Ballet Idaho premieres Peter Pan this month at the Morrison Center. We had a chance to sit down with Ethan Schweitzer-Gaslin as he prepares to dance the role of Peter Pan.
Ballet Idaho: What do you think the Idaho community will enjoy the most of the Peter Pan ballet?
Ethan Schweitzer-Gaslin: I think everyone enjoys a good fairytale. The showmanship in Peter Pan really goes beyond what you normally see in a ballet, so I think that will be exciting for people. The subtleties of the characters also stand out. I think everyone will appreciate an exciting story with characters whose adventurous natures they can identify with. Ultimately, it’s a just FUN! There are really no dull moments in this ballet.
BI: Have you ever flown before? (Peter Pan has fabulous flying effects!)
ESG: I have never flown before, but the school where I danced growing up once did a ballet where some of the other students got to fly, and the company teaching those dancers to fly is actually the same family that will be teaching it to Ballet Idaho!
BI: How did you get started as a dancer?
ESG: I guess I’ve always loved to dance. When I was a little kid I used to dance around the house anytime there was music playing. I especially liked the music that went with forecast on the weather channel for some reason. When I was 5 my parents saw an ad in the local paper for ballet classes for boys and they asked me if I wanted to sign up. I’ve been hooked ever since!
BI: What is your favorite role you have danced?
ESG: As I’ve gotten older I’ve started to appreciate getting to perform more contemporary dances. When a choreographer creates steps just for me, I feel like I really get to make every performance honest and personal.
BI: Why do you dance?
ESG: I have always loved to perform. Dancing gives me a chance to be on stage, but has also helped me get a lot stronger, more confident and coordinated. As a kid I was never very coordinated or good at sports and had to go to something called occupational therapy. I like to think of my body as a puzzle that I try and arrange the pieces of as well as a can every day. There are fundamental movement patterns that every person learns as a baby that allow our bodies to have a sense of themselves in space, and being a dancer has helped me get to know my body better in this way. Scientists have also studied the link between moving to music with a group of people and stronger social bonds, so I feel very lucky that I get to spend every day at work with some of my favorite people and that through dancing I have made some of my closest friends. A great choreographer named George Balanchine once said “I don’t want people who want to dance, I want people who have to dance”, and at this point in my life I need to dance because I don’t think anything else could make me as happy as standing in the studio moving to a beautiful piece of music with my friends.
BI: What are you most looking forward to for Peter Pan?
ESG: This is a character that makes a lot of sense to me in a lot of ways, so I’m really looking forward to having the opportunity to share with the audience something that feels so personal for me.
BI: What do you think is going to be the most challenging part of playing Peter Pan?
ESG: For me the hardest part about this ballet will probably be the sections dancing with a partner. It will be my first time doing a role where that is so important, so I’ve been going to the gym a LOT over the past few months to prepare.
BI: If you were the Artistic Director/Choreographer, what ballets would you present?
ESG: There are certain choreographers whose work is very important in the grand arc of the evolution of ballet, and I think it’s important for audiences to see their work. People like Marius Petipa who created story ballets like The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker, George Balanchine who pioneered the neoclassical style and the abstract ballet, and William Forsythe who created contemporary ballet as we know it today. In addition, I think it’s also important for companies to perform new work by current and up and coming choreographers. We should all aspire to be lifelong learners, and continually creating new work keeps alive the curiosity this requires of dancers and audiences. Great art needs to be aware of where it comes from but also continually pushing the boundaries of what it is capable of. Great art needs to be alive.
BI: What else do you enjoy doing?
ESG: When I’m not at the studio I enjoy spending time outdoors – hiking, camping, snowshoeing, immersing in hot springs, you name it, in the kitchen cooking – which is very important in my family, and organizing and working in the community. It is also important for dancers to do other forms of exercise, so I do yoga and weight training, and I ride my bike whenever I get the chance.