From Balanchine To Broadway: Brittany Pollack On Her Carousel Debut
Brittany Pollack plays Louise, the troubled teenage daughter. Photo by Julieta Cervantes, courtesy DKC/O&M
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."
James Whiteside (Jayme Thornton for Dance Magazine)
Say you're perpetually impeccable designer Thom Browne. Say you're planning your Spring 2020 Paris menswear show along a "Versailles country club" theme. Say you want a world-class danseur to open the show with some kind of appropriately fabulous choreography.
Who do you call? James Whiteside, of course. On Saturday, the American Ballet Theatre principal—wearing pointe shoes and a glorious pinstriped tutu—kicked off Browne's presentation at the École des Beaux-Arts with a 15-minute, show-stealing solo. Whiteside choreographed the piece himself, with the help of detailed notes from the designer.
I'd been a professional dancer for five years when I realized the pain I'd been feeling in my hip and down my sciatic nerve was not going away. I had been treating it for two years as we dancers do—with regular visits to my masseuse, physical therapy, baths, ice and lots of Aleve—but I never stopped dancing. It finally dawned on me that if I kept going at the speed I was going (which was, well, speedy), the pain would only get more severe and unrelenting, and I might never dance again.
I told myself I'd take two months off, and all would be better.
That first morning when I woke up at 10 am, I had no idea what to do with myself. My life until that moment had been dictated by class and rehearsal, every hour accounted for. How should I fill the huge swath of time ahead of me?