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Category Archives: Interview
How does ABT2 function in relation to the main company?
New choreographers get tried out on us first so the main company doesn’t have to take big risks. During my time, we’ve had quite a bit of success.
We also have the function of getting the talent ready for the main company. We give our kids more experience, more stage time, more chance to work with choreographers—so they’re more seasoned by the time they get to the big league. They also need a little more nurturing time to develop as people, to strengthen their personalities and their artistic qualities.
Tell me how you got started in dance.
I was watching my sister in class when the teacher asked if I wanted to try. It was literally one of those Chorus Line moments where I thought “I can do that.” I was three years old but took ballet because that’s what my sister did. I was more interested in being a violinist or an astronaut.
I’ve long been a fan of Keely Garfield’s work. Her nutty sense of humor, her surreal vignettes, the honest emotions that well up in her work, it all combines to make for a rich, enigmatic, and yet ultimately satisfying experience. I was very pleased to catch up with this elusive choreographer in Brooklyn, New York, and find out something about the artist behind these amazing works.
An abbreviated version of this interview appeared in Dance Europe magazine. I’m delighted to share with you here a longer, more rambling version of our chat.
You bring in a lot of European choreographers as guests—it’s a great introduction for people in the U.S. who don’t get a chance to see what’s going on in Europe.
Yes, and they’re not novice choreographers, either—they’re very accomplished. Some of them were even directors, like Stijn Celis who directed Bern Ballet. I think we here in the U.S. should know these people.
Both you and your sister Erica are principal dancers. Tell me about your
early training together.
We always took class together. At Teatro Colon we had a Vaganova school but many of the teachers came here to the U.S. to keep learning—which is good since everything is changing. So our training was a combination of styles, which has helped in interpreting different roles, different ballets, from classical to modern. It’s good to have a mix in one’s training.
Are you busy these days?
It varies, but if I do two to three things a year, that’s really plenty for me. I don’t want to do too much because I have a family, two kids, there’s a certain dynamic that works for the family and I’m sticking to it. I’ve made the mistake before of piling things too close together…
I spoke with one of George Balanchine’s celebrated muses, Merrill Ashley, as New York City Ballet was preparing for its 2008 Spring season at the London Coliseum.
New York City Ballet hasn’t been to London since before 1985—what takes you there now?
Well, we’ve wanted to go for a long time. London has always been a place where we wanted to perform but I think finances are what prevented it. It’s very expensive to bring a big company like us. Over the years we’d hear rumours “We’re going to go to London!” but somehow it never worked out…
Gennadi Saveliev is not just a soloist at American Ballet Theater, but he’s also a co-founder of the highly-esteemed Youth America Grand Prix competition.
Tell me about your training at the Bolshoi.
The school had a very different approach than schools here. The government paid for us so they could pick each student and they only picked the people they knew they could turn into ballet dancers.
Susan Jaffe retired from American Ballet Theatre in June 2002. She’s 40 and she’s refreshingly not paranoid about discussing her age. She’s a forthright woman with a quick wit; she believes a clear head and hard work is the way to overcome life’s obstacles: with a career like hers as proof, she must be right. I had occasion to speak with her about two months before her farewell performance.