BWW Interviews: Christopher Butler, This Dancer's Life


Christopher Butler is one of the stars of Nashville Ballet, taking on some of the most challenging roles to be found for men in the canon of classical ballet and contemporary dance. He's also a critical and audience favorite, veritably dancing his way into the hearts of dance devotees during his career in Nashville.

And while you're probably best advised not to challenge him to a race anytime soon (read on to find out what that means), you will probably be pleasantly surprised by his philosophical, yet pragmatic, approach to his career, thanks to the insights provided when he sat down to answer our question and to give us a glimpse into "This Dancer's Life."

Read on - and if you're not already - you'll certainly become a big fan of Christopher Butler...

What was your first introduction to dance as an art form? My first introduction to dance was a studio recital I was dragged to thanks to my sister's involvement. I'll never forget it. The studio had a sizable boys class and they did this one piece to the overture from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. It was the coolest thing I had ever seen. From then on I was hooked. I was filled with this desire to be onstage and perform.

What was your first real job as a dancer? I was hired by Steven Mills to join Ballet Austin II when I was 22.

When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in dance? I started taking classes when I was 11. By the time I was 14, I knew I wanted to dance professionally.

Who is your dancing idol? Carlos Acosta, hands down. His form and technique are second to none and to watch him is truly electrifying. I've shown video clips of him to several friends of mine who have no interest in dance at all, and thewere instantly converted by it.

Why do you pursue your art in Nashville? What are the best parts of working here? I was hired here, so I came here. But once I was here the city grew on me. It has all the charm of a small town with many of the conveniences of a larger city.

What is your dream role as a dancer? If you could dance any role...what would it be and why? A piece called Vestris famously performed by Baryshnikov, it has two of my favorite aspects of dance in one role--dynamic movement and storytelling. You have to change your character several times in a seven-minute solo while wearing a white wig and tunic. It takes a very talented performer to do that. If I am ever cast in the role, I will definitely feel as though I have arrived.

What is the brightest spot on your resume...what role/work is your most favorite? I got to perform Twyla Tharp's The Storyteller recently, which was in the top three hardest pieces of my life - physical exertion coupled with just lots and lots of steps. It was very satisfying.

What's the biggest misconception people have about dancers? The biggest misconception is that dancers are not competitive. We are. If you don't believe me, let's race.

Who would play you in the film version of your life story? Michael J. Fox. I was a huge Back to the Future fan, and I've been told I look like him.

What's your favorite work created for dancers to perform? Sechs Tanze by Jiri Kylian.

If you could have dinner with any three figures (living or dead, real or fictional) who are a part of the world of dance, who would you choose and why? I would have dinner with American-born choreographer William Forsythe, Martha Graham and a true cornerstone of American ballet, the legendary teacher Stanley Williams, who I believe had just as much to do with shaping the dancers of New York City Ballet as George Balanchine.

Imagine a young person seeing you onstage or seeing a production in which you played a major role coming up to you and asking you for advice in pursuing their own dream...what would you say? Picture yourself in a moment you imagine to be the pinnacle of your dream, now hold it, keep it close and have it ready for instant recall at a moment's notice. There will be obstacles, let-downs, self-doubt and all kinds of other problems you'll face in pursuit of your dream. It is when these issues arise that you will need to step back, remember your dream moment, then figure out a solution. Above all, have fun. Life is a trip and yours is going to be a wild ride!

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From This Author Jeffrey Ellis

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