Stuart Sweeney: Was dancing something you always wanted
Jonathan Porretta: Always. My mother
told me that as soon as I could talk all I said was, When I grow
up I want to be a dancer. She was very confused, because nobody
in my family had ever taken ballet or any kind of dance. Then when I
was seven I started taking ballet/tap combo in New Jersey where we lived
and at 13 I went to the School of American Ballet (SAB) in New York
and Ive just loved ballet ever since.
In the UK, because of image problems it has been very
difficult to get boys to do dance. Was it a problem for you?
No, because my family were so supportive from day one. Of course
sometimes it was hard at school and some schoolboys could be jerky,
but it never bothered me. I just thought, You have no idea.
Ive just seen Billy Elliot for the first time and loved
it. The ending is so awesome.
Do you have any strong memories from SAB?
Having Peter Boal as a teacher, but they were all great. I had Stanley
Williams before he passed away and he was an amazing teacher. I also
learnt a lot from Jock Soto about partnering. Of course it was all based
around Balanchine technique and style. So for summer programmes I would
go to ABT, which is the complete opposite of SAB, and balance it out
myself and see what I liked from both. I didn't go there, but the PNB
School also teaches a more general classical American combination of
Balanchine and other styles.
New York City Ballet seems to do so many ballets each
year, even if you take account of the triple bills. Did you get preparation
for that at SAB?
The School was always pushing you hard to take as many classes as
you could each day to build up your stamina. They would say to us, If
you think this is hard, wait until youre in the Company!
There is nothing like being in that Company and I dont know how
they manage with all those performances. I love it at PNB where we have
two week seasons and time to prepare. But I also love to go home to
New Jersey and see NYCB and all my friends and I think the dancers are
awesome at the moment.
You did some guesting with other companies before PNB.
When I was still at SAB I danced with a small company in New York
run by Francis Patrelle and that was such good experience and he created
a role for me in The Nutcracker and gave me a lot of performance
experience, which you dont get so much at SAB. At the PNB School
they have the professional division who get to understudy the corps
roles in the bigger ballets. We use those students a lot and its
a great experience for them. I also danced with San Francisco Opera
in Death in Venice.
"Some of the Princes would be great but I think Im still
too young right now."
Tell me about joining PNB.
Getting in was very exciting. I hadnt auditioned for any companies
and SAB wanted me to stay another year. I was doing a ballet class during
the summer programme and I was told that Francia [Russell] was coming
to look at me, but she didnt show up. Kent [Stowell] showed up,
but I didnt know he was there. Then I saw him standing there in
the doorway and thought that maybe they would come and see me tomorrow.
He introduced himself to me and then said, I want to offer you
a contract. I nearly passed out and two weeks later I was there
Everybody is awesome and it feels like one big family.
You get support from everybody and Francia and Kent are so nurturing.
They push you and they support you. Its such a great company.
I joined as a New Dancer for a year and then I was in the Corps for
three years and Ive just been promoted to a Soloist.
Was there a particular breakthrough role for you?
In my first year I had performed the corps roles in various ballets
and nine parts in Kents Nutcracker. Then the last rep was
Silver Lining and I had two principal roles, so that was very
exciting and so much fun. Im doing one of them here, Pick
Yourself Up, which is great. After that they gave me so many things
to dance. I got to do In the middle, Bluebird in Sleeping
Beauty, and they would say things like, Come and learn Oberon
in Dream. So its been incredible. Doing all the different
roles makes you a better dancer.
Have you toured with the Company before?
This is my third in fact. My first year we went to Istanbul and
Hong Kong. But it is my first time in London and Im really excited.
I went to Sadlers Wells yesterday for class and its such
a great theatre. I havent seen the stage yet, but the dressing
rooms and studios are awesome.
What are you performing in this week?
Im in every show. In Silver Lining Ill do The
Edinboro Wiggle with Kaori Nakamura. We also danced Bluebird
and I was so nervous to dance with her, as she is unbelievable. Ill
also do Pick Yourself Up. Then in the Mixed Bill I have
two parts. The first is a soloist part with two other boys, which is
so much fun, and the third principal couple part on Thursday and Friday.
I love that ballet; it has great music that everyone wants to choreograph
to and its great to dance to as well. The rep has something for
everyone, from a tutu ballet to Jardí Tancat.
We had a run through on an island off Seattle before we
came and that was where Julie [Tobiason] had her injury. I saw her coming
off stage and she went straight to the physical therapy table. In two
seconds Francia and Kent were backstage and it was scary for everyone.
Then we found out she had broken a bone in her foot and wouldnt
be able to come to London for her final performances with the Company.
But shes tough. Shes getting married soon and she was talking
about how she is going to decorate her boot! We have a connection as
we both come from Jersey.
This will be the end of the season for PNB. What are
you doing in the summer?
Im going to Cancun [in Mexico] for vacation. Then Ill
be in New Jersey visiting my family and going into New York every day,
looking at ballets and taking class at Steps. We start up again around
the 12th August in a temporary arena while they rebuild the Opera House.
We switched over there in January and its working fine.
So what are your dreams?
Im really excited right now to be a Soloist and I hope that
one day Ill be a Principal. I just hope things keep going the
way they have been; its been great.
Any particular roles youd love to do?
Everything. I want to do everything. Theres a lot of ballets
that I have favourite parts in, such as The Dreamer in Opus 19
by Jerome Robbins. When I was at SAB we used to go to the ballet every
night and Peter Boal used to do that. It was just incredible. Im
lucky that Ive already done some of my dream roles like Agon.
In the middle is such a different experience; its about
you, the music and the other dancers. Its such a fun feeling to
walk around the stage and look at each other. Its a great ballet
and one of my favourites. Some of the Princes would be great but I think
Im still too young right now.
What about after dance or is that too far ahead?
No, I do look that far out. There will always be ballet for me.
Id love to teach, and to choreograph. I choreographed a ballet
at SAB, which was a lot of fun and theyre still doing it. If I
could direct a company one day that would be incredible
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Edited by Malcolm