Cupcakes & Conversation with Amy Aldridge, Principal, Pennsylvania Ballet

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Cupcakes & Conversation with Amy Aldridge, Principal, Pennsylvania Ballet

Pennsylvania Ballet Principal Dancer Amy Aldridge. Photo: Alexander Iziliaev.

Pennsylvania Ballet Principal Dancer Amy Aldridge. Photo: Alexander Iziliaev.

What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ?  

Ballet class on Monday morning is how I’ve started my week since I was 15 years old. It has become equivalent to morning coffee for me. When I’m not dancing on the weekend I relax, but after two days off I feel that urge for the routine;  the sweat, the challenge, the opportunity to learn something new. I cannot be still for too long. My body, my mind, feels best, most energized in constant motion.

Why ballet ?

Ballet is like love for me. If it’s meant to be, you know it right away and will take on all that comes with it to experience that ultimate completion.

Ballet will always be a part of me even when the time presents itself for me to take the shoes off. Everything I’ve learned and experienced along the way will continue onmy next journey, making it that much more successful.

What are you looking forward to dancing during 2012 & what are the big challenges likely to be for you ?

I’m really looking forward to dancing Matthew Neenan’s  premiere for Pa Ballet in June which is currently being choreographed on us. I love working one on one with a choreographer, exploring new movement and creating a dance with your own essence.

Pennsylvania Ballet Principal Dancers Amy Aldridge and Zachary Hench in Ballo della Regina, choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo: Alexander Iziliaev.

Pennsylvania Ballet Principal Dancers Amy Aldridge and Zachary Hench in Ballo della Regina, choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo: Alexander Iziliaev.

How do you prepare your pointe shoes ?

First I step on the box with my heel to flatten it out, and then flip the shoes over and do the same on the reverse side. Next I bend the shank in half and take out the labeled lining inside. Then I pour some Hot Stuff glue in only the tips to keep them harder longer. Unlike some dancers, I sew on only elastics for rehearsals. I only use ribbons for performances. I like the feel of nothing on my foot, and the softer the shoe the better.

What is your daily routine at the moment ?

I’m awake at 7 am and at work by 9 am.  Class is from 9:30 am-11 . Rehearsals can go from 11-p.m. and 3-p.m., and I may rehearse six hours or none at all. The schedule really varies and is only posted two days in advance. After work, who knows. It really just depends on if I need to go out and be social or just go home and relax. Usually it’s the latter.

What do you eat during the course of a typical working day ?

For breakfast I usually have oatmeal. Then after class I’ll have a banana or some nuts. For Lunch I’ll have a yogurt or a half of a sandwich. For dinner brown rice with veggies and tofu. Snack popcorn.

You can ask six famous people to dinner – who would you invite ?

Edgar Allen Poe, George Balanchine,Vincent van Gogh, John Lennon, Walt Disney, and Jane Austen. Can you imagine the dinner conversation? These are all favorites of mine, geniuses of their craft.

What would surprise people about you ?

I write quite a bit of poetry and have two published poems.

Who inspired you to dance ?

I can’t say that there was really one person who inspired me to dance, but there was one instructor I had growing up Arnott Mader, that made such an impact on my life. His positive, energetic attitude and love for the art made me believe that I could do anything I put my mind to. There were no limits for me in his eyes, and I believed that too. My signature step, pirouettes, that I learned from him. Even my jump I believe comes from him pushing me higher in competition with the men. If he thought I could fly, then I would, and now I am in Trey McIntyre’s Peter Pan.

What is your best piece of advice ?

Don’t forget who you are. Stay true to yourself and dance for you.

How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?

I usually eat 3 hours before the show. Then I walk around the city a little and maybe do some shopping. I try to get to the theatre an hour before warm up class to do my hair and start my makeup. Then after class I finish up my makeup, stretch, and go to the stage to go over the choreography and get the steps fresh in my body.

How do you deal with the stress of performing ?

Usually if I give myself too much prep time I get nervous. I’m better off if I go about the day casually making time for some things I enjoy and find relaxing.

Which role has tested you the most & how ?

I’d have to say In the middle somewhat elevated. This was the first Forsythe ballet for me. Musically I was challenged, having to basically be the metronome throughout the ballet. Stamina wise, this was also the most difficult ballet I’ve danced, insisting on punching it out from start to finish without pacing myself. I remember my whole body trembling when I came off stage, not only from adrenaline, but from pushing myself to the limit, which was farther than I ever imagined. This was one of my most satisfying performances ever, and I had an injury, which surprisingly I don’t remember feeling until it was over.

If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create ?

Well, I’m not much of a drawer, but I can visualize what I’d like to wear. I think I’d have someone design a strapless bodice with a plunging nude V neckline and a  pair of dance trunks that have a higher leg cut. I’d like the colors to be taupe, mauve, and a softer plum with gold accents along the”V ” of the bodice. I picture a mix of these colors, almost like watercolors running together.

Pennsylvania Ballet Principal Dancer Amy Aldridge in William Forsythe’s The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude. Photo: Alexander Iziliaev.

Pennsylvania Ballet Principal Dancer Amy Aldridge in William Forsythe’s The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude. Photo: Alexander Iziliaev.

What do you look for in a dance partner ?

If I could pick my ideal partner, I’d look for someone who I could communicate well with and has a strong knowledge of the mechanics of partnering. He would have to be creative, fearless and willing to try anything.

What is your favorite quote ?

Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans. John Lennon

Do you have a ‘signature step’ – one that comes naturally to you ?

Pirouettes have always been my signature step and come very easily to me

A phrase I use far too often is … ?

Everything happens for a reason.

What’s been your best on-stage moment so far ?

Just when I think I’ve had the best on-stage moment another one replaces it. I find my self becoming much freer and more comfortable on stage each time I step out on it, opening the door for complete abandonment.

Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about ?

Yes, and that’s what makes it a secret :)

Pennsylvania Ballet Principal Dancer Amy Aldridge and Soloist Jermel Johnson in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™, choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo: Alexander Iziliaev.

Pennsylvania Ballet Principal Dancer Amy Aldridge and Soloist Jermel Johnson in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™, choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo: Alexander Iziliaev.

In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now ?

Next year I hope to be dancing even better than I am now. The 2012-2013 season is filled with many ballets I enjoy dancing and find challenging as well as some new pieces I never danced before.

What is your exit strategy, for the time when you stop dancing, and how did you plan it ?

I definitely have some plans, but right now I’m just enjoying the moment.

 

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