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!

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May 2021