Though it was only his first season in the corps, Dylan Wald was chosen for a career-defining role last fall: the sole dancer in Jessica Lang's The Calling. His presence, control and focus were astonishing. But Wald's precise sculpting of the dance, as well as his mature port de bras, is something he carried with him throughout the repertoire this past season at Pacific Northwest Ballet.
Company: Pacific Northwest Ballet
Training: Minnesota Dance Theatre & the Dance Institute, Pacific Northwest Ballet School
Casting jackpot: Also during his first year in the corps, Wald had featured roles in Kent Stowell's Carmina Burana and Alejandro Cerrudo's Little mortal jump. One of his most demanding ballets was William Forsythe's The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude. “It's a difficult piece—fast cardio, full of jumps," he says. “I wanted to work as hard as I could to really experience the genius of Forsythe firsthand."
Tackling Balanchine: PNB soloist Margaret Mullin attributes their recent partnering success in Balanchine's Square Dance to Wald's unqualified commitment. “We were both premiering in this piece, so teamwork was key," she says. “Dylan was in the studio first thing every day. He works hard to develop his technique, and he makes me feel like my needs come first." To get through the ballet's technical challenges, Wald says, “I try to maintain a connection with my partner and keep up my sense of humor."
What his artistic director is saying: “Dylan works after class, he takes additional classes, he does strength training—he seems to be involved with dance 24/7," says Peter Boal. “When dancers have that level of commitment, there are results."
Head games: Wald's biggest challenge is staying calm. He says he needs to constantly remind himself not to think too far in advance. “I have the least control when I'm thinking two steps ahead," he says. “Trying to stay present helps. I call it 'training the brain.' But it's also important to be okay with being nervous. I try not to be too hard on myself—it's scary at first, but the nervousness goes away."
The cast of Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise in rehearsal. Photo by Stephanie Berger, Courtesy The Shed
Akram Khan loves to dive into genres he is unfamiliar with. While his own movement vocabulary is a hybrid of kathak and contemporary dance, he has choreographed a new Giselle for English National Ballet, collaborated with flamenco artist Israel Galván and made a dance theater duet with film star Juliette Binoche. Now, in between touring Xenos, his final full-length solo, and several other projects, he's found time to tackle kung fu. Khan is part of the collaborative team behind Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise, a blockbuster musical based on themes of migration and the fight for survival, running June 22–July 27. Directed by Chen Shi-Zheng and featuring a score that remixes songs by Sia, it's part of the inaugural season of The Shed, a new venue in New York City.