Brittany Pollack plays Louise, the troubled teenage daughter. Photo by Julieta Cervantes, courtesy DKC/O&M

From Balanchine To Broadway: Brittany Pollack On Her Carousel Debut

Among the many delights of the glorious Broadway revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel is watching New York City Ballet soloist Brittany Pollack make her radiant Broadway debut.

One of Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch" in 2011, Pollack plays Louise, the daughter of the two leads Billy Bigelow and Julie Jordan. She makes her entrance in the second act, dancing a solo ballet in an incandescent, shimmering yellow dress.


Her dancing shows the same expressive lyricism that regular NYCB-goers are accustomed to seeing at Lincoln Center. But Pollack has added a new component: She's now also acting, speaking lines that along with her dancing make the audience feel Louise's heartbreak and teenage yearning.

Pollack recently spoke with Dance Magazine about making her Broadway debut, working with old friends and making new ones.

What It's Like Dancing Justin Peck's Choreography

Pollack's debut is made even more notable by the fact that she's dancing choreography by fellow NYCB dancer and choreographer Justin Peck. "We've known each other since we were 14. And since he's become one of the resident choreographers at NYCB, I've danced in 10 of his ballets," says Pollack. This longtime friendship gave them both an immediate level of comfort.

"Her dancing has been a big source of inspiration for me ever since I began choreographing at NYCB," says Peck. "I'm always joking with her by saying that she is Tinkerbell to my Peter Pan!"

Justin Peck was nominated for a Tony for his choreography in Carousel. Photo by Julieta Cervantes, courtesy DKC/O&M

How the Process Has Been Different From Ballet

The biggest change to get used to has been performing the same role every night, says Pollack. "I have to find ways to keep my performance fresh," she says. She does this by playing around with her character, Louise. "Some nights I play her sad, some nights angry, some nights as a troubled teenager. I try to find a different motivation for each performance."

Becoming An Actress

Pollack's worked closely with acting coach Susan Batson, who also happens to be Nicole Kidman's acting coach. "She's helped me to explore the arc of my character, the free-spirited quality that she's inherited from her father, but also some of his darkness and confusion," says Pollack. "Kate Wilson, my dialect coach, has also been crucial in helping me, literally, to find Louise's voice."

On Her High-Profile Cast-Mates

"Everyone has been so down-to-earth and supportive," says Pollack. In particular, she says Renee Fleming, the opera star who plays Nettie Fowler, is always complimenting her after her dance sequence. And Pollack loves having NYCB principal Amar Ramasar in the cast. "We always warm up together before each performance. It feels like I'm back in the NYCB rehearsal room!"

Amar Ramasar plays Jigger Craigin. Photo by Julieta Cervantes, courtesy DKC/O&M

About That Controversial Scene When Billy Strikes Louise

In the #MeToo era, Carousel's depiction of domestic violence has become freshly controversial. Pollack offers her own interpretation of the relationship between her character and her violent father: "At first Louise isn't certain who this man is, he's a complete stranger to her. But as the interaction develops, she has a disquieting sense that this man is her father. When he slaps her hand, she is shocked and she rejects him. But later, during the graduation scene, she senses that this man is, in fact, her father and he's looking down on her and giving her his love. And she senses that her mother also feels Billy's presence. So, really, it's an epiphany for both of them.

On Costume Designer Ann Roth's Gorgeous Golden Yellow Rippling Dress

"Oh, I adore that dress!" Pollack says. "It just flows with me as I dance. And it's such a delight and honor to wear a costume designed by Ann. I feel like she pulled out all the stops for me. As soon as I put on the dress, I am Louise."

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Courtesy Harlequin

What Does It Take to Make a Safe Outdoor Stage for Dance?

Warmer weather is just around the corner, and with it comes a light at the end of a hibernation tunnel for many dance organizations: a chance to perform again. While social distancing and mask-wearing remain essential to gathering safely, the great outdoors has become an often-preferred performance venue.

But, of course, nature likes to throw its curveballs. What does it take to successfully pull off an alfresco show?

Marisa Grywalski and Alejandro Diaz in Dwight Rhodens "Ave Maria," part of PBT's Open Air Series last fall.

Kelly Perkovich, Courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Keeping dancers safe outside requires the same intentional flooring as you have in the studio—but it also needs to be hearty enough to withstand the weather. With so many factors to consider, two ballet companies consulted with Harlequin Floors to find the perfect floor for their unique circumstances.

Last fall, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre invested in a mobile stage that allowed the dancers to perform live for socially distanced audiences. "But we didn't have an outdoor resilient floor, so we quickly realized that if we had any rain, we were going to be in big trouble—it would have rotted," says artistic director Susan Jaffe.

The company purchased the lightweight, waterproof Harlequin's AeroDeck® sprung floor panels and the heavy-duty Harlequin Cascade™ vinyl, which is manufactured with BioCote® Antimicrobial Protection to help with the prevention of bacteria and mold. After an indoor test run while filming Nutcracker ("It felt exactly like our regular floor," says Jaffe), the company will debut the new setup this May in Pittsburgh's Schenley Park during a two-week series of performances shared with other local arts organizations.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's Open Air Series last fall. The company plans to roll out their new Harlequin AeroDeck® sprung floor panels and Harlequin Cascade™ vinyl floor for more outdoor performances this spring.

Harris Ferris, Courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

In addition to the possibility of rain, a range of temperatures also has to be taken into account. When the State Ballet of Rhode Island received a grant from the state to upgrade its 15-year-old stage, executive director Ana Fox chose the Harlequin Cascade vinyl floor in the lighter gray color "so that it would be cooler if it's reflecting sunlight during daytime performances," she says.

However, for the civic ballet company's first performance on its new 24-by-48–foot stage on November 22, heat was less of a concern than the Northeastern cold. Fortunately, Fox says the surface never got icy or too stiff. "It felt warm to the feel," she says. "You could see the dancers didn't hesitate to run or step into arabesque." (The Harlequin Cascade floor is known for providing a good grip.)

"To have a safe floor for dancers not to worry about shin splints or something of that nature, that's everything," she says. "The dancers have to feel secure."

State Ballet of Rhode Island first rolled out their new Harlequin Cascade™ flooring for an outdoor performance last November.

Courtesy of Harlequin

Of course, the elements need to be considered even when dancers aren't actively performing. Although Harlequin's AeroDeck is waterproof, both PBT and SBRI have tarps to cover their stages to keep any water out. SBRI also does damp mopping before performances to get pollen off the surface. Additionally, the company is building a shed to safely store the floor long-term when it's not in use. "Of course, it's heavy, but laying down the floor and putting it away was not an issue at all," says Fox, adding that both were easy to accomplish with a crew of four people.

Since the Harlequin Cascade surface is versatile enough to support a wide range of dance styles—and even opera and theater sets—both PBT and SBRI are partnering with other local arts organizations to put their outdoor stages to use as much as possible. Because audiences are hungry for art right now.

"In September, I made our outdoor performance shorter so we wouldn't have to worry about intermission or bathrooms, but when it was over, they just sat there," says Jaffe, with a laugh. "People were so grateful and so happy to see us perform. We just got an overwhelming response of love and gratitude."

Marisa Grywalski and Alejandro Diaz in Susan Jaffes "Carmina Terra," part of PBT's Open Air Series last fall.

Kelly Perkovich, courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

February 2021