Robert Fairchild Opens Up About Leaving NYCB and His Love for Dark Characters
At 30, he's too young to be having a midlife crisis. But between June and October, former New York City Ballet principal Robert Fairchild bid farewell to the home he'd made with Tiler Peck since their 2014 marriage and to their joint artistic home as well, embarking on his next chapter as a solo act. The week before his final performances at NYCB, he was contemplating his next moves: another outing with Christopher Wheeldon in the November New York City Center production of Brigadoon; and an off-Broadway debut, choreographing on himself and starring in an Ensemble for the Romantic Century production, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. The show, which opens this month at the Pershing Square Signature Center, is a typical Ensemble amalgam—excerpts from the novel and Shelley's other writings merged with music and art.
So what did you know about Frankenstein and Mary Shelley?
I've seen Young Frankenstein—the movie and Susan Stroman's show. But I don't think that's anything to do with what we are trying to accomplish. The theme is that everybody has bits of Frankenstein in them—the fear that if people saw all of you, they wouldn't accept certain aspects. The monster has a really beautiful heart and just wants to be accepted and loved, but his outward appearance is what people see. It's a really touching, thought-provoking story. I'm excited to show how his experiences being rejected make him bitter, so the inside of him gets as ugly as the outside, through choreography.
It's a tall order. Aren't you intimidated?
Not really. Should I be? I've always been of the mindset that you can't live in fear.
There's a huge range of music, and i just love the choices they've made. There's Liszt, Bach and Schubert—11 selections, so gorgeous. Music is more than half the battle. If you've got bad music...oooh. Torture. That famous quote—See the music, hear the dance? If you're not hearing the dance, that's brutal.
NYCB audiences will miss hearing you dance. What's it like to leave?
My life has been wrapped up in that building, that institution, for the last 12 years. I saw my sister [Megan Fairchild] perform the Swan Queen this past week, and sitting in that theater watching my colleagues and my sister—I was so blown away! I was just so grateful to be a part of this company. I'm gonna miss them like crazy. Peter Martins has given me the most unbelievable platform to jump off of, and I can't wait to see where I land.
More theater choreography?
I would never say no to an opportunity if I thought it was the right fit. But I'm not going to limit myself to choreographing while I can still move. I'm excited to do what we do and bring it to other arenas, where people don't normally get to see City Ballet. I'm excited to push myself in other areas of storytelling.
Frankenstein seems an unlikely place for your storytelling.
I don't know about that. I've always enjoyed—I don't know what word I'm looking for...the darker. When I first got in the company, I was immediately cast as Romeo. And I did that guy for a long time—the romantic lead. It's fun to get to play a different character. In Brigadoon, I play the guy who the girl doesn't love, and I threaten to ruin the city of Brigadoon. And with this character in Frankenstein—there's a lot of sympathy in these guys who have a bad reputation.
Most people may know Derek Dunn for his impeccable turns and alluring onstage charisma. But the Boston Ballet principal dancer is just as charming offstage, whether he's playing with his 3-year-old miniature labradoodle or working in the studio. Dance Magazine recently spent the day with Dunn as he prepared for his debut as Albrecht in the company's upcoming run of Giselle.
You know compelling musicality when you see it. But how do you cultivate it? It's not as elusive as it might seem. Musicality, like any facet of dance, can be developed and honed over time—with dedicated, detailed practice. At its most fundamental, it's "respect for the music, that this is your partner," says Kate Linsley, academy principal of the School of Nashville Ballet.
Just four years ago, the University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance welcomed its first class of BFA students. The program—which boasts world-class faculty and a revolutionary approach to training focused on collaboration and hybridity—immediately established itself as one of the country's most prestigious and most innovative.
Now, the first graduating class is entering the dance field. Here, six of the 33 graduates share what they're doing post-grad, what made their experience at USC Kaufman so meaningful and how it prepared them for their next steps:
Notable dancer and beloved teacher, Ross Parkes, 79, passed away on August 5, 2019 in New York City. He was a founding faculty member at Taipei National University of the Arts in Taiwan, where he taught from 1984 to 2006. Lin Hwai-min, artistic director of Cloud Gate Dance Theater, said: "He nurtured two generations of dancers in Taiwan, and his legacy will continue."
About his dancing, Tonia Shimin, professor emerita at UC Santa Barbara and producer of Mary Anthony: A Life in Modern Dance, said this: "He was an exquisite, eloquent dancer who inhabited his roles completely."