BWW Interviews: Daniel Mantei - None But the Lonely Heart
Daniel Mantei joined American Ballet Theatre's Studio Company in 2002 and became a member of American Ballet Theatre in 2003. Through his work, Mantei aims to explore themes of humanism by infusing classically inspired movement with an intention of anatomical and kinetic awareness. In his latest work, he collaborates with the Ensemble of the Romantic Century (ERC) representing some of the Tchaikovsky's balletic works through dance both choreographed and performed by Mantei.
In Tchaikovsky: None But the Lonely Heart, striking music, powerful language and biography tell the story of the unconventional 16-year long relationship between one of the great composers of the 19th century and his patroness, Madame von Meck. Celebrating its 13th season, ERC presents Tchaikovsky: None But the Lonely Heart at The Fishman Space in the new BAM Fisher this week March 5 - 9. Tickets are still available at BAM.org.
Broadwayworld Dance recently sat down and interviewed Daniel mantei
Q. When did you first become interested in dance?
A. My family lived in a small copper mining town called Tembagapura in Papua, Indonesia. It was in the mountain rainforests on the island of New Guinea. There was no dance school there, but one of the moms had some experience with ballet. The wives of the expats weren't allowed to work there, and they were always looking for things to do. One year they decided to do Nutcracker, not the proper ballet, but more of a play to music. And I was chosen to play Fritz.
Later, when my family moved to Texas, my big sister and I would make up dances to pop music; I specifically remember Cher and Harry Belafonte songs. When I was 9 years old and ready to quit my soccer team, my mom suggested ballet lessons. I think I initially said no, but eventually agreed to try, as long as we kept it a secret. I fell in love with ballet quickly and soon "outed" myself as a dancer. I was always just into the movement, the focus it took. The meditative quality of ballet practice is very appealing to me.
Q. Any outstanding teachers that were a major influence on you?
A. My first and main ballet teacher, Ceyhun Ozsoy, He's Turkish and studied with Travis Kemp and Molly Lake-who studied with Enrico Cecchetti. Talk about ballet lineage! He taught me from ages 9 to 17, instilling in me a love of ballet, an attention to detail, and a determination to always continue to refine my dancing.
My other huge influence was Maggie Black. She helped me to practice ballet in a way that worked with my body, with an attention to alignment and coordination. She had an uncanny ability to help me strip away affectation and to find a way to move in one piece with a true awareness of myself as a dancer and a person. She's almost like a great therapist, which I feel the best ballet coaches have to be. Often in ballet teachers try to motivate through fear and by breaking down dancers-she always lifted me up!
Q. How did you come to perform in ABT?
A. After I graduated from high school in Dallas, I studied for a year at the Royal Ballet School in London. I flew to New York during that time to audition for Boston Ballet. I was devastated when I was cut from the audition after barre. ABT Studio Company wasn't in town, but I dropped off an audition video for John Meehan, the Studio Company director, and ABT director, Kevin Mckenzie, to see. A week or so later when I was back in London John Meehan called and offered me a job with the Studio Company.
Q. What roles do you currently perform in ABT?
A. I do most of the corps de ballet roles. I also get to dance a demi soloist role in Balanchine's Theme and Variations, Paris in Macmillan's Romeo and Juliet, soloist roles in Stanton Welch's Clear and Kirk Peterson's Amazed in Burning Dreams, and Sebastian in Ratmansky's Tempest, among other roles.