BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Racheal and Ryan Nye
It's that time of year again folks; it's time for the Kennedy Center's annual production of the holiday perennial ballet The Nutcracker. Rather than present the same production every year, Kennedy Center invites a different company to perform its own take on the Tchaikovsky classic. This year, local audiences will be treated to the Kansas City Ballet and today's subjects, Racheal and Ryan Nye, are living their theatre lives as part of this production, which runs November 22nd through the 26th in Kennedy Center's Opera House. Racheal trained some of the kids for the Kennedy Center presentation and Ryan is performing the role of Drosslemyer.
After retiring from dancing, Racheal took a full-time teaching position at Kansas City Ballet School. She is a graduate of the Kirov Academy in Washington DC, where she attended on full scholarship and studied with Nikolai Morozov, Alla Sizova, and Elena Vinogradova. She then joined Ballet Internationale in Indianapolis and continued training with Irina Kolpakova and Vladien Semenov. In 2000, Racheal joined Nevada Ballet Theatre and was promoted to principal in 2006. Racheal has danced leading roles in Giselle, Swan Lake, Don Quixote, and Cinderella, Balanchine's Serenade and Who Cares?, as well as ballets by leading contemporary choreographers such as Val Caniparoli and Twyla Tharp.
She was a finalist in the 2001 Concours De Luxembourg. As part of a cultural exchange, Racheal performed at the National Theatre in Seoul, Korea and Lisbon, Portugal. She was the Children's Ballet Mistress for Nevada Ballet Theater and Ballet Idaho, as well as an Academy faculty member. Racheal has both taught and choreographed for Cirque Du Soleil in Las Vegas which was reviewed in Dancer Magazine. She is a guest teacher for many festivals and schools including Regional Dance America, Muse, and Bossov Ballet Theater. Her students have received top twelve and third place recognition in Youth America Grand Prix, and have received scholarships to international ballet academies.
Originally from central Maine, Ryan began his training at the age of sixteen. After a year of studying under renowned Kirov dancer, Andrei Bossov, he joined the Royal Winnipeg Ballet's (RWB) Professional Division on full scholarship. During his time in Winnipeg, Ryan had the opportunity to work with many international choreographers, as well as create three of his own works. While still a student he danced several performances with the company, including soloist roles in the Nutcracker. Upon graduating from RWB, Ryan, was asked to attend the Banff Summer Arts Festival where he performed the principal role in Fernand Nault's Carmina Burana. Ryan, would go on to dance for Festival Ballet of Providence, Eugene Ballet, and Ballet Idaho where he was promoted to principal dancer in 2011.
In 2012 Ryan, joined Kansas City Ballet where he danced several principal roles, including Jerome Robbins' Fancy Free; Septime Webres' Alice in Wonderland; and Michael Pinks' Dracula, as well as Devon Carney's Swan Lake, Giselle and Nutcracker. Ryan has performed as a guest artist with Oklahoma City Ballet, Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Boise Dance Co-op and Festival Ballet of Providence. He has performed works by choreographers such as George Balanchine, Vicente Nebrada, Devon Carney, Hans Van Manen, Rudi Van Dantzig, Mark Godden, John Neumeier, Helen Pickett, Yuri Possokhov, Jorden Morris, Ma Cong, Viktor Plotnikov, Robert Mills, and many more.
As a choreographer, he has created ballets for Ballet Idaho, Kansas City Ballet, Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, and the Kansas City Dance Festival. He has also had his work performed by dancers from companies all across the United States and Europe, including Alberta Ballet, Miami City Ballet, Richmond Ballet, Tulsa Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, and the Finnish National Ballet. Ryan's work has been presented on stage alongside choreographers such as, Christopher Wheeldon, George Balanchine, Marco Goecke, Ma Cong, Mathew Neenan, Garrett Smith, Davide Bombana, and Douglas Lee. Recently Ryan, was named "Outstanding Choreographer" at the 2017, Youth American Grand Prix where he was recognized for his Kansas City Ballet School work Concerto 21. Ryan's choreography has been featured in KC Studio magazine and was recently performed in Niigata, Japan. In February his solo The Painter, was presented at an alumni gala for The Harid Conservatory.
As you can see, even though both of today's subjects are retired from dancing (Ryan stopped in 2016) you never REALLY retire. As you will read in their answers, this married couple's passion for dance has not waned and, in Racheal's case, her passion trickles down to her students. It takes a certain kind of personality to train 200 kids per Nutcracker production, trust me on this one.
With all of the holiday fare to choose from, I urge you to consider Kansas City Ballet's production of The Nutcracker as one of your choices. It's a great way to start the holiday season and avoid the crowds at the mall. It also features a live orchestra - not always a given - so Tchaikovsky's music is heard full throttle with all of its splendor intact.
Racheal and Ryan are living their theatre lives to the fullest this holiday season. What better way to start holidays off than with a season perennial as presented by a top ballet company with two artists that are so devoted to their craft. That tops visions of sugar plums fairies and candy canes dancing in your head now, doesn't it?
How did you get interested in dance?
Rachael (Ra) - I started at a really young age. My parents wanted me to do it somewhere other than the living room. I am originally from DC so I went to the Kirov Ballet School, graduated, got a job, and there we are.
Ryan (Ry) - I was playing football in high school. I had a relative who was working as an admin assistant for a Russian ballet company. I took lessons to get better at football. The company talked me into doing the Nutcracker one year. I then moved to Winnipeg to join the royal Winnipeg Ballet School.
What were your first professional dance jobs?
Ra - Ballet Internationale, which is now defunct. I then spent ten years with Nevada Ballet in Las Vegas as a principal.
Ry - The Banff Dance Festival in Canada. They would hire young dancers just out of school. We were doing a mix of premieres and rep. My first company was Festival Ballet of Providence in Providence, Rhode Island.
Did the two of you meet in a particular production?
Ry - I had left the company in Providence to join one in Boise, Idaho. Rachel joined that company.
Ra - I really enjoyed dancing with him.
Have either of you danced Nutcracker with other companies before joining Kansas City Ballet?
Ra - I did five before joining Kansas City Ballet's production.
Ry - I did six before joining Kansas City Ballet's production.
There are a bazillion Nutcrackers happening at this time of year. What makes the Kansas City Ballet's production stand out?
Ra- From my perspective, the amount of kids in the show and the amount of dance they are given is unique. I coach ALL of them for the performances. Over 200 kids every year.
Ry- Aside from the production values, Devon Carney's commitment to the show. He is always in studio even with the kids which is unusual for the Artistic Director. He has a strong artistic integrity. There is nothing that he doesn't oversee.
Rachel, you are on the teaching staff of Kansas City Ballet. What is the most satisfying thing about teaching dance to the new generation?
I've been teaching for almost 19 years now. I love seeing their confidence build and their dedication. I want them leaving my classes with a passion for the dance. I always knew I wanted to teach.
Ryan, you are also a choreographer. Was choreographing something you ultimately wanted to do when you first started dancing?
No actually, the only ambition I had starting out was to become a principal dancer. I was given an opportunity in school and I ran with it. I won a few awards too. I had an opportunity in Boise. I made a piece with the full company and it was a big success, particularly for someone who hadn't choreographed a lot. I was excited that I could be totally artistic while using bodies that were even more sound than mine
Can you please pick one of your favorite roles and one that you would most like to dance someday?
Ra - I got to do most of my bucket list before I retired. I would say my favorite role was Giselle because it's a storytelling role. If I was still dancing I would love to do some of this new contemporary work
Ry - My most passionate role would be the prince in Swan Lake. It's the music. Just listening to it makes me emotional. I would most like to dance anything by Yuri Killian. Kansas City Ballet is doing his work this season.
Special thanks to Kennedy Center's dance publicist Brittany Laeger for her assistance in coordinating this interview.
Theatre Life logo designed by Kevin Laughon.