BWW Intreviews: Davis Robertson
The world-renowned Joffrey Ballet School presented Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker this past weekend with 355 dancers - the largest cast in the school's 60-year history
The Nutcracker ultimately was a ballet designed for children, by keeping the sequence of events and characters as simple as possible, the magic and artistry of the dancing really takes center stage," said Davis Robertson, Choreographer and Director of the school's Concert Group.
A tradition started by founder Robert Joffrey 60 years ago, The Nutcracker has been an important part of the history of the Joffrey Ballet School. For the first time ever, students from Joffrey Ballet School 's recently announced Dance Academy at Fort Hamilton public high school in Brooklyn were invited to audition and will be part of the 2013 casts of Joffrey Ballet School's The Nutcracker. Of the 355 dancers who participated in this year's program 89 are from the school's Children's Program, 54 are enrolled in the Young Dancer Program, 7 joined from the Fort Hamilton H.S. Joffrey Dance Academy, 145 ballet and 5 jazz and contemporary trainees, and all 30 pre-professional dancers from the Concert Group.
Jo Matos, the director of the school's Children and Young Dancer Programs, assisted Davis Robertson in producing this past weekend's charming program.
Broadwayworld Dance recently sat down to interview Davis Robertson.
Whre did you first begin your training?
At Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in Jacksonville, FL at age 16.
When did you first join the Joffrey, and what were some of your favorite roles?
I was 20 when I joined the Joffrey Ballet and danced with the company from 1991 - 2003. My favorite roles were in Vaslav Nijinsky's Afternoon of A Faun, John Cranko's Taming of the Shrew and the Cavalier in Joffrey's Nutcracker. Each of these roles and ballets were technically challenging and artistically fulfilling. It made me push myself to fully embrace a theatrical character as well as a technical challenge.
Faun is a historic masterpiece, danced by the likes of Nijinsky and Rudolf Nureyev. Tyler Walters, who had been there during the Joffrey Ballet reconstruction, taught me the role. He, in turn had been coached by Elizabeth Schooling, who had been coached by Nureyev. It was amazing to have an opportunity to interpret that role and be a part of that history.
John Cranko's Taming of the Shrew was great fun and very challenging. I had the honor of working with Georgette Tsinguirides, and it was one of the highlights of my dance partnership with Maia Wilkins. When the late Robert Altman saw us dance Shrew he was amazed at Cranko's ability to put Shakespeare onstage in dance terms. He was so intrigued by our lives as dancers that he later agreed to direct the film "The Company," which was about our lives at the Joffrey Ballet.
In the Nutcracker I danced the role of Cavalier and it was such a privilege to carry on the tradition of Robert Joffrey's vision. I started dancing the role when the company moved to Chicago after his death. In Joffrey's version the Cavalier is onstage throughout the entire performance, and it's not like that in any other version that I know of. The Cavalier starts out as the nephew and then transforms into the Prince and is with Drosselmeyer throughout the entire performance. It's a sustained character that is fully integrated into the production.
You've also danced with modern dance companies, David Parsons, Lar Lubovitch, Twyla Tharp. Was it hard adjusting to these companies when your background was in ballet?
Not at all. I was first introduced to dance through break dancing at age 11 and was very dedicated to it for five years. When I was 16 I starting training at Douglas Anderson and in my first week of training took my first ballet, modern, jazz and choreography composition classes. So my dance training and background were always well rounded and not just centered on ballet. That allowed me to adjust well to any role, style or company that I had the opportunity to work with, and I enjoyed the challenge of working to perfect different movement styles.