Interview with Ethan Schweitzer-Gaslin
25 February 2016 by Bernadette Nyirabariyanga
Ballet Idaho: What inspired you to start dancing?
Ethan: As a little kid I loved to perform. I would dress up and put on shows and always dance around the house whenever there was music playing, especially when the weather channel would do the “local on the 8s”. When I was around 5 my parents saw an ad for a ballet school in the newspaper and asked me if I wanted to try ballet, and I’ve been dancing ever since.
BI: This year, you choreograph the Spring Fashion Show and are a featured choreographer in New Dance. How is dancing on the runway different from the normal stage?
E: The runway for this event presents a unique challenge for me as a choreographer and for my cast of dancers. I performed at last year’s fashion show and choreographed for the Ballet Idaho fall gala where we had a similar stage so I have had a little bit of firsthand experience. There is the obvious difficulty of the size of the stage (it’s only about two feet wide and there are audience members sitting very close on either side so the dancers have to be very careful!) but also the fact that we don’t have our special Marley flooring, which makes it very slippery and hard to move quickly in ballet shoes. I really enjoy creating work for events with these kinds of challenges because it forces me to come up with things I might not otherwise, and asks me to consider how ballet exists for people outside of a typical theater.
BI: What can we look forward to with the NewDance, Up Close spring series?
E: New Dance spring seems like it is going to be a pretty fun show. I don’t want to spoil too much of the surprise so you’ll have to get tickets and come to the show to find out, but I will say that I am creating a high energy trio for a few of my favorite dancers in the company and anyone who liked the ballet I set for Graham and Adrienne last year will enjoy it.
BI: What is the process when creating a new work?
E: The process for new work is a little different every time for depending on what kind of piece I’m creating, but I am usually very procedural. Just like dancers have to have technique and know which muscles to use and know the building blocks of each step they do, so too there is a technique for choreography. I almost always start with the music, listen to it over and over until I know every note, and map out where I want things to happen. Then I create movement phrases and take those into the studio and manipulate them with the dancers. I start with ballet steps and then tweak things and play with the way the movement looks.
BI: When you are not dancing, how do you spend your free time?
E: Ballet is a very demanding job, so you have to spend a lot of time taking care of yourself. However, as artists and athletes, both physical and emotional health is important so you need to have interests outside the studio. Food is very important in my family and something I’m very passionate about so I cook a lot. I also love to get outdoors and hike or camp or soak in a nice hot spring, and I try to involve myself in politics and the development of the great community we live in as much as I can.