In addition to performing with the Grand Rapids Ballet, you've also choreographed a number of works. What is it like having your colleagues perform your creations?
Working with colleagues is always a wonderful experience. As a choreographer going into the studio, I already have an idea of the dancers' strengths and their style, since I work alongside them every day. Choreographing a ballet doesn't typically start in a studio, it starts with either finding a piece of music that inspires the choreographer or an idea/story that the choreographer wants to express to the audience. A choreographer can also simply be inspired by a particular dancer's talent or style.
Dancers' tootsies take a lot of punishment, is there anything you do to maintain "happy feet?"
Every dancer is different when it comes to her shoes. We all have our own special rituals and need slightly different things out of the shoe depending on the dancer's feet and/or what role the dancer is dancing. It is true that dancers' feet take a lot of punishment, but in reality, it is the entire body, not just the feet, that is sore at the end of the day. It's how we take care of ourselves every day that allows us to do what we do. Company class may start at 9:30 a.m., but dancers are in the studio preparing, stretching and warming up long before that. Some dancers do cross training such as yoga and pilates to help strengthen their body and prevent injuries. Massage and acupuncture are two of my personal favorites. And of course ice baths, ice massages and epsom salt baths are a ballet dancer's best friend at the end of a long day.
What's your dream role?
I don't know if I would say I have a "dream role." However, I would love to someday dance the pas de deux After the Rain choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon. It's a beautiful and captivating piece that moves my soul when I watch it.
Do you and the other dancers ever hit the town and show off your skills on the dance floor?Ballet dancers are not just dancers by profession; we dance because that is what we are passionate
about. Most dancers I know (including myself) hear music and without even realizing it, are moving along with the beat.
Interview conducted and condensed by Alexandra Fluegel. Edited by Lindsay Patton-Carson.