Throwback Thursday: Nut edition #tbt

RB living the part as Snow Queen.

I know The Nutcracker is over, but since it’s been snowing for the past few days, I’m putting up one more pic of me as Snow Queen. Yes, those are snowflakes on my warm up sweater. I lived in that thing for the entire rehearsal periods and performances each time I was SQ. Gotta get in the mood! And there are snowflakes in my crown and my earrings are big snowflakes too. (Shoes by Freed.)

Let it snow!

Throwback Thursday: Nut edition #tbt

RB as Snow Queen w/ Alexei Khimenko.

…where I was the “Snow Queen” for the umpteenth time.  Don’t get me wrong, it was my favorite part and a bit of type casting since I can be…well, icy.

That year my partner was Alexei Khimenko, orginally from Leningrad, but had been dancing for a while in Nashville, TN. Everyone loved Alexei. He was fun, charming and an intuitive and helpful partner. He was SBC’s own Baryshnikov!

He taught us a lot, even some Russian. Most wanted to learn how to count to ten, but I wanted to learn something I could use, so I politely asked him to teach me how to say “F*$# off!”. After laughing, he obliged. Before we went on stage each show for our pas, instead of wishing him “Merde”, I would tell him – lovingly – to “F*$# off”.

In the picture above, I not only certainly have a cramp in my hamstring and back, but I’m pretty sure I’m telling him (through clenched teeth) that my boob was falling out. Photo shoots are a bitch.

Throwback Thursday: Nut edition #tbt

SBC gals post-Nutcracker sometime after electricity was invented.

Oh Nutcracker…and memories.

Pictured: the “Trinas”. One’s husband is in the background (Hi Chad!), one had recently given birth, one was kinda, sorta, not-so-secretly dating my boyfriend (or maybe that came later), and I just had knee surgery. But, we pulled off a great show. Although we did change the entire pas to be on my left leg and I wasn’t a very dainty Sugar Plum – just ask my poor partner (Sorry John).

Good times.

Throwback Thursday: Nut edition #tbt

RB in Arabian and my bestie as the Sugar Plum Fairy.

NUTCRACKER!

And so it starts…

Tomorrow is opening night of The Joffrey Ballet‘s run of The Nutcracker. Since I now work for them, if you need me, I’ll be at the Auditorium Theatre for the next month. :)

Over Thanksgiving weekend I was lucky – and thankful – to have dinner (which consisted of lots of fried things!) with two of my BFFs from back home. While catching up, we brought up one particular Nutcracker that was memorable for all the wrong reasons.

While breaking in a new brand of pointe shoes, my friend developed blisters on the back of her heels. Tech week is hard core, so those blisters soon ripped and she found herself with large, deep holes that were bleeding and raw. Obviously there was no time to heal, so she powered through – I’m not sure how – by having Lidocaine shot directly into the wounds before the perfomance. It was painful to watch. I can’t imagine how it felt. However, she danced a beautiful pas and Sugar Plum variation complete with a dazzling array of turns and a big goofy smile. She insists she has no recollection of even dancing. Good drugs, I guess, but that was her final Nutcracker. Hmm…I wonder why?

 

Auditorium Theatre 2013-2014 Highlights

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre in "Songs of the Wanderer". Photo by YU ui-hung.

The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University (ATRU) just announced its 2013-2014 season. Here are a few things I’m excited about:

Ballet West – former Joffrey Ballet dancer Adam Sklute’s company will be presenting Sleeping Beauty (classic, long, but beautiful w/ gorgeous music) and Val Caniparoli’s The Lottery. Caniparoli created Incantations for Joffrey in 2012 and has received great reviews for the premiere of The Lottery which has a unique twist where the audience finds out the “secret” before the dancers (who don’t know who will perform the final solo until it happens live!). Cool beans.

Houston Ballet – In another local connection, Joffrey premiered Artistic Director Stanton Welch’s Son of Chamber Symphony in 2012. His company brings the storybook ballet Aladdin to town in March of 2014.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre – The New York-based company returns for another two-week run featuring a mixed rep and the showstopper Revelations. Yay.

River North Dance Chicago – Local favorite Rivno takes the stage in April 2014 will a new world premiere. Always a good show – expect lots of abs and speedy turns.

Paul Taylor Dance Company – I’m reading Paul Taylor’s new book Facts and Fancies right now, so the timing is perfect! My only regret is never getting to see my friend Julie Tice perform with the company live during her ten years there :(

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre – Co-presented with the Dance Center of Columbia College and the Joffrey Ballet, this troupe from Taiwan always amazes with their imagery and Butoh-esque stamina/control.

Chick Corea and Béla Fleck – Non-dancy, but my brother (a musician) listened to Corea ALL the time when we were growing up and a bazillion years ago I performed a piece with the above mentioned Tice to a Beatles cover by Fleck (and the Flecktones). Good times.

So there you have it. Oh plus, the yearly tradition of the Joffrey’s The Nutcracker and any chance to see ATRU E.D. Brett Batterson and you can see why I’m stoked.

For more information, visit auditoriumtheatre.org.

Joffrey’s Nutcracker: Clean, Crisp, Classic

Joffrey Ballet dancers Yoshihisa Arai and Jack Thorpe-Baker battle in "the Nutcracker". Photo by Herbert Migdoll.The Joffrey Ballet‘s production of The Nutcracker still sparkles in its silver anniversary. Opening night, Friday, December 7 at the Auditorium Theatre, marked the 25th year for this particular magical tale choreographed by Joffrey co-founders Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino and the magic and choreography still hold up today. With beautiful accompaniment by the Chicago Philharmonic, under the direction of Scott Speck, this version of the holiday ballet boasts clean dancing, crisp choreography and classic storytelling.

Joffrey’s Act One is notable for its speed and depth of action, especially the Party Scene. There is a lot going on in that Victorian living room. Too much for one set of eyes to catch it all, but that also speeds the story along and sweeps you Clara’s world, so you’re ready to fight and dream right along with her. Opening night’s casting had Clara and Fritz almost as tall as their parents, a distraction from the illusion of them really being children. That uneasiness was quickly erased by the dancers commitment and enthusiasm to their characters. Caitlin Meighan was delightful, youthful and vibrant as Clara, her rapid bourrée runs full of excitement. Ricardo Santos was obstinate and ornery as Fritz before taking a star turn as the Snow Prince in the Snow Scene at the end of the Act. His lightening quick jumps and spot-on turn sequences dot the fiendishly fast Arpino choreography amid a flurry of snowflakes. Solid dancing from the entire company lets the choreography shine. I know Mr. A. liked things brisk, but the speed of this evening’s performance surely made it the fastest Nutcracker in the Midwest!

Joffrey dancers Dylan Gutierrez and April Daly in "The Nutcracker". Photo by Herbert Migdoll.

Act II transports to us to The Kingdom of Sweets where the dancers took bravuro turns in each variation. Highlights were Amber Neumann as the sassy Spanish Chocolate, the pristinely perfect Marzipan Shepherdesses (Jeraldine Mendoza, Catherine Minor and Jenny Winton) as well as Kara Zimmerman and Elizabeth Hansen as the lead flowers in Waltz. Always a crowd pleaser, the Russian Nougats (Jacqueline Moscicke, Derrick Agnoletti, Yoshihisa Arai and John Mark Giragosian) did not disappoint. Arpino’s Waltz continues to be an all-time favorite for me, however, this year incorporated some costume updates that marred the visual cohesiveness of the dance. The Sugar Plum Fairy (April Daly) and her Cavalier (Dylan Gutierrez) raised the bar with strong, stellar performances. Daly, as fresh and lovely as her month’s namesake, lit the stage with dazzling effervescence, exquisite extensions and beautiful balances. Gutierrez continues to come into his own in lead roles, establishing himself as a solid, sure partner and delivering a clean, commanding variation. These two definitely proved the saying ‘save the best for last’.

The Joffrey Ballet’s The Nutcracker runs through December 27 at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Pkwy. Tickets are $31-$132. Call 800.982.2787 or visit www.ticketmaster.com.

 

Tutu Talk with Jennifer Goodman

She’s sweet like the Sugar Plum Fairy she will portray in the Ruth Page Civic Ballet‘s The Nutcracker starting this weekend. Local audiences know Jennifer Goodman, 38, from her 16-year tenure at Joffrey Ballet, 13 of it here in the Windy City, where she made a memorable impression in Nutcrackers past as Clara, a variety of variations and, yes, the Sugar Plum Fairy. Since leaving Joffrey in 2009, the Michigan native has enjoyed a lush freelance career dancing for Ballet NY, Ballet X, The Met, Lyric Opera, Chicago Opera Theater, Dallas Opera and will be dancing at the San Diego Opera next year. But first, it’s Nutcracker time. Goodman’s cavalier will be former Joffrey dancer Calvin Kitten (Hi Calvin!) this weekend, former River North Dance Chicago dancers Luke Manley next weekend, then she heads to Minnesota to dance with another former Joffrey-ite Matthew Prescott (Hi Romeo!).

RB sat down with the petite ballerina to talk pointe shoes (Freed), freelancing, yoga (she trained at Core Power Yoga) and, of course Nutcracker.

Since you’ve done The Nut a billion times, how do you keep it fresh?

Being Sugar Plum as a freelancer, it’s easier to keep it fresh. I pretty much do my version, a pretty classic version. Each show is new. Sugar Plum is easy because it’s technically challenging and the music is so beautiful. I enjoy it so much that every time I go out there; I feel it. Clara was more difficult. The last time I did it I was 34. I love doing story ballets. It takes you out of being just you. It’s fun to go somewhere else and become a character. Definitely as I’ve gotten older I’ve enjoyed taking on those roles. That helps keep it fresh.

What’s a typical performance day for you? Do you have any routines or superstitions?

I try to stay away from superstitions. I try to catch myself. As far as routine, especially if I’m guesting and there isn’t class offered, I have an order of how I get ready. I do my make up, then my hair and then I go warm up. I have a routine I do. I’ve noticed, because there is so much time to wait during the second act before you go on…with that anticipation, you go crazy, so I end up going over the whole thing with just my arms. Calvin and I have a routine for Ruth Page. We do our opening, we go off to the side, we sit, we chat, we stretch. Sometime around Russian, we stand up and move around a bit. At Flowers we stretch a bit more and then at a certain point in the music, we part. I go to my side of the stage, he goes to his. I’ll go over the pas de deux with my arms right up until we need to go and then we blow each other kisses.

 

Jennifer Goodman and Calvin Kitten in Joffrey Ballet's The Nutcracker. Photo by Herbert Migdoll.

You’ve been dancing with him for almost 20 years.

One year he came in the morning of the first show. We didn’t even touch each other. It was one of our best shows. He knows me. He knows my movement. It’s pretty cool.

How is it switching partners from week to week?

It’s definitely different. We’re all professionals, so it’s not that hard. Especially with Calvin and Matthew. I have to do a little more with Calvin just because of the height.

When did you start to get certified in yoga and how have you incorporated that into your dance life? How has it changed your dancing?

Last summer, I did a week intensive teacher training. Prior to that, in New York, I started taking more classes. What drew me into it even more than just the physicality was dealing with problems personally and wanting to heal what I’d been going through. Yoga is so good for that because there is so much positivity and self-love it really touched me and helped me get through. When I came here and did the week of training, I just loved it. It built my confidence up so much more. After the training, I went to teach a ballet class and I noticed I was calmer when I taught and I was a lot more positive and confident.  I’m not going to worry about whether people are liking it or not or that I’m not doing the right thing. People have noticed, even doing Sugar Plum since last year, my confidence in the dancing and expressiveness I was giving out, not just worrying about the technical, was a lot freer.

Ruth Page Civic Ballet’s The Nutcracker at Northeastern Illinois University Auditorium, 3701 W. Bryn Mawr, Saturday, Dec. 1 at 7 pm and Sunday, Dec. 2 at 1 pm. Tickets are $18-$25. Call 773.442.4636 or visit www.boxoffice.neiu.edu/civic_ballet.

Performances on Saturday, Dec. 8 & 9 at 3 pm presented at Elgin Community College Arts Center, 1700 Spartan Dr, Elgin. Tickets are $20-$32. Call 847.622.0300.

 

The Snow Scene

 

Snow Queen in "The Nutcracker" with Alexei Khimenko. Photo by someone's dad?

The other day I was home working on my November column for Windy City Times. My iTunes genius list was set to “classical”. A little Corigliano, some Yo Yo Ma and then more familiar music came on. Music I’ve known intimately for years. I first remember being moved by it when I was much younger. I was in the kitchen of the house I grew up in. The rest of my family was downstairs watching who knows what (probably basketball), but I was upstairs standing in the kitchen watching Baryshnikov’s The Nutcracker on PBS.

It was the beginning of the snow scene – or snow pas. Misha had just magically turned from a “wooden” soldier to a prince and was asking Gelsey Kirkland (“Clara”) to dance. The setting was beautiful and romantic. The dancing…well, it was Misha and Gelsey. It is still my favorite version of my favorite scene and I still watch it every year. And, yes, it still makes me cry (but don’t tell anyone, I have a reputation to uphold).

Luckily, I got to dance a version of the snow pas many times in Springfield. I still get a little tingly with anticipation (and a bit nauseated with nerves) when I hear the first few notes. Walking out to do the pas was nerve-wracking, but once you got through it, you were home free for the rest of the scene. The flakes come on and you get a break, then basically just a few quick jump passes and lifts  – oh, how I love the lifts, especially when  your partner is 6’5″ – and you’re already in the blizzard. Slow down, resolution, make it snow and scene.

I know it’s only the beginning of November, but the snow scene will happen, real and on stage, soon! So here’s a little something to get you in the mood.

 

Artist Profile: Joffrey’s Michael Smith

Smith as Drosselmeyer in Joffrey's "Nutcracker". Photo by Herbert Migdoll.

“I’m very thankful,” Michael Smith told me over cocktails this summer.  ”The Joffrey chapter of my life has been going on for a while.  I’m lucky because I never really planned on it being this way.”  A Chicago native, he lived for a short time in Gary, Indiana with his teacher/social worker mother before moving back to the city.  That is where he got his first taste of dance at school.  ”My grandma would say that I watched The Nutcracker in her living room and just dance around.  She’d say, ‘ok, you need to stop it before you knock something over!’”   Smith, now in his 11th season with the Joffrey Ballet, is finishing this year’s run of Nutcracker performances (only two matinees left!).  This season he’s dancing multiple parts:  a parent in the Party Scene, a soldier, the Mouse King, in snow scene, two parts in Waltz of the Flowers and Russian nougat and Dr. Drosselmeyer, his favorite part.  “There’s nothing like it.  It’s an acting role, but it really gives you a chance to tell the story with Clara and have a great time with the audience,” says Smith.  “You are the storyteller and you get to make all the magic happen.  It’s hard because if it’s not done well, the story is lost.”

Here’s my Q&A with a man that literally grew up within the Joffrey and who I’m happy to call friend.

So, what’s your story?

(Laughing) I’m a child of the 80′s.  Imagination was really pushed with me and my sister.  When I was going to be a freshman in high school, my Mom thought I should audition for this private school…Chicago Academy for the Arts.  I wanted to just go to school and be a teenager, but she convinced me.  I went to the audition and I got in…then I freaked out.  I had no idea what that really meant.  Most kids know that they want to dance and have been dancing since they were three.  For me, it was more like a hobby.  At school. I was taking three hours of ballet, jazz, modern classes and learning about the art form.  It wasn’t until my junior year that I thought maybe I should do this…maybe I should start taking this seriously.

How did you go from hobby to Joffrey?

The secretary of the school told me the Joffrey was looking for boys to fill in the background in The Nutcracker and I was like, “no, I don’t do ballet”…but she convinced me.  The school sent four of us over and we had to take class.  Mr. Arpino came and watched.  The asked me and a friend (David Gombert) to come back and take another class, then asked if we were interested in doing Nutcracker.  So for a few months, we would go to school in the morning, then head over to Joffrey to take company class at 10:00 am.  We were there all day rehearsing.  We did Nutcracker season and started getting to know a few people in the company that we weren’t scared of.  I was terrified of everyone, but Calvin (Kitten).  He’s the cutest little nugget ever.  I was a soldier.  I still am!  I did the same soldier spot for like 12 years. (laughing) That’s sad.  Now, I help teach it.  

Were you hooked?  Was Joffrey it for you?

My goal since my junior year was I want to go to New York.  I’m going to dance for Ailey.  Period – end of story.  My email address used to be Ailey2000!  Being at Joffrey…we were in this fantasy bubble where dance was our life for a few months, it was weird transitioning back into school life again.  Joffrey was starting a new apprentice program for six dancers and asked if we (Smith and Gombert) were interested.  I’d just started taking it seriously, meaning, ok I’m not going to skip my ballet class and go take another modern class.  I knew that I didn’t want to go to college.  I thought ‘you need something.  You can’t be poor!’  I agreed to it and signed the contract.  Literally a week later I got offered a contract with Hubbard Street 2 and had to turn it down.  I graduated in 200 and started the apprenticeship in the fall.

Over the years, how has the company changed?

Technically, the company has always had its technical people in it, but now it is really emphasized.  The company is a lot younger than it used to be.  There’s a huge age gap.  There’s a small group of us that are about to turn 30 and a few at 25, then the babies…19, 20, 21.  Over the years, the emphasis on rep has changed…the things being brought in and what is being demanded of us.  I kind of miss doing some of the historic works.  There’s nothing better than to be choreographed on, being that vehicle to produce art.  At the same time, there’s something very interesting and a lot of growth can happen by doing older, historic works.  I go to do the horse in ‘Parade’.  Who wants to do that?  The experience was amazing.  I miss doing Arpino stuff a little.  I guess that’s a change as well.  I got to dance while he was still alive in his company.  To have that greatly influenced how I viewed and still view dance and this company.  

Do you have a favorite Mr. A story or memory?

Some of my favorite memories are just random moments.  I miss seeing him sitting in front of the room or seeing him in the back giving you a thumbs up or an ‘ok’ sign.  As apprentices, we would get gifts from him every once in a while.  One of them was this huge, oversized knit scarf that,I assume, someone had made for him.  The first couple of years, I only wore it every once in a while, but now it is a saving grace come wintertime.  I need that big, chunky scarf.  I need Mr. A’s scarf.  Getting to dance for him at the opening of the new building (Joffrey Tower), that was a really special moment.  He’d always say, ‘This company is going to have a home.”  To see him walk into that building was such a special time.  His dream just came true.  That was pretty kick ass.

How have you changed?

I’m a lot calmer with age.  Outside of work, I try to be really chill.  In the studio, in my early 20′s, I tried to be a bad ass and talk back.  You’re still trying to figure out who you are at that age and my nature was to be more aggressive about it.  You have to find where you’re going to put your energy.  Life is too short.  I’m here to dance.  I want to be art.  I want to express myself through art.  I want to exchange art and discuss it with other people.  I’m the most senior boy in the company now and I know what it’s like to be that little punk kid in high school.  Now I have all this experience under my belt.  There is nothing more humbling than to have someone new in the company and to go and help them.  I learn things and help teach it to others.  I’ve been here a long time.  I’m dedicated to it.  It’s home to me.  

What have been some of your favorite pieces to perform?

(Jiri) Kylían’s ‘Return to a Strange Land’, hands down.  I got to do it with Maia (Wilkins) and Willy (Shives).   That was beyond a dream come true on so many levels.  Kylían is one of my all-time favorite choreographers.  It just feels good to do his movement.  Having the chance to dance with two people that are such great partners and to be the third in the trio…that’s a lot to live up to. That was a super highlight.  The Pilobulus piece ‘Untitled’, ‘Suite Saint Sans’.  ’Inner Space’ was three dancers in a 4×4 Plexiglass box.  Loved it!  Everyone wants to go out and be the prince or the lead, but there is something to be gained from doing the more abstract stuff too.  Finding your own story in it or how you can get through this to make it entertaining and find growth within yourself.  You’ve never had to do some self-examination until you’ve been put in a 4×4 box with two other people for seven minutes!  Getting to do one of the stepsisters in ‘Cinderella’ with one of my best friends (Gombert).  We were playing ourselves pretty much only in women’s clothing.  I don’t know if anything that silly will enter my life again.  It was pretty fantastic.  And ‘Nutcracker’ is always something special.  I do love it.  It’s the one time of year where you are performing constantly.  It’s like, should I even take this make-up off? I’m going to be right back.

You also have talents in a vast range of hobbies:  photography, videography, choreography and teaching.  What are your goals?

To take whatever comes and see what happens.  When Jessica Lang came and set ‘Crossed’…that was a great experience.  Really inspiring.  You truly just have to be the vessel and let the art come through you.  She told me to never say no to anything.  Go do it and see what happens.  Try to make all these things happen and see what comes out of it.  It was a great piece of advice.  Not that you can’t say no, but if you can do it…why not?  My goal wold be to keep experiencing everything I can possibly experience.  If you allow yourself to be open to just experience it, you’ll learn a lot.  I’ve auditioned for Hubbard Street like five or six times now.  I love them.  I’d love to dance for Hubbard Street.  

Changing Scenes

Jonathan Dummar in "The Nutcracker". Photo by Herbert Migdoll.

“I’ll be home for Christmas this year,” said a happy Jonathan David Dummar over coffee this past summer.  After dancing with the Joffrey Ballet for six seasons, Dummar, 27, decided it was time for a change of scenery and moved to San Francisco in August to dance with Smuin Ballet.  He’s currently performing in their annual show The Christmas Ballet.  No  Nutcracker?  “I’m so thankful for that,” he laughs.  “Don’t get me wrong, I love Tchaikovsky…and, by the way Joffrey’s is the best!  Bob (Joffrey) and Jerry (Arpino) really knew what they were doing. I’m so proud to be a part of the legacy of the Joffrey.”

From Reno, Nevada, Dummar began taking dance classes after being invited into his sister’s class by her teacher.  She had seen him watching from the window and trying to do the moves.  The physical child, who participated in gymnastic, swimming and diving, was hooked.  To avoid competition, his mom enrolled the children in different dance schools.  His very first teacher, Ava Kerr, basically changed his life.  “She was so fundamental,” he says.  “She taught me so much.  She had me partnering within two weeks.”  From there he participated in dance competitions, spent summers in LA at the Edge Performing Arts Center on scholarship, Pacific Northwest Ballet‘s (PNB) summer program and on to The Harrid Conservatory to finish high school.  “The training at Harrid is rigorous.  It’s boarding/ballet school.  They really helped me hone a lot of things and gave me a good base.  I’m a completely different dancer now.”  After graduating valedictorian, Dummar danced with PNB’s professional division until an ankle injury ended in surgery.  After healing, he danced two years with Ballet Memphis, where he met choreographer Trey McIntyre and became a founding member of the Trey McIntyre Project.  Feeling that he wasn’t utilizing his ballet technique fully, he auditioned for the Joffrey and joined the company in 2005.

At the Joffrey A Starry Night party after the final show of the season, I approached Dummar having just found out at the performance that it would be his last with the troupe.  “You should interview me,” he said.  A few weeks later, we sat down to discuss his career.

So, why did you decide to leave Joffrey now?

I’ve been here for six years.  The company is skewing younger and more classical all the time and I’m going in the opposite direction.  I’m really thankful for the opportunities that I got.  My values are changing and they aren’t necessarily aligned with where Ashley is taking the company.  Ashley taught me a lot.  He gave me a lot of opportunities.  I’m really appreciative and grateful.  I feel really glad about what I did, but I can’t wait to start this next chapter.  There’s a lot of personal reasons too.   I’m from the West Coast.  I’ve been away from home for 11 years.  I’m ready to be closer to family.  San Francisco is like the promise land of the new age.  There’s organic produce on every corner, the yoga there is amazing, they compost, they have clean energy…I was so impressed with all of that.  It finally feels like I’m finally making a decision for me as a whole person.  It’s kind of selfish, but all of the things I’ve done to grow and learn and do what I wanted to do.  Now I can take it and share it with my family.

Well, I ‘m going to miss watching you dance.  What have been some of your favorite pieces at Joffrey?

“Round of Angels” has been one of my favorite things I’ve ever performed.  The Arpino rep is really fun.  You watch it and it’s easy to be critical, but when you do it, it’s so fun…fast and hard.  It’s part of dance history.  “Crossed” by Jessica Lang.  I really liked “Bells” (Yuri Possokhov).  When I first joined, Fabrice (Calmels), Val (Robin) and I did Kylían’s “Return To a Strange Land”.  We did the pas de trois.  It was a very emotional piece.  It was a fantastic opportunity.

Tell me about Smuin Ballet. 

Michael Smuin is the former Artistic Director of San Francisco Ballet.  He wanted some more artistic freedom and wanted to do some things the board wasn’t in to, so he left and started his own company.  He was a Broadway choreographer before he did ballet, so all of his works are more showy, more dancy.  He died about three years ago. It was horrifically tragic for the company.  He was very much the lifeblood.  He died in the studio teaching class of a heart attack.  Everyone talks about him with so much reverance.  The company is going in a new direction.  We’re doing Trey McIntyre, some Kylían, lots of premieres, and a few by Michael Smuin.  It’s a smaller company.  I know I’ll be more valuable.  Some of the ballerinas there deserve a really strong, attentive partner.  I have some friends in the company. It was just an overall feeling.  I went and auditioned and thought this is where I need to be.  It was perfect timing with the Joffrey lock out.

What’s in your future?

I want to direct.  I know that’s in my future.  I know there’s an intellectual side that I’ll need to cultivate, but I think you can do that with dance.  Absolutely.  I’ve been to some modern shows and the ideas they present are incredible.  Ballet doesn’t even come close to presenting these ideas and I think they can.  I think further integration of these disparate kinds of dance is completely possible.  I’d love to work with Alonzo (King) at some point.