Oregon Ballet Theater Dancers Bust 3 Major Dance Myths

Think ballet is boring? Think again. We got the pros to trample some common dance misconceptions.

By Kelly Clarke March 2, 2015

OBT principal dancer Chauncey Parsons, behind the scenes.

Myth Ballet dancers essentially play princess dress-up all day.

Truth Pro dancers are like arty NBA ballers. Salaried full-timers take daily ballet class, and spend three to six weeks rehearsing every dance work (a given show often includes three or four works). Performances of current shows mean 10-hour days, often capped by late-night meet-and-greets with patrons. “People want to wine and dine you, when all you want is to be home in the bath,” says principal dancer Chauncey Parsons.

And that’s when dancers are injury-free, which is rare. “There’s never a time when you’re not a little screwed up physically,” says the veteran dancer, who ticks off a torn labrum in his hip, a pinched disk in his back, and nerve damage in his neck as issues he’s had this year. (Lifting women above your head for more than two decades takes its toll.) “What’s fun is working around the physical obstacles as opposed to being completely free … we get called masochists a lot.”A corps of dozens of physical therapists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, massage therapists, and doctors volunteer their time to help keep the dancers healthy.

Proof Get schooled by Nacho Duato’s athletic Rassemblement, part of OBT’s Impact program at the Newmark Theatre. April 16–25

Myth Story ballets are fusty dinosaur art for grandmas and Lifetime-movie fans.

Truth With multiple roles for each dancer, live orchestras, and heavy emotional payloads, story ballets—like OBT’s current behemoth Cinderella—are complicated puzzles that test performers and connect with audiences on a level contemporary work often doesn’t. “People see the Disney movies and think story ballets must be for kids. Something old can be genuine and include universal truths,” says soloist Candace Bouchard. “There’s also a lot of stamina and determination involved. Not only do you not rest for the full three hours of the ballet, you’re putting on and taking off personalities multiple times in one show.” So, yeah, magical and hard-core.

Proof Get swept away by Ben Stevenson’s Cinderella, which the company debuts at the Keller this season. Feb 28–March 7

Myth Choreography is just a series of fancy steps performed by bendy robots.

Truth Most choreographers aren’t drill sergeants; they’re collaborators. Some have only a rough idea for a new work when they meet dancers for the first time. “Many just start experimenting with us—different formations, steps,” says OBT soloist Michael Linsmeier, “while we dancers try to find an emotional connection and add that to the movement.”

Case in point: buzzy dancemaker Darrell Grand Moultrie, who has shared his ebullient, muscular moves with ballet companies, musicals, and Beyoncé (!), and will create a new work with OBT this spring. Linsmeier worked with the emotionally charged choreographer in 2007 at the Milwaukee
Ballet. “He made me do the steps over and over just to feel the reach of the energy,” the dancer says. “I was almost to the point of tears when I was done with it. It felt like he was pulling your heart out of you. In a good way.”

Proof Experience Darrell Grand Moultrie’s untitled premiere, also during Impact

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