Why I Dance: Adam Hendrickson

A compact dancer with an intense or playful presence, Adam Hendrickson has been a soloist at New York City Ballet since 2005. He started ballet lessons with Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet at 6, and in 1996 received the Rudolf Nureyev Scholarship to study at the School of American Ballet. At the SAB workshop the following year, he caught the eye of Clive Barnes, which led to a 2001 “25 to Watch," in which Barnes compared him to the great French dancer Jean Babilée. Since joining NYCB in 1998, he's danced firecracker roles like the Jester in Swan Lake, Puck in A Midstummer Night's Dream, and Candy Cane in Nutcracker, as well as character roles like Dr. Coppelius. He has originated parts in works by Peter Martins, Alexei Ratmansky, Boris Eifman, Christopher Wheeldon, and Eliot Feld. The films he has appeared in include Center Stage and the recent N.Y. Export: Opus Jazz, in which he was memorable as an edgy teen.

A budding choreographer, Hendrickson has made pieces for NYCB's 2008 Dancers' Choice evening, the Yale School of Music, and the NYCB-affiliated New York Choreographic Institute. 

My name is Adam and I'm a “stageaholic." I have spent the last 24 years of my life addicted to being onstage. While I love to be front and center, I have learned that I can gain the same thrill from any location on the stage.

My first taste of performing actually came in the form of sabotage. My older sister Jessy was always dancing, dancing, dancing. She couldn't get enough of it, so my parents signed her up for a little show at our church. Did they really think that I would sit idly by and watch her get all of the glory? No way.

As the story goes, I snuck backstage during the perfor­mance and drew on a mustache (I was obsessed with Charlie Chaplin) and slowly pushed a gigantic mop across the back of the stage as my sister danced to Saint-Saëns' “Aquarium" from Carnival of the Animals. While Jessy twirled around imitating a baby seahorse, I proudly pushed that mop back and forth, soaking up the laughter like an intoxicating perfume. That feeling is still in me, and that perfume still lingers deep inside, wafting up into my head every time a curtain goes up.

I began studying ballet after spending countless hours in the car with my mom, waiting for Jessy to finish her lessons. Finally, one day I just went into the ballet office and signed myself up, only to quit a few weeks later when I realized that you do the same steps over and over. This is still my greatest grievance with being a dancer, the repetitive nature of “class."

Soon after quitting, as I watched one of Jessy's perfor­mances, I was enthralled by seeing my friend Zach Hench fly across the stage. He wasn't just doing classroom combinations, he was dancing. That, then and there, was all that I needed. After about a year of dreadfully boring classes, I finally got to perform in our school's recital. Wearing a lovely pair of green tights and green leotard (think Kermit the Frog), I executed some dazzling port de bras and brilliant waltz steps. It wasn't the most demanding repertory, but the sound of that squeaky curtain being pulled up had me as nervous then as I would be now if I were premiering in Apollo.

Once I began performing regularly, there was no stopping me. I couldn't care less what my peers at school thought. I had a taste for the stage and I just kept chasing after it. Nine years of training at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet led to two years at the School of American Ballet and then the jackpot—a contract with New York City Ballet and somehow, a little later, a promotion to soloist.

Dancing with NYCB has provided me with much more than just a fix for my addiction. I am surrounded by some of the world's most gifted artists, from whom I learn each day how to better my craft. I can feel the joy that dancing brings to my co-workers as I watch them, and it gives me an even greater joy when it's me out there. I dance because I have to. I hardly see it as a choice. It has become so ingrained in the person that I am—although if things don't work out, I can always go back to pushing that mop.

Adam in Balanchine's Symphony in Three Movements. Photo by Kyle Froman, copyright The Balanchine Trust

Show Comments ()
New York City Ballet dancers will be led by the interim leadership team for at least several more months. Here, the company in Justin Peck's The Times Are Racing. Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

Since December an interim artistic leadership team has been guiding New York City Ballet, and in January, Peter Martins officially resigned. But only now has the search for Martins' permanent replacement begun. Here's what we know about how the process will unfold.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance As Activism
Rebecca Warthen teaching at a public school in Dominica. Photo courtesy Peace Corps

Rebecca Warthen was on a year-long assignment with the Peace Corps in Dominica last fall when a storm started brewing. A former dancer with North Carolina Dance Theatre (now Charlotte Ballet) and Columbia City Ballet, she'd been sent to the Caribbean island nation to teach ballet at the Dominica Institute of the Arts and in outreach classes at public schools.

But nine and a half months into her assignment, a tropical storm grew into what would become Hurricane Maria—the worst national disaster in Dominica's history.

Keep reading... Show less
The inimitable Alicia Alonso, now 97, remains at the helm of Ballet Nacional de Cuba. Photo by Leysis Quesada, Courtesy BNC

On the occasion of its 70th anniversary, the Ballet Nacional de Cuba tours the U.S. this spring with the resolute Cuban prima ballerina assoluta Alicia Alonso a the helm. Named a National Hero of Labor in Cuba, Alonso, 97, has weathered strained international relations and devastating fiscal challenges to have BNC emerge as a world-class dance company. Her dancers are some of ballet's best. On offer this time are Alonso's Giselle and Don Quixote. The profoundly Cuban company performs in Chicago May 18–20, Tampa May 23, Washington, D.C., May 29–June 3 and Saratoga, New York June 6–8.

Health & Body
The baby swan can help strengthen your serratus anterior. Modeled by Marimba Gold-Watts, photographed by Jayme Thornton

Ever wonder why some dancers' port de bras appears to be disconnected from their body? It typically comes down to how they stabilize their shoulder blades, says Marimba Gold-Watts, Pilates instructor to dancers like Robert Fairchild.

"Dancers often hear the cue to pull down on their latissimus,"—the biggest muscle in the back—"which doesn't allow the shoulder blades to lie flat," she says. "It makes the bottom tips of the shoulder blades wing, or flare out, off the rib cage."

Keep reading... Show less
In The Studio
Choreographer Sidra Bell, Photo courtesy David Flores Productions

Sidra Bell is one of those choreographers whose movement dancers are drawn to. Exploring the juxtaposition of fierce athleticism and pure honesty in something as simple as stillness, her work brings her dancers to the depths of their abilities and the audience to the edge of their seats.

We stepped into the studio with Sidra Bell Dance New York as they prepare for their upcoming season at New York Live Arts.

Keep reading... Show less
Rant & Rave
Jessica Lang's Her Notes, one of ABT's few recent commissions from women. Photo by Rosalie O'Connor

A few weeks ago, American Ballet Theatre announced the A.B.T. Women's Movement, a new program that will support three women choreographers per season, one of whom will make work on the main company.

"The ABT Women's Movement takes inspiration from the groundbreaking female choreographers who have left a lasting impact on ABT's legacy, including Agnes de Mille and Twyla Tharp," said artistic director Kevin McKenzie in a press release.

Hypothetically, this is a great idea. We're all for more ballet commissions for women. But the way ABT has promoted the initiative is problematic.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancers Trending
Cloud in Beth Gill's Catacomb. Photo by Brian Rogers, Courtesy Gill

Some dancers move to New York City with their sights set on a dream job: that one choreographer or company they have to dance for. But when Maggie Cloud graduated from Florida State University in 2010, she envisioned herself on a less straightforward path.

"I always had in mind that I would be dancing for different people," she says. "I knew I had some kind of range that I wanted to tap into."

Keep reading... Show less
What Wendy's Watching
PC Paul Kolnik

New York City Ballet is celebrating the Jerome Robbins Centennial with twenty (20!) ballets. The great American choreographer died in 1998, so very few of today's dancers have actually worked with him. There are plenty of stories about how demanding (at times brutally so) he could be in rehearsal. But Peter Boal has written about Robbins in a more balanced, loving way. In this post he writes about how Robbins' crystal clear imagery helped him approach a role with clarity and purpose.

Keep reading... Show less
Career Advice
92Y Harkness Dance Center is hosting the first festival dedicated to dance films captured on mobile devices. Photo by Adam Grannick, Courtesy 92Y

Who says you need fancy equipment to make a festival-worthy dance film? Right now, two New York City–based dance film festivals are calling for aspiring filmmakers to show their stuff—and you don't need anything more cumbersome than a smartphone to get in on the action.

Here's everything you need to know about how to submit:

Keep reading... Show less
Dancers Trending
Lisset Santander is adding more contemporary works to her repertoire. Here with Jarrett Reimers in Christopher Wheeldon's Fools Paradise. Photo by Jennifer Zmuda, Courtesy BalletMet.

When Lisset Santander bourréed onstage as Myrtha in BalletMet's Giselle this past February, her consummate portrayal of the Queen of the Wilis was marked by steely grace and litheness. The former Cuban National Ballet dancer had defected to the U.S. at 21, and after two years with the Ohio company, she's now closer to the dance career she says she always wanted: one of limitless possibilities.

Keep reading... Show less


Viral Videos



Get Dance Magazine in your inbox