Copyright: © 2010 Idaho Statesman

Published: 12/05/10

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At 5-foot 9-inches, dancer Jared Hunt is a ballet dynamo. Athletic and powerful, he moves with silky, smooth coolness. Maybe that’s why the Snow pas de deux in Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” is one of his favorite roles. You can see him dance it with ballerina Phyllis Rothwell Affrunti next weekend when Ballet Idaho presents Peter Anastos’ interpretation of the ballet at the Morrison Center. Hunt is in the third season of his second run with Ballet Idaho. He also danced with the company under Toni Pimble’s direction in the 2000-’01 season and part of 2002. He was a soloist with Nevada Ballet Theatre when he met Anastos, who was in the process of putting the current Ballet Idaho together. “He made me a great offer and I’m so glad I came,” Hunt says. “Boise feels like home and I have two beautiful ballerinas to work with.” Hunt partners with Affrunti and Racheal Hummel. You’ll see him dance with both in “Nutcracker” as the Snow King and Cavalier. Hunt took his first ballet class at 6, but dropped dance in middle school, “because it wasn’t cool for guys to dance. I really regret it because it really set me back,” he says. He started again when he was 16 and never looked back. “I have loved every minute of it. I have traveled the world, performed at the Kennedy Center, and danced some of the greatest roles in ballet,” Hunt says. “I believe that the next step in my career is going to be just as exciting.” Now, he’s matured as a performer and is developing as a choreographer, which is a surprise, he says. “I never planned on being a dancer, or a solist or principle, but there is an obvious progression a dancer goes through, so when I say I’m not planning on being a choreographer, I know that’s what’s coming. I love finding interesting music and making it come to life.”
Hunt spoke from Colorado Springs, Colo., where Ballet Idaho performed its production of “The Nutcracker.”
Q: How many “Nutcrackers” is this for you?
A: I truly have no idea. Professionally, I have been in at least 6 or 7 productions, but who’s counting? “The Nutcracker” is actually how I got started as a ballet dancer. My mom sent me to an audition for Ballet West’s “Nutcracker” when I was 7.
I danced the role of Fritz for 4 years. I think many professional ballet dancers got started this way.
I watch the children in Ballet Idaho’s “Nutcracker” and wonder how many of them will be principal dancers someday. Not only is it a holiday tradition, but also it’s a ballet rite of passage.
Q: Most ballet dancers have a love / hate relationship with “Nutcracker.” Where do you fall?
A: I might be one of the few ballet dancers left who love “The Nutcracker.” I think that Tchaikovsky’s score is absolutely brilliant. I love the music, and dancing to it is so rewarding.
When you have music like that to dance to, you can’t help but feel like something special is happening on stage.
Q: What’s your favorite role, from this or any other ballet?
A: I loved dancing George Balanchine’s “Tarantella” pas de deux. It is dynamic and exciting and a total crowd pleaser. I have never worked so hard in my life, or been so out of breath, but it’s 19 minutes of hard athletic dancing, and I loved every second of it!
In “Nutcracker,” I like the Snow pas. It’s my favorite music in the show.
Q: What’s the role you would most like to dance?
A: I love contemporary work and would love to experience more of it.
If I could choose any role, I would choose something from Alvin Ailey’s “Revelations.” I’m sure I’ll never get the chance to be a part of that production, but I love choreography that deals with self-expression and cultural artistry.
In the classical rep, the one role I would love to do that I haven’t done yet is “Bluebird” pas de deux from “The Sleeping Beauty.”
Q: Why dance?
A: I come from a long line of athletes. Many of my cousins and brothers played high school and college sports, and I even have an uncle who was a starting pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds. So, I think athleticism is in my blood.
I also had a mother that instilled an appreciation of the performing arts in her children. We were constantly exposed to opera, theatre and dance.
There is something about the combination of athleticism and artistry that intrigues me. Ballet dancers are always striving for perfection, which is inevitably unattainable. There is something about that struggle that keeps me coming back for more.
Q: If you weren’t a dancer, what would you be doing?
A: I would probably be in social work. I am someone that hates to see people suffering and I always want to help in any way.
I had a counselor in high school that changed my life. She encouraged me to follow my dreams and gave me the confidence and drive to become who I am today.
She impacted my life beyond what any of us could have ever imagined. I want to pay that forward someday.
I want to help people become the best they can be, particularly young adults who need a little guidance, or help, from an understanding and compassionate adult.
Q: What’s been the best thing about moving to Boise?
A: The sense of community. I have met so many wonderful people who work so hard to make Ballet Idaho a success. There is a sense of ownership in this community that is unique to Boise.
Q: Who most inspires you?
A: I’m inspired on a daily basis by everyone I’m surrounded by. Life is hard, and when I see people enjoying themselves and accomplishing the things they want I am inspired. I guess you could say that I’m inspired by the human spirit.
Q: What are your words to live by?
A: “Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one” — Eleanor Roosevelt.
This quote has inspired me as an artist and as a member of a community. No one ever gets anywhere by blending in. I definitely don’t blend in.
Q: What’s on your dressing room table?
A: Chocolate, Tiger Balm, and Emergen-C. Three things a dancer can’t live without.
Q: Do you remember your first time on stage?
A: I do … It was in a church talent show. I was singing “Hello My Baby.”
It was a talent show set up like the “Gong Show.” Luckily, I wasn’t “Gonged,” but who’s going to gong a 5-year-old in a vest singing lyrics like “Hello my rag time gal?”
Dana Oland: 377-6442
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