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Photo: Patrick Frenette.

SideBarre

It takes more than pliés to lift a ballet company to great heights. From dancers to conductors, teachers to makeup artists, this series features fascinating insight from ABT experts and an intimate look inside America’s National Ballet Company®. Take a spot at the SideBarre to get to know the incredible people behind each bourrée of American Ballet Theatre.

December 8, 2023

In The Nutcracker, ABT Studio Company Dancers take the stage!

ABT Studio Company and apprentice dancers backstage <rm>The Nutcracker</em> in 2022. Photo: João Menegussi.
ABT Studio Company and apprentice dancers backstage The Nutcracker in 2022. Photo: João Menegussi.

For many dancers, their first memories of ballet are sugarplum fairies and dancing mice. The Nutcracker has a unique tradition of incorporating students and pre-professional dancers into the production, allowing budding ballet dancers to take the stage among starring Principals.  

This holiday season, several dancers from ABT Studio Company will be joining the main Company at Segerstrom Center of the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, for ABT’s The Nutcracker. Read below to learn more about ABT Studio Company dancers Lilia Greyeyes, Brady Farrar, Vince Pelegrin, and Max Barker and their unique perspective on this Nutcracker season.  

Max Barker

Tell us a bit about your background, where you are from, and your history with dance. 

I began my ballet journey at the ABT JKO School at age 4, continuing until 2020. After a year at The Royal Ballet School, joining ABT Studio Company has been a full circle experience for me.

How did you view The Nutcracker when you were younger? Do you have any childhood memories surrounding the tradition? 

I first watched ABT’s The Nutcracker when I was eight years old, and I can vividly remember the magic that was created with its enchanting story, mesmerizing costumes, sets, music, and incredible dancing. I have wanted to be a part of ABT’s The Nutcracker ever since.

Have you performed in The Nutcracker before? If so, how do this year’s performances with the main company feel different? 

In 2021, I was a part of The Nutcracker with Eglevsky Ballet, thanks to the ABT JKO School providing me with the opportunity. Now joining ABT’s main Company rehearsals, I am enthusiastic and curious to learn as much as I can. I am filled with anticipation to partake in these upcoming performances. 

What will be your must-haves when you travel to Costa Mesa, California? 

Given that I will be performing as a mouse in the production, some must-haves travel items for this mouse to be in top notch shape include protein-packed cheese bites, claw warmers, and an epic battle playlist to get me pumped for the fight ahead. 

What makes you excited about performing in The Nutcracker?   

I am excited to perform in ABTs nutcracker this year because it has been a dream of mine ever since I saw it for the first time. This is my first professional experience with ABT and I could not be more grateful. 

Vince Pelegrin and Brady Farrar backstage at The Nutcracker in 2022. Photo: João Menegussi.  .
Vince Pelegrin and Brady Farrar backstage at The Nutcracker in 2022. Photo: João Menegussi. .

Brady Farrar

Tell us a bit about your background, where you are from, and your history with dance. 

My name is Brady Farrar, and I have been dancing for 13 years. When I was 8 years old, I was gratefully given the opportunity to move away from home for training. I lived in Miami for 8 years, and it was during this time I was introduced to ballet. When I was 16 years old, I moved again to New York City to attend the ABT JKO School. In fall of 2022, I joined ABT Studio Company. 

How did you view The Nutcracker when you were younger? Do you have any childhood memories surrounding the tradition? 

There is no Christmas without The Nutcracker. From the music of Tchaikovsky, to the magical story, this ballet is unlike any other. The Nutcracker holds its own place in the ballet repertoire. Every time I am able to perform it, I get taken back to childhood memories such as leaving the theatre after a show and reminiscing on what just happened, or walking around the mall and hearing the main pas de deux music playing. Nutcracker is iconic, and is a big part of the holidays.  

Have you performed in The Nutcracker before? If so, how do this year’s performances with the main Company feel different? 

In my first The Nutcracker, I remember dancing the role of Fritz. It was very fun to be able to act and play a character that reminded me of myself. In ABT’s version, choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky, I am lucky to be able to perform with the corps de ballet as a mouse. Taking on a role of something that is non-human is something I have never done before, so it is such a rewarding journey for me. 

What are you doing to prepare for The Nutcracker season? Are you approaching this differently than you would with other performances? 

Dancing with the corps de ballet is a very different process than dancing with ABT Studio Company. It is important to work as a team, rather than approaching the work as an individual. I am so honored to be able to participate in such an amazing production. 

What will be your must-haves when you travel to Costa Mesa, California? 

I will need my pink mice shoes and a healthy mind and body. And, of course, some Philz coffee. 

What makes you excited about performing in The Nutcracker

I am excited to travel to California, perform with the main Company, and listen to Tchaikovsky every night.  

Lilia Greyeyes and fellow ABT Studio Company dancer Audrey Lynn backstage at The Nutcracker in 2022. Photo courtesy of Lilia Greyeyes.  .
Lilia Greyeyes and fellow ABT Studio Company dancer Audrey Lynn backstage at The Nutcracker in 2022. Photo courtesy of Lilia Greyeyes. .

Lilia Greyeyes

Tell us a bit about your background, where you are from, and your history with dance. 

I grew up in Ontario, Canada, just outside of Toronto. I started ballet when I was 2 years old, so it’s been a part of my life for as long as I can remember! I trained at Canada’s National Ballet School for 6 years before attending ABT’s Summer Intensive and joining the ABT Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School in fall 2022. I joined ABT Studio Company in January 2023. 

How did you view The Nutcracker when you were younger? Do you have any childhood memories surrounding the tradition? 

The Nutcracker is so magical! It was the first full length ballet I ever saw, and the costumes, sets, story, and music are a little kid’s dream. When I was 13, I got to be Marie in the National Ballet of Canada’s Nutcracker. It was such a special experience to be in a professional production at that age, and I had the best time performing! 

 Have you performed in The Nutcracker before? If so, how do this year’s performances with the main Company feel different? 

I performed in ABT’s production of The Nutcracker last year when I was still in the ABT JKO School. It was such an amazing opportunity, and everything was very new. This year I’m revisiting the same roles and spots so I feel like I can really focus on the quality of movements and how I can push myself within the choreography. I also feel like I’ve grown so much as an artist in the past year while touring and performing with ABT Studio Company, so I’m excited to see how that translates onstage. 

What are you doing to prepare for The Nutcracker season? Are you approaching this differently than you would with other performances? 

I’m making sure to take care of my body leading up to the performances, like getting enough sleep, and massage, ice baths, etc. when needed. I’m part of the corps de ballet dancing in Snow and Flowers. Since there are so many dancers onstage in those sections, every individual needs to pull their weight and be super aware of their spacing and timing to make the choreography and formations come to life. Corps work can be challenging but it’s so fun and rewarding. 

 What will be your must-haves when you travel to Costa Mesa, California? 

A pair of sunglasses, 2nd Skin Squares, and a good book! 

What makes you excited about performing in The Nutcracker?   

I love getting to perform alongside my friends and dancing with the main Company is such a privilege. The costumes and sets are so beautiful and it’s such a fun production to be a part of. Also knowing so many kids are watching, some experiencing ballet for the first time, is the most exciting feeling! 

Vince Pelegrin and friends in costume as Mice backstage at The Nutcracker in 2022. Photo courtesy of Vince Pelegrin.
Vince Pelegrin and friends in costume as Mice backstage at The Nutcracker in 2022. Photo courtesy of Vince Pelegrin.

Vince Pelegrin

Tell us a bit about your background, where you are from, and your history with dance. 

Hi! I’m Vince. I’m from the Philippines. I started dancing when I was 8 at Steps Dance Studio in Manila under the direction of Sofia Elizalde. My two older brothers got me into dance because I would watch them outside the studio and try their moves. 

How did you view The Nutcracker when you were younger? Do you have any childhood memories surrounding the tradition? 

I viewed The Nutcracker when I was younger to be one of the most festive ballets ever. With the Christmas holiday spirit in the Philippines being extremely grand and joyous, plus the ballet itself, I would always find myself watching the grownups dance, and I would be so amazed and inspired by them.  

Have you performed in The Nutcracker before? If so, how do this year’s performances with the main company feel different? 

Yes, I have performed the roles of the Nutcracker Prince, Russian, and the Doll. This year’s performances with the ABT main Company feel different because I know that we will have the most fun onstage performing Mice in Act 1, seeing my friends in ABT Studio Company in Snow and Flowers, and cheering for them.

What are you doing to prepare for The Nutcracker season? Are you approaching this differently than you would with other performances? 

I have been going to the gym since we have long breaks during rehearsal days at 890 Broadway and taking variations class with Sascha Radetsky and Herman Cornejo. I like all my shows being different from each other so it’s always fresh and exciting.  

What will be your must-haves when you travel to Costa Mesa, California? 

My pink shoes for Mice are my must-haves when I travel to Costa Mesa. And, of course, my sunscreen and ballet class ‘fits.  

What makes you excited about performing in The Nutcracker?   

Watching the main Company dance from the wings or the audience and learning so much from them and the whole experience make me excited about performing in The Nutcracker.  

December 6, 2023

Behind the Ballet with Elizabeth Kaye

The Nutcracker

In the newest installment of Behind the Ballet, ABT Dance Historian and New York Times #1 best-selling author Elizabeth Kaye puts the spotlight on the beloved tradition returning this holiday season. Kaye takes us on a magical journey through The Nutcracker’s history, music, and how the ballet came to be a worldwide holiday sensation.  

Don’t miss ABT’s The Nutcracker on stage at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, from December 8–17! With choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, this annual classic brings a cast of more than 100 performers to the stage and features dazzling sets and costumes by Tony Award® winner Richard Hudson, accompanied by Tchaikovsky’s timeless score.  

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November 16, 2023

Music is considered by many dancers and choreographers to be the driving force of movement, imbuing steps with emotion and expression. With a live musician accompanying the dancers, this is taken one step further—the dancer can now feel the music motivate their movements, adding a depth of sound that is lost with a recorded version.  

Central to the diverse repertoire presented at the David H. Koch Theater in the 2023 Fall season, American Ballet Theatre’s musicians played classical scores of technical rigor and complexity. In many of these arrangements, the pianists held prominent roles in propelling both the score and the dancers. Learn more about the ABT’s pianists and their experiences this past Fall season! 

Emily Wong

Emily Wong at the curtain call for <em>Ballet Imperial</em>. Photo: Rosalie O'Connor.
Emily Wong at the curtain call for Ballet Imperial. Photo: Rosalie O'Connor.

Tell us a bit about your history as a musician.

I’m a “Juilliard pianist” and piano competition winner, but I’ve also had a lot of my own compositions performed, symphonies, an opera, chamber music, and solo piano. I’ve also been a very dedicated teacher, now for a select few since ABT occupies my time.

In your own words, describe the solo piece you are playing this season, “Tchaikovsky’s Concerto No. 2 in G for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 44” in George Balanchine’s Ballet Imperial.

… grand, brilliant, virtuosic, beautiful, and a lot of fun!

What is challenging or taxing about playing this piece? 

It’s physically very demanding, with lots of technical challenges and intricate work, and requires the stamina to sustain that for 40 minutes.

Are you doing anything special or different to work on this piece? What do rehearsals look like, compared to your own independent practice?

On my own I do a lot of slow work to smooth out connections and to memorize. And I daydream about musical ideas…

It’s fun to work in collaboration with dancers on building interesting nuance and phrasing, and work towards a common artistic vision.

What is exciting and rewarding about this piece?

It’s one of those pieces that makes you fall in love with Tchaikovsky all over again!

What does this season mean to you?

I’m thrilled Susan Jaffe has programmed this brilliant piece this season. It’s such a highlight!

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November 15, 2023

Music is considered by many dancers and choreographers to be the driving force of movement, imbuing steps with emotion and expression. With a live musician accompanying the dancers, this is taken one step further—the dancer can now feel the music motivate their movements, adding a depth of sound that is lost with a recorded version.  

Central to the diverse repertoire presented at the David H. Koch Theater in the 2023 Fall season, American Ballet Theatre’s musicians played classical scores of technical rigor and complexity. In many of these arrangements, the pianists held prominent roles in propelling both the score and the dancers. Learn more about the ABT’s pianists and their experiences this past Fall season! 

Evangelos Spanos

Evangelos Spanos in rehearsal at American Ballet Theatre. Photo: Emma Zordan.
Evangelos Spanos in rehearsal at American Ballet Theatre. Photo: Emma Zordan.

Evangelos Spanos, Greek American and New York City based, is one of the brightest and most promising pianists of the current generation of international performers in the US. 

He is currently holding a full-time position as a Company Pianist at American Ballet Theatre and accompanies for classes at School of American Ballet and Steps on Broadway. In addition to his work with regional Equity theatres, Evangelos has served/serves as music staff at the Kansas City Ballet, University of Missouri in Kansas City, and Lyric Opera and has performed for many opera productions at the University of Kansas, as well as accompanying master classes for Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, Dance Theatre of Harlem, and Mark Morris Dance Company to name a few.   

In your own words, describe the solo pieces you are playing this Fall season, “Piano Concerto in A Major KV 488 (Adagio),” and “Piano Concerto in C Major KV 467 (Andante)” in Jiří Kylián’s Petite Mort.

A condensed version of the beauty and sorrows of the humankind.

What is challenging or taxing about playing this piece? 

It requires absolute control and a delicate and elegant sound.

Are you doing anything special or different to work on this piece?

I mainly listen to performances of my favorite pianists as well the performance that was originally used when the choreography was realized.

What is exciting and rewarding about this piece?

The synergy between movement, music and acting. One of the times where dance becomes music and music is dance.

What does this season mean to you?

A season of exceptional music where all the pianists showcase their individual talents.

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November 14, 2023

Music is considered by many dancers and choreographers to be the driving force of movement, imbuing steps with emotion and expression. With a live musician accompanying the dancers, this is taken one step further—the dancer can now feel the music motivate their movements, adding a depth of sound that is lost with a recorded version.  

Central to the diverse repertoire presented at the David H. Koch Theater in the 2023 Fall season, American Ballet Theatre’s musicians played classical scores of technical rigor and complexity. In many of these arrangements, the pianists held prominent roles in propelling both the score and the dancers. Learn more about the ABT’s pianists and their experiences this past Fall season! 

Jacek Mysinski

Jacek Mysinski in rehearsal at American Ballet Theatre. Photo: Emma Zordan.
Jacek Mysinski in rehearsal at American Ballet Theatre. Photo: Emma Zordan.

Tell us a bit about your history as a musician.

I come from a family with rich musical traditions, but my musical journey began in earnest at the age of seven, when a new piano “magically” appeared in our apartment in Warsaw, Poland. I was fascinated by it and learned a few pieces by ear within the span of a month or so, listening and emulating what my dad would play for fun. A few weeks later I performed them in front of a few hundred children and parents at my preschool end of the year “graduation” event.

Shortly after, I auditioned for the music school in Warsaw and the rest is history. After years of working on the craft of piano playing (which never really stops), performances and competitions, I ended up at the prestigious Juilliard School in New York. This was also where I got my first real exposure to modern dance by participating in numerous school projects while I was there. That relationship between dance and music was such a powerful experience for me at the time, which I think led me to where I am today!

In your own words, describe the solo piece you are playing this Fall season, “Shostakovich Concerto No. 1 for Piano, Trumpet and Strings [Op. 35]” in Alexei Ratmansky’s Piano Concerto No. 1.

Extreme, explosive, daring, sardonic, berserk! 

What is challenging or taxing about playing this piece? 

Capturing the ever-changing moods and character, often juxtaposed to the extreme from one phrase to another! Then of course the sheer speed and technical demands are very high as well! 

Are you doing anything special or different to work on this piece?

It’s hard to say. Every piece has overlapping yet different challenges and considerations to be aware of. The goal is to create an interpretation that stays true to the intentions of the composer and at the highest pianistic level possible. Just as importantly, that interpretation has to meet the needs of the choreography and inspire the dancers. It’s a very nuanced balance at times, which requires a lot of sensitivity, flexibility and openness to different possibilities. 

What do rehearsals look like, compared to your own independent practice?

In many ways they’re completely different.

Since it’s a piano concerto and not a solo piece, I’m required to incorporate the orchestra part in addition to the piano part into the rehearsal flow, so that the dancers can discern and recognize the most prominent themes as they would unfold in a full performance setting, where all instruments are present. That is a big challenge sometimes, since I only have ten fingers at my disposal!

My own independent practice starts and ends at home however. That is the foundation and it involves so many elements, which would be impossible to list here, I’m afraid.

What is exciting and rewarding about this piece?

On a personal level, seeing progress, challenging yourself, exceeding what you thought were your limitations.

On a collaborative level, performing a show where the movement and music became one! When it happens, it’s pure magic!

What does this season mean to you?

It’s a celebration of life really and appreciation for all that it is. I feel a sense of gratitude for having this opportunity to perform with so many incredible dancers of ABT.

On a final note, this Fall season marks ten years since my husband Calvin Royal III and I met in Studio 5 after Theme and Variations rehearsal!

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November 13, 2023

Music is considered by many dancers and choreographers to be the driving force of movement, imbuing steps with emotion and expression. With a live musician accompanying the dancers, this is taken one step further—the dancer can now feel the music motivate their movements, adding a depth of sound that is lost with a recorded version.  

Central to the diverse repertoire presented at the David H. Koch Theater in the 2023 Fall season, American Ballet Theatre’s musicians played classical scores of technical rigor and complexity. In many of these arrangements, the pianists held prominent roles in propelling both the score and the dancers. Learn more about the ABT’s pianists and their experiences this past Fall season! 

Nuno Marques

Nuno Marques in rehearsal at American Ballet Theatre. Photo: Emma Zordan.
Nuno Marques in rehearsal at American Ballet Theatre. Photo: Emma Zordan.

Tell us a bit about your history as a musician.

Having grown up in the European conservatory system and later completing my advanced musical education in London and New York, I am very glad to be working with such important and expressive interdisciplinary artists now in my career. Music and the arts have taken me around the world in performance, academic, and collaborative settings. I love playing all varieties of works at the piano— from the elegance of Mozart to the intensity of Prokofiev or living composers— and always have the best time being on stage and in rehearsals with friends.

In your own words, describe the featured piece you are playing this Fall season, Carnival of the Animals for the ABT Fall Gala Pièce d’Occasion.

Iconic, youthful, imaginative.

What is challenging or taxing about playing this piece? 

The most challenging part is performing with a second pianist at the same keyboard, and an orchestra behind us.

Are you doing anything special or different to work on this piece? What do rehearsals look like, compared to your own independent practice?  

I have to adapt my seating position, for instance, as this is a four-hand piece and I have to share the keyboard. So, I try to practice from the lower end of the keyboard, which is always fun.

What is exciting and rewarding about this piece?

The excitement of performing with an orchestra, surrounded by great musicians!

What does this season mean to you?

I find this season to be full of great variety, mixing more famous works with some less frequently performed pieces that create contrast in style and scale. I’m really looking forward to it!

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November 13, 2023

Meet the Pianists of American Ballet Theatre!

Music is considered by many dancers and choreographers to be the driving force of movement, imbuing steps with emotion and expression. With a live musician accompanying the dancers, this is taken one step further—the dancer can now feel the music motivate their movements, adding a depth of sound that is lost with a recorded version.  

Central to the diverse repertoire presented at the David H. Koch Theater in the 2023 Fall season, American Ballet Theatre’s musicians played classical scores of technical rigor and complexity. In many of these arrangements, the pianists held prominent roles in propelling both the score and the dancers. Learn more about the ABT’s pianists and their experiences this past Fall season! 

October 2, 2023

After the success of our summer series, we are delighted to bring you the next iteration of Behind the Ballet with Elizabeth Kaye, a series of talks with ABT’s Dance Historian, renowned ballet lecturer, and New York Times #1 best-selling author. Each Behind the Ballet video provides a deep dive into the 2023 Fall season programs: Classics Old and New, 20th Century Works: Balanchine and Ashton, and 21st Century Works: King, Ratmansky, and Bond. Explore the videos below and find out what lies behind the ballet!

21st Century Works: King, Ratmansky, and Bond

In the final installment of Behind the Ballet, Kaye ventures into the backgrounds of the choreographers themselves to uncover how each visionary’s upbringing is reflected through movement. Kaye discusses the history of Alonzo King and his work centered on hope, Single Eye. Kaye also connects Alexei Ratmansky’s upbringing in Ukraine to his narrative ballet On the Dnipro, which takes place in his home country.

October 2, 2023

After the success of our summer series, we are delighted to bring you the next iteration of Behind the Ballet with Elizabeth Kaye, a series of talks with ABT’s Dance Historian, renowned ballet lecturer, and New York Times #1 best-selling author. Each Behind the Ballet video provides a deep dive into the 2023 Fall season programs: Classics Old and New, 20th Century Works: Balanchine and Ashton, and 21st Century Works: King, Ratmansky, and Bond. Explore the videos below and find out what lies behind the ballet!

20th Century Works: Balanchine and Ashton

From the ebullience of Russian imperialism in George Balanchine’s Ballet Imperial, to the magical forest and Shakespearean entanglements of Frederick Ashton’s The Dream, 20th Century Works: Balanchine and Ashton will transport audiences to new places. Kaye explains how these two ballets – one abstract, one narrative – bring viewers into their spellbinding worlds.

October 2, 2023

After the success of our summer series, we are delighted to bring you the next iteration of Behind the Ballet with Elizabeth Kaye, a series of talks with ABT’s Dance Historian, renowned ballet lecturer, and New York Times #1 best-selling author. Each Behind the Ballet video provides a deep dive into the 2023 Fall season programs: Classics Old and New, 20th Century Works: Balanchine and Ashton, and 21st Century Works: King, Ratmansky, and Bond. Explore the videos below and find out what lies behind the ballet!

Classics Old and New

In Classics Old and New, Kaye takes audiences on a journey through Alexei Ratmansky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, Jiří Kylián’s Petite Mort, and Harald Lander’s Études. Kaye discusses how each choreographer’s unique vision and specific style ultimately culminated in the distinctly unique masterpieces presented in the program.