I’m from Lake Arrowhead, California. Which is a little tourist trap of a town in the San Bernadino Mountains. I trained at Lake Arrowhead School of Dance, and Anaheim Ballet until I was sixteen and I received a scholarship to San Francisco Ballet School. My whole family moved from our gorgeous mountain house that was a mile from the lake, to a cramped two bedroom apartment in San Francisco that was a mile from some interesting characters on Height Street, who I admittedly grew to love, all so that I could go to what I would argue to be one of the best ballet schools in the country. I was always more interested in jazz and tap as a kid, so going to San Francisco Ballet, I was a bit of a fish out of water. But I made some of the best friends I’ve ever had, and thanks to the teachers there like Parrish Maynard and Jean Yves Esquerre, I had an amazing experience. As far as how I ended up in Cincinnati, simply enough, Victoria Morgan came and watched me in class one day and offered me a job. Two months later, I was here!
2. Tell us a little about your career.
My career has been pretty short up to this point. I was a trainee with San Francisco Ballet my last year I was there, where I was fortunate enough to get to be in some of their productions. My favorite of which being Balanchine’s Diamonds. I was a random dancer in the back of a line of over twenty other dancers, and still felt like some big shot doing that amazing choreography! I started at Cincinnati Ballet as a New Dancer when I was nineteen, I’m twenty-one in the corps now, and have been here for two seasons. As ridiculous as it might sound, my favorite parts I’ve danced here have been the Ugly Stepsister in Cinderella, and the Mouse King in the Nutcracker. I’m getting paid to be as obnoxious and/or goofy as I can be! You can’t beat that! And I tend to get way into it, giving these characters voices, mannerisms, and detailed back stories.
3. What goes into choreographing a show like this? What types of things to you have to take into consideration, who do you have to collaborate with, do the dancers have input, etc?
For me, choreographing a show like this has been awesome. I heard that some of the music was going to be a Copland piece, and I was sold! I was nervous about the collaborating, because I’m very set in the process I use, even though it is constantly evolving, and I wasn’t sure how it was going to mesh with the other choreographers. I went in focusing hard on Appalachian Spring, knowing I didn’t want it to be just dance. I wanted first of all, a purpose for us to be doing this ballet. What did we want to say, and why is it important we say it. I thought it would be great to have a structure, a narrative, and a story arch. As well as motives and character development as the story progressed. On the day of our first meeting, it turned out we were all on the same page with that, and it’s been smooth sailing this entire time. For the other half of the program we decided we were going to break up the sections of Barber’s Cave of the Heart, and give the choreographers free reign to do as they pleased. So there’s no continual story line, or style. Which is going to be a great contrast to Appalachian Spring. For Cave of the Heart, I got the last three tracks of music, and decided I was going to indulge myself and go as crazy as I wanted. I developed a structure and story arch with a meaning behind it, and roped my best friend Erin Crall into staring in it. Who has been awesomely on board with it all. I wanted do something about the bad things we’ve done in life that we felt as though we couldn’t control, and/or couldn’t get out of. So I ended up with a ballet involving a zombie, murder, and the cure for the disease that leaves the protagonist distraught with all the harm she’s caused. As dark as it may be, it was fun to make, it’s going to be fun to be in, and it’s rare when you see things in ballet that are knowingly campy and gleefully absurd, which are two of my favorite things. So it’s fantastic that choreographers are being given a place to explore these sorts of ideas and impulses. As far as the dancers input, to be completely honest, with me it tends to be a bit limited. It’s popular now of days for choreographers to come in blank, take their time, and throw a bunch of ideas out there and see what sticks. There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact some of my favorite works have come about in exactly that way, but it’s just not me. Choreographers say they’re poets. They’re trying to reinvent the language, which is important. But I think of myself as a screenwriter. I want to set a scene, find some characters, give it all some pacing, and take the audience on a ride. Not just give them something to look at, but something to think about, something to feel, and something to challenge them. It doesn’t always succeed, and it’s a risky way of doing it, but it seems to be the only way I enjoy it. It makes you vulnerable to work the way I do, to not be vague. Because it means there is one right answer, one way it’s supposes to be interpreted, and that it’s either going to work or it won’t. And after all that, how serious I take my process and the passion I put into it, I’m a goofy guy. So I have an immensely serious way of working, even when the product is anything but serious!
4. What has been the most challenging part of choreographing this performance?
The most challenging part for me has been the music. I respond to the phrasing and structure of music, which at times was difficult to find. But it’s beautiful to listen to, so it wasn’t unpleasant to have it going nonstop on my iPod for weeks as I figured out what I wanted to do, and how I was going to do it.
5. What have you enjoyed the most about choreographing this performance?
I’ve enjoyed this whole experience. Being able to do some more character driven jaunty group dances one day, and a dark seedy solo the next, isn’t very common. So I’m embracing it while I can!
6. Are there any particular challenges with choreographing music that wasn’t originally intended to be used for dance?
I feel like that depends on your method for choreographing. Sometimes to have music that isn’t necessarily dance music can be better. But both seem to pose their own challenges.
7. Anything else you think we should know?
The only other thing I can think of that would be valuable to know is how grateful all of us are to get to be involved with Concert Nova again this year. As you may have noticed from my answers to the previous questions, I have a bit of an odd imagination and a driven way of working. One that I’ve had few opportunities to prove are going to beneficial to the world of ballet and art. So having a chance like this to put some new ideas that I’m so passionate about out there, has been a big highlight of my year.
8. What do you enjoy doing outside of dance?
Outside of dance my favorite thing to do, hands down, is go to the movies. I’m there once or twice a week. And when I can, going and seeing a musical that’s in town. Both are always best when I can drag a friend along!