If you imagine the notes on a sheet of music, they fly up and down across the bars. In a sense, that is the physical effect that music has on me. It makes me feel weightless, and I've always been obsessed with the idea of flight. Having the chance to defy the laws of nature is one of the things that makes dancing so exciting and fulfilling for me.
I don't think my dancing could exist without music. Even when I am performing in silence, I am dancing to music in my head. The famous Balanchine quote, “See the music, hear the dance," has always inspired me.
In my performances on Broadway in An American in Paris, I found the primary way to keep the dancing fresh and new after some 300 shows was to think about becoming one of the instruments in the orchestra. One night I heard the drums at the beginning of my pas de deux with Lise, and I was shocked I had never heard them before. So I danced to the drums that night, and it gave me such a different musicality, still well within the boundaries of the choreography.
Music continuously encourages me. But the people who have inspired me most have been dancers, starting with my older sister, fellow New York City Ballet principal Megan Fairchild. When we were kids she would come home from her dance classes and teach me the routines. I may not have always gotten the choreography right, but I loved the way it made me feel.
I was instantly hooked. Megan was and still is an incredible role model, along with countless other dancers who I've admired throughout my career. They made a boy growing up in Salt Lake City, Utah, feel like he could “dream the dream," no matter who was judging him.
Now, I dance for the sheer joy of bringing happiness to others. It's a true privilege to take an audience away from their daily lives for an evening. The connection that happens between an audience and a performer is an incredibly rich experience. It's an unspoken dialogue that changes every night. That makes every show a rare and special moment. I will forever be grateful to dance in my life. And if I can help others believe in themselves and dream that dream too, then all the better.