Corps de Ballet Confessional: JULIA ROWE, San Francisco Ballet

#corpsdeballetconfessional

 

julia roweJULIA ROWE, corps de ballet at San Francisco Ballet/ formerly a soloist at Oregon Ballet Theatre

Photo by Christopher Peddecord (click here to visit his website of stellar work)

I first met Julia Rowe at CPYB, and she was this tiny little thing…. Like she is this short petite girl from PA with a good heart. I saw her in class and knew she was good, probably close to technically perfect. I then saw her Sherry Moray’s Pandora’s Box… and I was like, “hmmm ok.” Then I saw her in like every role in Balanchine’s Nutcracker and was like, “Okay I see you…” Then one day in Alan Hineline’s Sleeping Beauty rehearsal, I was doing something frivolous and we were rehearsing away from the mirrors, so she was facing towards the back where I was sitting. And I noticed that she did these really beautiful, overly turned out ron de jambes, into a fait pas de bourre and they were the most beautiful steps of the ballet; well the entire sequence of steps. She had complete control over everything, and she had this gorgeous resistance in the fait that was gorgeous. My friend david and julia rowe.jpgand I both leaned over at the same time and called it: PERFECTION. On top of that, she was dancing on shin splints. A prom and graduation later, Julia left to SFB and then landed a contract at OBT. She got promoted to soloist and things were going stellar. Small Facebook chats here and there are nice updates… Then she announced that she was leaving her soloist spot at OBT and heading back to SFB… Now at SFB, I get to follow her career closer and hear from her every now and then. But recently we got to catch up and she was willing to answer some great questions… So here it is… Life as Julia Rowe.

 

So, what is it like to be Julia Rowe? INSTAGRAM: @juliamrowe
Age: 26
Height: 5’1”
Training: Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, San Francisco Ballet School
Company: San Francisco Ballet, corps de ballet, 3rd Season (click here for official bio)
Previous Company: Oregon Ballet Theatre, soloist for two seasons, three in the corps

What did you have for breakfast? How do you drink your coffee?
JR: I had a green juice for breakfast, and I drink my coffee black.

What is it like being in the corps at SF?
JR: It’s quite challenging, actually. We do three full-length ballets per season and then about five mixed rep programs. We learn all of the ballets in the summer and fall, but we don’t get to perform until Nutcracker in December. Our regular season runs January-May, and during that time we are usually performing most nights of the week and rehearsing for the next program during the day. It can get quite intense, especially for the corps de ballet.

You left being a soloist at OBT for SFB, why?
JR: Because there was a change in direction of the company, and I was ready for something new in my career. I wanted a different sort of challenge. I wanted to know what it was like to dance every day on that huge Opera House stage, and be surrounded by so much diverse talent all the time. I wanted to know if there could be a place for me here.

When you were a student, and you dreamed of a being a pro– does your experience as a professional compare?
JR: It’s funny. Sometimes I wish I could go back to being a student. The kind of personal attention and corrections that you receive at that point in your training are really invaluable. Once you join a company, especially a big one, you are kind of on your own. There isn’t enough time for individual coaching for all 75 dancers, you know? That being said, you learn a lot about yourself when you have to be your own teacher, coach, mentor, and critic. This is especially true when you are in the corps and the emphasis is placed more on conformity than artistic expression. The beauty in corps work is precision and teamwork. Everyone all breathing together as a singular unit. It’s a different mentality.

Julia in 2008 rehearsing for SFB School Student Showcase doing Kitri’s Variation in the dream scene. Filmed by Dylan Ward.

What kind of pressure do you feel?
JR: Luckily, at SFB, it’s not unusual for corps dancers to get great opportunities dancing soloist and principal roles. Choreographers and others setting ballets generally have their pick of the entire company. Because there are so many of us, there tends to be a lot of pressure to “nail it” in front of a choreographer. There is also this sense that every rehearsal is an audition. The margin for error sometimes feels very small, which I know from experience tends to limit my ability to really make the movement my own. I love to work with choreographers who are OK with mistakes during the learning process(most are). It’s incredibly freeing to be given permission to be yourself in the studio and on stage.

In contrast, learning corps de ballet repertory is an exercise in attention to detail and precision. In a large company, you are expected to be able to quickly and thoroughly learn choreography. This can be tough, especially for new dancers. Luckily, there is a sense of community within the corps. We have all been there, and most of my coworkers were extremely kind and helpful when I was swamped with new information.

 

julia rowe ballet


What kind of pressure do you put on yourself, when it comes to being or trying to be promoted?
JR: the more you think about it, the crazier you get

 

What kind of pressure do you put on yourself, when it comes to being or trying to be promoted? Honestly, I try not to think of it in terms of promotion. I try to recognize every opportunity I have to improve in some way. It is tough, though. We all have dreams, after all! It would be great to get to do more challenging roles, and to not have to suffer through standing in B-plus, but not everyone gets to that place. For me, it’s all about appreciating the moments when I do get to bust out and dancing them to my fullest ability. It makes swan corps way more bearable when you know that you are capable of so much more. Sometimes you just need to remind yourself.

Having outside projects can help, too. If you aren’t getting the artistic growth you want from your job, no one is stopping you from doing it on your own. I have met so many inspiring, creative people in San Francisco not just in dance, but other fields as well. Writers, fashion designers, musicians, visual artists, photographers, you name it. I have even met some incredibly inspiring doctors who take physical therapy and training to an artistic level.

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Julia Rowe and Elen Rose Hummel in Tomasson’s Caprice. (© Erik Tomasson) Accessed via blog.cpyb.org

What do you do in your spare time?
JR: I go to school, read, swim, hike, travel and help my boyfriend (@sashaarro on insta!) with his photography in my spare time. I do the LEAP program at St Mary’s for my undergraduate degree it’s a great program geared towards arts professionals. (click here for more information on the LEAP program)

What is in your dance bag?
JR: My dance bag is a mess. I have at least 6 pairs of shoes, three skirts, a pair of shorts, legwarmers, Advil, Voltaren gel, arnica cream, my Lululemon sweatpants, black Uniqlo heat tech shirt, a puffy vest (also Uniqlo) Click here to shop Uniqlo.

Favorite holiday?
JR: My favorite holiday is New Years because I get to spend it at home with my family. We do a delayed Christmas on New Years because I am still doing Nutcracker on actual Christmas.

Any advice to young women who get their corps de ballet contracts…
JR: Advice to young corps members: Remember what your teachers have told you. Really. Corrections and feedback won’t come as often as they did when you were in school. It’s up to you to figure out how you want to dance and to make it happen. Keep your eyes open. Use your coworkers as inspiration. Be respectful of the more senior members of the company, but don’t hide. You have accomplished something very special by becoming a professional ballet dancer. It’s a privilege to be able to do what you do. Make the most of it! Enjoy it!

Personal Note: Greatest part about this interview? It happened in sections- via at intermission during Swan Lake, her days off, and the Academy Awards…
Editor’s Note: Originally when published I credited Pandora’s Box to Alan Hineline, but it is choreographed by Sherry Moray.

If you are a corps de ballet dancer, and would like to be interviewed for a Ballet Education’s Corps De Ballet Confessional, email me at aballeteducation@gmail.com

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Don’t forget to check out SFB’s next program: COPPELIA, MARCH 8-13- CLICK HERE for tickets, preview and SFB’s website.


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The Corps de Ballet Confessional…

corps de ballet

You were the best one at your local school, and then you went to a professional school, and you basically kicked ass. Teachers fawned over you. You excelled in the curriculum, and you knew. You knew that one day you would get your company contract. You land your apprenticeship and then get your corps contract. Ten years later, you are standing on stage in B plus, on the side of the stage in a beautiful white tutu. Yup. All of that hard work, all of those hours, killing yourself over and over again. Learning every part, understudying every principal role, and finally… You wonder, “What was the point?” The greatest role you ever did was some random pas de trois in a matinee showing. You might have done Spanish or Chinese in the Nutcracker. If you are lucky you did Marzipan and Dew Drop for a matinee… So, what was the point?

Working in the corps makes life difficult. Every time a season is about to close you are questioning if you will have your contract renewed. Then you are questioning yourself at the beginning of the season, wondering who they have hired? Who is the next hot shot of talent coming up? You start to question yourself as an artist, and you feel completely unchallenged. You have danced the repertory twice and then some. You know every girl part in Nutcracker and have probably danced in every role. Yup, this is the life of a corps de ballet member. You start to think about your sixteen-year-old self, the person who wanted it so badly. Who anticipated the moment you got to step onto a stage. The person who excelled and wanted every moment of ballet… Where did that person go?

Life in the Corps de Ballet is hard, and they are probably the most under appreciated position in a ballet company…. So now… I am honoring the amazing talent in the corps de ballet of ballet companies. Without the corps there isn’t a flock of swans behind Odette, and there aren’t any Shades in Bayadere… It would just be Solar smoking some opium for giggles. lol. So, what is it like to have the job a million girls would kill for? Get ready for our #corpsdeballetconfessional series. A series of posts dedicated to the corps de ballet, mostly interviews with working ballet dancers.

If you are interested in being interviewed for these installments write me aballeteducation@gmail.com

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