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|About the Change|
interview by David Bain
report by Liz Bouttell
Cleared for publication in October 2007 the original interview dates from August 2006
At the time of the interview Alexandra was a First Soloist.
The next in our series of reports on the proceedings of the
Two months before turning 11, Alexandra and her parents went into New York City for the audition at the School of American Ballet. Alexandra was unaware of the magnitude and importance of commitment to this fine art. There were hundreds of applicants who were already trained and ingrained in the ballet world and system. Alexandra’s parents reminded her of the great experience that this was, seeing the reality of the situation. The applicants entered the studio in groups of ten. Alexandra thought she heard the three elderly Russian auditioners say “A2” when they evaluated her. Alexandra was sure of her acceptance. Meanwhile her parents waiting with anticipation and awe of this impressive institution just showed Alexandra support without trying to dampen her new found dream. The next day it was confirmed by a phone call that Alexandra was accepted and to be in level “a2”.
Alexandra gained many scholarships for summer schools during the next few years. The first year of attending the School of American Ballet, she stayed at her academic school, Friends Academy, a Quaker school in Long Island during the day. She commuted to New York three times a week for ballet school. She also performed in children’s roles with New York City Ballet. Despite having no ballet background, Alexandra was put in class with girls two and three years older than herself. As she had no foundation she always felt that she was learning ballet in reverse.
© Martin Mydtskov Ronne
When she was fifteen, Peter Martins saw Alexandra in a studio performance choreographed by New York City ballerina, Nicole Hlinka. Alexandra had never performed in the annual workshop performances on stage. Peter hired her immediately that evening. A month later she was performing three different roles in the Nutcracker with New York City Ballet. Within the month, Peter not only gave her her contract for her sixteenth birthday, but also had her learn and dance the Principal role the “Dew Drop Fairy.” This was a complete shock to her and many others. No-one since Gelsey Kirkland and Darcy Kistler had received such an honour so young. The commitment and passion for her love of dance was completely confirmed.
The experiences while dancing with NYCB were incredible. Peter Martins created principal roles fr her in five new works. She was Jerome Robbins last muse, working with hime and dancing n eight of his works. He then restaged his last ballet, Les Noces, and had her dance ‘The Bride.’ Other great choreographers that have created principal roles on her have included Christopher Wheeldon (Carousel, a Dance, Morphoses, Polyphonia), Mauro Brigonzetti, Boris Eifman, Garth Fagan, Miriam Madaviani, Benjamin Millipied, Susan Stroman, Richard Tanner and Leigh Witchel.
© John Ross
In 2003, Alexandra was promoted to Principal. She had four performances dancing Swanhilda in Balanchine and Danilova’s staging of the three act Coppelia. Even though she had worked with many choreographers, Alexandra knew deep down that the classics of ballet were the essential fundamentals of dance and knew she lacked experience and exposure to them. She had seen videos and heard about the great artists in Europe but didn’t have the time or exposure to research completely.
© Royal Ballet
On hearing the news, Misha Baryshnikov, who knew her from City Ballet, arranged for her to work with the Bejart company in Lausanne and with a friend and teacher. Misha had helped her work on Corsaire for her guesting and understood her passion for continuing her education in her art field. After this month in Lausanne and with no future contracts, she received calls from successful classical companies asking if she would like to join them. Alexandra’s heart and dream was to continue her career and education in Europe.
Monica Mason had heard of Alexandra’s departure from NYCB. Out of the blue Monica phoned her, saying she’d never seen her dance but was coming to New York in a few days time and would like to see her. Alexandra rented a small studio and showed Monica a few classical variations, some that she had danced and others taught from a video. Afterwards, Monica offered her a contract with the Royal Ballet, but explained it would have to be as a First Soloist, although she had been a principal for some years and knew no other existence. Alexandra was thrilled and in tears. She knew that this would be a difficult transition but wanted the challenge.
© John Ross
Now based in London, she would like to see more soccer when time permits. Meanwhile, she has been very busy dancing. She has started preparing for her performances as Aurora later in the season. Asked if she admired any particular dancer, she said she could not pick just one, knowing how hard everyone worked, they all had merit. Alexandra would love to develop a partnership one day, but enjoys the various connections between her partners. Partnership she feels is a very important aspect of dance. When two people have a connection it creates an environment so magical for those on stage and for the audience.
© Johan Persson