Cupcakes and Conversation with Rebecca Krohn, Principal, New York City Ballet
What motivates you at 8am on a Tuesday morning?
What gets me going on Tuesday morning is remembering that this is a career I chose to do. Ballet was never forced upon me, I do it because I love it. Also, a big cup of coffee always helps!
My first introduction to ballet was when I was four years old and saw a local production of The Nutcracker. I saw such beauty in it and immediately asked if I could start lessons. Even at such a young age, I found so much happiness in going to the studio every day, and even more when I got to perform on stage. It’s always felt like a very natural place for me to be.
What are you looking forward to dancing in the new season?
In our next season I’m really looking forward to dancing the Elegie from Tchaikovsky Suite No. 3. I just debuted in the role last season and I’m really excited about coming back to it with a little more experience in the role. The first time I dance a new role I tend to have some nerves and don’t feel as comfortable in it as I would like. Coming back to the ballet a second time I feel more free to explore the role more completely.
Who would you most like to dance with & what would you dance?
I honestly could not ask for better partners than the ones I have at NYCB. Our Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins, was an amazing partner and he really spends a lot of time with all of the men to help them hone their skills.
If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance?
I’ve danced in many beautiful theaters all over the world, but my most amazing experience was when the company went on tour to Greece and performed at the Acropolis. To dance under the stars in an ancient ruin was an opportunity like no other. I’m still hoping that I get to go back some day.
How do you prepare your pointe shoes?
I always prepare and sew my shoes the exact same way. First I step on the box to flatten it out a bit. Then I cut the shank almost in half and bend the remaining shank so it will follow the natural curve of my foot. I sew a thin elastic around my ankle followed by the ribbons. The last thing I do before wearing them is put a little super glue in the tip to keep it extra hard.
What is your daily routine at the moment?
As with my pointe shoe preparation, my daily routine is basically always the same. I wake up around 7:00 to have coffee and catch up on the news. I always have Greek yogurt with whatever fruit is in season and sometimes some toast. I try to get to class early to stretch, do some exercises and basically take stock of how my body is feeling. Rehearsals continue for the rest of the day followed by a performance. Or if I’m off that night, a nice dinner at home with my husband.
You can ask six famous people to dinner – who would you invite?
Eric Ripert, Julia Child, Haruki Murakami, Mick Jagger, Salvador Dali and Mathew Barney.
What would surprise people about you?
I’m really into food, I love to cook and would like to go to culinary school some day.
Who inspired you to dance?
Wendy Whelan [fellow NYCB Principal Dancer] did and still does inspire me to dance. She has such an intense dedication to the art form that really shows in her dancing. And she is an incredibly kind and generous person to top it off.
What is your best piece of advice?
Take everything one day at a time. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by a challenge that lies ahead. I try and just focus on the moment and not get ahead of myself.
How do you prepare in the hours before a show?
If I can, I try and squeeze in a quick nap to recharge my body and my mind. Then I make sure to eat something that will carry me through the show. Then it’s makeup and a good warm-up and I’m ready.
Which role has tested you the most & how?
I would have to say that The Nutcracker pas de deux has probably tested me the most. It’s not that it’s technically the hardest, but everyone wants it danced a certain way. It’s difficult to find a freedom in it to really make it your own. I always want to have my own voice in a ballet and not try and look like everyone else. I also find that the more classical a piece, the less you can manipulate the steps to highlight your strengths.
If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create?
It would have to be just a plain leotard with a belt. I wear that in many of the Balanchine ballets I dance and I never feel more comfortable.
What do you look for in a dance partner?
Working on a pas de deux can be stressful so I always like when my partner can make me laugh; also there has to be an immense amount of trust with a partnership. I don’t want to be worrying about whether or not he will be there to catch me. I need to just have the confidence in him that he will always be there.
What is your favourite quote?
“Ballet is woman” by Balanchine.
Do you have a ‘signature step’ – one that comes naturally to you?
I can’t say that I have a “signature step,” but I think that all of the more neo-classical ballets that I get to dance seem to come pretty naturally. Like I said earlier, I feel much more comfortable in a simple leotard than a big tutu.
A phrase I use far too often is…?
(To my husband) ‘’Honey, will you rub my calves?”
What’s been your best on-stage moment so far?
A pretty powerful moment for me was when I danced the Dark Angel in Serenade for the first time. It is a ballet that I have loved since I was a little girl, and when I was waiting in the wings before my first entrance it just hit me how lucky I was to get to dance it.
Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about?
I’m an awesome ping pong player.
In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now?
I’m constantly trying to be better than I was the day before. This is not a career that you can just sit back and hope for the best. I hope that all of the hard work I put in this year will make me stronger and grow my artistry even more in the coming year.