day. So, yeah, you start to just be yourself in a work environment, which I think in a lot of ways is really rare and really special about this job, that we get to really be ourselves and really express a lot of ourselves to audience members and to each other in rehearsals everyday.
What is your favorite thing about being a professional dancer?
I think the most fun I have, and my favorite thing about being a professional dancer, is getting to create. Getting to be an artist. You know, when you have ballets choreographed on you, which we’ve been lucky enough to have a few since I’ve been here, I’ve always really enjoyed the process of having input and having something that’s being created be partly me, because, when something like that happens it’s part choreographer and it’s part the dancer that those steps are being put on and how they (the dancers) decide to do them. Often it’s how they musically phrase them as well. So, you get input in that. I also like to think in the aspect that if that work then gets set somewhere else, then that [other] dancer is in a way basing their portrayal of it off of you. So, you kind of create a legacy in that way, which I think is very cool.
You’ve choreographed for Innovations, which is an even greater creation process for you. Is choreographing even more fulfilling to you than being the dancer created on?
I wouldn’t say it’s more fulfilling. It’s fulfilling in a completely different way. Especially by the time your work is performed; you don’t experience it in the same way. Because, when you’ve been the creator, you’ve been so involved in every single aspect that it (the ballet) takes on a different shape, a different life. It’s just a different aspect of creating, I feel like. I’ve always responded differently to the ballets that I’ve created, as opposed to the ballets that have been created with me in the cast. It’s hard to explain why.
Its just a different feeling?
I assume you enjoy both of them.
What is the hardest thing about being a professional?
I mean, I would love to say that it’s the physical aspect, but it’s so rare that I don’t enjoy taking class or doing a certain role. I think my least favorite part is probably just … I guess it’s just doing a ballet that I don’t feel connected to. [When] there’s that thing missing for me to really invest myself in.
What usually connects you to a ballet? Is it the type of movement? The character depth?
I think sometimes it’s hard to connect when some of the movement isn’t as organic to you and the dancer that you are. Throughout a career everyone has to do things that their dancing style is not totally suited for. I think that’s the hardest part, just trying to mentally put myself into something that’s so out of place for me.
Regarding those roles in ballets that don’t suit you very well, do you feel like you come away with something positive from having do dance them, or are those roles so uncomfortable that you would prefer not dance them at all?
You know, it’s interesting, that’s something that I’m going through right now with doing Renfield in Dracula (Ben Stevenson). When I was in school I always considered myself much more of a slow mover, like, linesy, a lot of adagio technique. When I came here, because of the physical height of the men in the company, that kind of had to take a back seat because the shorter you are, generally the faster you have to move in a ballet. So, I kind of had to learn that aspect really quickly. I performed roles in the first couple years in the company that were, in my opinion, just much too fast movement for me to handle and to really enjoy doing and to find that organic quality and fulfillment. I have a feeling if you had asked me at that point about doing a role like Renfield, it would have fallen in the same category. But, I feel like I’ve learned so much through those trying experiences that I’ve been really able to handle that kind of movement a lot better now and really wrap my brain around it in a different way.
Do you feel like you can enjoy those roles more?
Yeah, absolutely. I mean it really has taken, kind of, this really multifaceted process of doing one fast role after another to really find more of a home in that style.
What do you like the most about being here at Ballet West and in Salt Lake City?
Well, I’d say that my favorite thing about being in Salt Lake City is dancing for Ballet West. And, I think my favorite thing about being with Ballet West in particular is the opportunities that I’ve gotten and the friends that I’ve made. Because, both of those things, I think, really shape who you become as a person, through however much time you spend in an individual place. As far as my career, getting to do the things that I’ve done with Ballet West is … fantastic. And the people that I’ve met dancing with the company, because of how close you get with everyone, is just an amazing part of our job.
What’s your favorite role that you’ve danced here with Ballet West?
(pause) I have to go through all these in my brain … (long pause) Well, I guess I’ll say … I think my favorite thing to dance would be a tie between the Melancholic solo in The Four Temperaments (Balanchine) and Nicolo Fonte’s Bolero. But, I have a feeling when we start performing the Emeralds rep, doing a role in Petite Mort (Jiri Kylian) will overtake both of those … with all due respect to both of those ballets.
That’s a ballet that you dream of.
I think I watched Petite Mort (Jiri Kylian) for the first time, maybe six months after I started ballet. And, I have been watching that video ever since and, anticipating, waiting to do any role I was given in that ballet.
You said you watched the video from six months into your training until now. Do you see that video differently now than you did back then?
Oddly enough, I don’t. I think with any other ballet, and with a lot of other choreographers, I would. I’ve actually thought about that a lot, having learned and rehearsed and put a lot of focus in the ballet. I kind of wondered if my enthusiasm for the video or just my love of it, because I’ve done so much analysis of the ballet, would change. But, it really hasn’t. I still have an absolute love and affection and respect and all of that for the ballet as one whole. And that, I think, speaks a lot more for the ballet than it does me.
The reason why I ask that is because you obviously mature artistically. As you said, now you consider yourself an artist. I was just wondering if you see the ballet differently artistically or if you enjoy it for different reasons that you wouldn’t have noticed before.
I mean, yeah, in that respect … I mean, now I know all the steps of the ballet. This is the first choreography that I’ve danced and watched on a video that I have really separated the two. I had no purposeful intent to do that; it just happened that way – that I can separate doing the ballet as one part of my artistic interpretation and watching the ballet and just continuing to love it for what it is.
I feel like it’s one of those ballets, the first time you watch it, that is like a fantasy.
Yes … absolutely.
What do you like to do away from ballet?
Well, right now, the baseball post season is on [TV], so that takes up a lot of my time. I enjoy dramatic TV shows. I really like following the stories, so I do a lot of that. When I’m not doing those things I try to stay active. You know, go throw a frisbee around, or go to the gym. Just kind of keep myself moving so I don’t feel like a sloth all weekend.
If you could be a superhero with one super power, what would that power be?
I create the super hero? Or taking a power from an existing super hero?
You can create anything you want. And I would like the name of the superhero after you’ve come up with a power.
So I’m creating a name for the superhero too?
Yes, but the name doesn’t have to relate to your powers. Though, choosing a power might help you come up with a name.
See the problem with this is I was always a huge Batman fan. And he doesn’t have any super powers … just a lot of money and a lot of toys. (pause) This is a really good question. (thinking) I’m gonna go with the power of flight, because I think that’s something that, you know, nobody actually gets to experience. And uhhh … the name.
Flight is generic, but no one would ever turn that down.
Yeah, I don’t think anyone is going to knock that choice in super powers. (long thinking)
Drawing a blank on the name?
A little bit …
Would you use your power of flight to better you career?
I mean, I could jump a lot higher. Stay in the air a lot longer.
You could. Would you use it like, “Oh, I’m doing a double tour, OH, I’m doing a triple all of a sudden.” That kind of thing?
(laugh) Probably. I might try and push it to like, four.
Just say, “Oh, that was just a good night.”
Yeah, really just snap my head around every once in a while, that fourth time just like, “Oh, I can’t believe that just happened.”
So, you wouldn’t tell anyone that you could fly, you would just do it every now and then?
No, I mean, you know every superhero story, you watched Heroes.
I am familiar with Heroes.
Yeah, when they found out they had super powers, they got poked and prodded and put in weird jail cells where they can’t actually use their powers. And, that’s just stifling … Nobody wants that.
Ok, next question …
Little do you know that my super power is actually sarcasm.
I already did know that.
(laugh) But did you know that it’s a super power?
Well, I was going to ask the next question …
Oh, I’m sorry.
Ok … If a carrot costs ten cents, a piece of broccoli costs thirty cents and a tomato costs fifty cents, how much does a bell pepper cost?
A bell pepper? Ok, a carrot is ten, broccoli is thirty, a tomato is fifty … I’m gonna go with at least sixty five.
I was hoping you would realize that was a trick question, because I threw in a fruit with the vegetables.
That’s pretty good. While a tomato is a fruit, it’s so often used in vegetable related dishes. That’s the confusion.
I just slid it in.
You did … (singing) tricked me!
But, sixty five is a valid answer.
I mean, the bell peppers are delicious and sought after.
If you could trade places with any one person in the world that you know of, who would it be?
I’m going to decline to experience that.
No, I really enjoy being who I am in my own life. Mostly it’s just because I’m not interested in being someone else.
What if you had to be someone else?
Had to chose … Absolutely had to choose?
Adam Sklute … I want to know what goes on in that guy’s everyday life.
He is very mysterious, isn’t he?
He is! He’s a very mysterious man …
I think we’re going to end it there so nothing is said that I feel disinclined to put in the interview (but put it in anyway, as usual).
- Beau “Lipton”
Yes, everyone can sit around their TV, waiting for the new Ballet West Dracula commercial. Although, I suggest watching the commercial over and over again below, send the link to friends so they can watch, and then come to see the ballet.
The weather this week went from nice to dreary in a matter of a day. Everyone is cold and disappointed that the sun has packed its bag for the season, except for one person … Dracula!!! The blood sucker and his brides are ready to terrorize all that come near their castle (the Capitol Theater).
I’m not sure if I’ve experienced a week like this last week here at Ballet West. So many different parts of my body hurt, they were begging for a restful weekend. I know, that sounds dramatic, but I also had some of the most fun last week I’ve ever had at Ballet West. Along with Li Anlin being here and continuing to work on Dracula (Ben Stevenson), Roslyn Anderson has been here the last two weeks working with the company on Petite Mort (Jiri Kylian) for the spring program. Often, we have to learn a ballet that we will perform later in the season, because of scheduling logistics with the choreographers or guest artists setting a ballet. Roslyn came to Salt Lake last season to set Sinfonietta (Jiri Kylian) on Ballet West. Ros, as everyone calls her, is an amazing person to work with; her rehearsal environment is very relaxed and comfortable, yet she gets the job done really well. The best of both world for the dancers.
Mark Goldweber urged me to blog about Petite Mort rehearsals. I told him that I was reluctant to do so, because I didn’t want to give away anything about the ballet to blog readers. If a poll was taken by dancers across the world, asking what ballet they would like to do before they retire, trust me, Petite Mort would be on the top of the list. I’m not really sure how else to put this … the ballet is beyond amazing and we’re so lucky to be performing it this year. With all that said, maybe everyone understands why I want the ballet to be a total surprise. Buuuuuut, I guess I’ll put up some pictures Mark and I took. Yes, those are swords and dresses. I know, I’m freaking out too … in a good way.