Milatin in Richard Alston's The Small Sonata. Photo by Richard Termine, Courtesy Milatin

Meet Erez Milatin, Whose Virtuosity Is Only Matched by His Curiosity

Often, Erez Ben-Zion Milatin seems to dance for himself, lost in a world of his imagination. With a juicy plié and a wonderful jump, his rich musicality fills all the nooks and crannies in whatever music he is dancing to. For the last three years, Milatin has found a home at New York Theatre Ballet, a chamber company that specializes in less-performed ballets by Sir Frederick Ashton, Sir Antony Tudor, Jerome Robbins and others, along with new creations. While there, he's had the chance to work closely with Richard Alston and Gemma Bond. Both have unleashed a new expansiveness and intensity in him.

Company: New York Theatre Ballet

Age: 27

Hometown: Mishmar HaShiv'a, Israel

Training: Thelma Yellin High School of the Arts, Ellison Ballet, Boston Ballet School trainee

Accolades: 2019 Clive Barnes Award finalist

Body image: At 5' 6", Milatin has struggled with being perceived as too short. "Ballet is so full of archetypes—the prince, the warrior—so the way your body looks becomes even more important," he says. "I remember seeing Herman Cornejo in La Bayadère when I was a student. The guy behind him was twice his size. It didn't matter. Herman overshadowed them all."

Learning not to push: Before joining NYTB, Milatin was dancing with the Gelsey Kirkland Ballet when he suffered a serious neck injury and spent about a year recovering. "I learned that sometimes it's best to do something once or twice, but not to keep going over it again and again. I didn't know how to rest."

Responding to the score: Music is what motivates Milatin when he dances. "One hundred percent, it's all I care about, and sometimes it can get me into trouble, when it's a choice between a choreographer's steps and the music I hear in my head."

Pandemic pastimes: Milatin stayed at his in-laws' in Florida into June, kayaking and doing about 200 push-ups a day, but he didn't stress out about staying in shape. "I had this pile of books and music I wanted to listen to. There are so many things I had to put on hold. So I'm quite cherishing this time."

Standing out: "There is an intensity and curiosity about Erez that makes him special," says NYTB artistic director Diana Byer. "He doesn't just use his technical skills to show off his virtuosity but invests in every aspect of a role. He never stops exploring."

Dreaming of home: "If you ask an Israeli, 'What is your culture?' it's complicated, because people there come from different places," he says. "I do feel like it's my responsibility at some point to go back and fight for that cultural identity. To make sure we have good educational programs that equip kids to express themselves."

Latest Posts

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