This ABT Dancer Isn't Afraid to Fall on His Face

The role of Harlequin in Marius Petipa's comic ballet Harlequinade is one American Ballet Theatre dancer Gabe Stone Shayer knows quite well. He first performed a variation of the role when he was just nine years old. Today, he explores commedia dell'arte in Alexei Ratmansky's new take on the ballet, premiering at the Metropolitan Opera House this June.

We stepped into a rehearsal of Harlequinade with Shayer and fellow ABT dancer Cassandra Trenary for our "In The Studio" series:


There is such a fun, comedic aspect to the role of Harlequin. Is that built right into Alexei Ratmansky's choreography or were you given the freedom to explore your own expression of the character?

There's a little bit of both. He refers to some of the notations of Marius Petipa but of course there were some missing notations where he would take the style and images from the time period and play off that. We had the freedom to delve into that and see what fit our bodies.

Shayer and Trenary rehearsing Ratmansky's Harlequinade

What was it like working with him on this role?

It was really interesting because he has a very analytical mind when it comes to this type of choreography. He feeds you all the information and then he lets you take it for a ride and see where it goes. It flourishes differently on each dancer which is so interesting to watch.

You've been performing variations of this role since you were nine. Do you still find it difficult to find the balance between the comedy and the technical specificity in the work?

I'm always challenged by Alexei. No matter what. I always think I'm going to get used to it and then it gets harder. I feel like I've now found a balance working with him where I'm not afraid to look stupid or go for something and fall on my face. I go through the technical steps as wholeheartedly as I can while also doing the character.

Shayer and Trenary rehearsing Ratmansky's Harlequinade

Is there anything in particular that you do to stay sane during ABT's intense Met season?

I basically turn my apartment into a spa; calming music, essential oils. It's a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of the Met season. Often times it can be difficult to wind down from performances or rehearsals and having that to come home to really helps!

Latest Posts


Stark Photo Productions, Courtesy Harlequin

Why Your Barre Can Make or Break Your At-Home Dance Training

Throughout the pandemic, Shelby Williams, of Royal Ballet of Flanders (aka "Biscuit Ballerina"), has been sharing videos that capture the pitfalls of dancers working from home: slipping on linoleum, kicking over lamps and even taking windows apart at the "barre." "Dancers aren't known to be graceful all of the time," says Mandy Blackmon, PT, DPT, OSC, CMTPT, head physical therapist/medical director for Atlanta Ballet. "They tend to fall and trip."

Many dancers have tried to make their home spaces as safe as possible for class and rehearsal by setting up a piece of marley, like Harlequin's Dance Mat, to work on. But there's another element needed for taking thorough ballet classes at home: a portable barre.

"Using a barre is kinda Ballet 101," says 16-year-old Haley Dale, a student in her second year at American Ballet Theatre's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. She'd bought a portable barre from Harlequin to use at her parents' home in Northern Virginia even before the pandemic hit. "Before I got it, honestly I would stay away from doing barre work at home. Now I'm able to do it all the time."

Blackmon bought her 15-year-old stepdaughter a freestanding Professional Series Ballet Barre from Harlequin early on in quarantine. "I was worried about her injuring herself without one," she admits.

What exactly makes Harlequin's barres an at-home must-have, and hanging on to a chair or countertop so risky? Here are five major differences dancers will notice right away.

GO DEEPER SHOW LESS
December 2020