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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.
Bales of hay, black umbrellas, bicycles—this Midsummer Night's Dream would be unrecognizable to the Bard. Alexander Ekman's full-length, inspired by Scandinavian solstice traditions and set to music by Mikael Karlsson, is a madcap celebration of the longest day of the year, when the veil between our world and that of the supernatural is said to be at its thinnest. The Joffrey Ballet's performances mark the seductively surreal work's North American premiere. April 25–May 6. joffrey.org.
"There's an ancient energy in Fana's movement, a deep and trusted knowing," says Jeff, director of the Chicago-based Deeply Rooted Dance Theater. "Because I witnessed the raw humanity of his dancer's souls, I wanted my dancers to have that experience."
When I wrote about my struggle with depression, and eventual departure from dance because of it, I expected criticism. I was prepared to be challenged. But much to my relief, and horror, dancers from all over the world responded with support and stories of solidarity. The most critical response I saw was this one:
"Dance isn't for everyone."
This may as well be a mantra in the dance world. We have become entrenched in the Darwinian notion that the emotionally weak will be weeded out. There is no room for them anyway.
In his final bow at New York City Ballet, during what should have been a heroic conclusion to a celebrated ballet career, Robert Fairchild slipped and fell. His reaction? To lie down flat on his back like he meant to do it. Then start cracking up at himself.
"He's such a ham," says his sister Megan Fairchild, with a laugh. "He's really good at selling whatever his body is doing that day. He'll turn a moment that I would totally go home and cry about into something where the audience is like, 'That's the most amazing thing ever!' "
Growing up in a family-owned dance studio in Missouri had its perks for tap dancer Anthony Russo. But it also earned him constant taunting, especially in high school.
"There was a junior in my sophomore year health class who was absolutely relentless," he says. "I'd get tripped on my way to the front of the classroom and he'd say, 'Watch out, twinkle toes.' If I raised my hand and answered a question incorrectly, I'd hear a patronizing 'Nice one, Bojangles.' "
Choreographer Sergio Trujillo asked the women auditioning for ensemble roles in his newest musical to arrive in guys' clothing—"men's suits, or blazers and ties," he says. He wasn't being kinky or whimsical. The entire ensemble of Summer: The Donna Summer Musical is female, playing men and women interchangeably as they unfold the history of the chart-busting, Grammy-winning, indisputable Queen of Disco.
Have a scroll through Agnes Muljadi's Instagram feed (@artsyagnes), and you'll notice that in between her ballet shots is a curated mix of lifestyle pics. So what exactly sets her apart from the other influencers you follow? Muljadi has made a conscious effort to only feature natural beauty products, sustainable fashion and vegan foods. With over 500k followers, her social strategy (and commitment to making ethical choices) is clearly a hit. Ahead, learn why Muljadi switched to a vegan lifestyle, and the surprising way it's helped her dance career.
He may not be a household name, but you probably know Brandon Stirling Baker's work. The 30-year-old has designed the lighting for most of Justin Peck's ballets—including Heatscape for Miami City Ballet, and the edgy The Times Are Racing for New York City Ballet—but also Jamar Roberts' new Members Don't Get Weary at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and a trio of Martha Graham duets for L.A. Dance Project.
He's been fascinated by lighting ever since he attended a public performing arts middle school in Sherman Oaks, California, where he had his first experiences lighting shows. He also has a background in music (he plays guitar and bass) and in drawing. Both, he says, are central to the way he approaches lighting dance.
Update: Due to an overwhelming response, the in-person audition has been moved to a larger location to accommodate more dancers. See details below.
For the first time in more than 10 years, Janet Jackson is holding an open audition for dancers.
Even better? You could land a spot in her #JTribe simply by posting a video on social media.
What does it take to become an international superstar? Carlos Acosta might have a few ideas.
At the Oxford Literary Festival earlier this month, the BBC sat down with Acosta to ask for his life lessons. His answers—which he says he will pass on to his kids one day—give incredible insight into how he's become such a beloved worldwide success.