Ballet Soloist’s ‘Swan Dive’ Is An Intimate Expression of Ballet Culture

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The brave part was not writing the book.

“Brave Thing” Georgina Pazcoguin “He will enter the rehearsal studio on August 3,” he said in an interview.

Like many ballerinas these days (or so it seems), Pazcoguin wrote a memoir. His is not a coward. In “Swan Dive: The Making of a Rogue Ballerina,” this New York City Ballet frontman writes candidly about the staff and dancers, including Amar Ramasar, as well as former leader of the company, Peter Martins. , one of the male managers who lost his job after a while Photo sharing scandal in 2018, and later returned.

Some of the experiences Pazcoguin describes are troubling, others just plain weird. For years, he writes that Ramasar “was approached in class to greet him in a whisper, ‘You look good today,'” his eyes locked on my chest, and then he resets to the target in my hand – surprise! – twisting my nipples.” (In an email, Ramasar said, “I strongly reject this claim”; Martins did not respond to requests for comment.)

While rehearsing the dancers in Jerome Robbins’ “Concert,” repertory director Jean-Pierre Frohlich told them to imagine the beauty of spring and said, “women walking around in tank tops, short dresses, shorts! You know…’” she writes, “before we finish with this crazy bombshell: ‘It’s amazing that more women aren’t raped these days'” (Frohlich said he hadn’t read the book and didn’t comment.)

Pazcoguin, 36, discusses his strained relationship with Thomas A. Lemanski, director of rehearsal administration. She ripped her ACL and “a greedy little head ballerina literally whipped her phone out as I lay still and texted the ballet master and (the most snotty degree of opportunism) Peter Martins.”

August 3 – It’s true that it was the day City Ballet started rehearsals. autumn – Might be awkward for Pazcoguin. But as he sees it, the real story is not in the book; what happens next, both personally and for the art form.

The company’s first female Asian-American soloist – her father is Filipino and her mother is Italian – is outspoken about her aim to bring equality to the ballet world. “Ballet is at a crossroads,” said Pazcoguin, which she co-founded with Phil Chan. Last Bow for Yellow FaceAiming to cleanse ballet of derogatory and outdated depictions of Asian people. “We can either change and become relevant or it will fade into the distance. That would be a huge failure for me.”

When he first presented a book to agents and publishers, Anthony Bourdain’s memoir “Kitchen Secrets” was on his mind. “I saw myself in him in a very strange way,” she said. “How he shook the world and how it came from an honest and loving place.” This part was important to her for her book: “I love ballet and I love this company and I believe it a thousand percent.”

He eventually wrote two versions. “He didn’t dive into anything,” said the first. “I read it and said ‘Wow, Gina, what a disconnect’ and started again.”

For the second time, she hasn’t forgotten the painful stories, including her affair with a married principal dancer and the surgery she had to have to remove fat from her thighs after extreme dieting and exercise didn’t work. (Sad to say, but surgery was safer than starvation.)

The book – full of profanity – is not devoid of humor. It focuses on Pazcoguin’s time as a student at City Ballet’s American Ballet School and the company she joined in 2003. He started writing about three years ago, while Martins was still in charge. In 2018, resigned from his post between accusations of sexual harassment and physical and verbal abuse. (He denied the allegations.)

“Swan Dive” begins with Pazcoguin being called to meet the Martins in 2013. He was sure he was about to be fired. It had been two weeks since “a shouting match of epic proportions,” he writes. “It ended with me screaming as I ran down the hall.”

She braced herself to get fat (always down to her hips) or to be told she wasn’t fully committed. But the encounter turned out differently: Martins promoted him to the soloist he still has.

Unfortunately, Pazcoguin remains the only female soloist not to play the role of Sugar Plum Fairy in “George Balanchine’s Nutcracker.” As for getting promoted to lead dancer? “This is their move,” he said of the company’s current leaders, Jonathan Stafford (art director) and Wendy Whelan (assistant art director). “This isn’t my move. I haven’t given up on getting promoted. I still want to think I ran away.”

One of the points Pazcoguin emphasizes in “Swan Dive” is that she is not seen as a classical dancer in terms of her roles. more theatrical and contemporary. (It’s surprising that Robbins portrayed Anita in the “West Side Story Suite,” a version of the City Ballet-performed musical.) She said she would love starring in “Symphony Three Movements” and “La Valse.” ” Balanchine ballet with inner drama.

“I’m not saying I want to be the White Swan,” said Pazcoguin, referring to her role as princess Odette in “Swan Lake.” He chuckled. “I have good control over things where I can take an interesting turn and it may not be the person who lived there before.”

When thinking about the path of his dance career, Pazcoguin thinks back to his time as a student at the American Ballet School; coincided with the September 11 attacks that traumatized him. He developed an eating disorder. “It was just a way for me to process that grief – it had nothing to do with weight,” she said. “This wrecked my body. It really made me a mess for years to come.”

At the time, her poor health led to a stress fracture that prevented her from starring in Balanchine’s “Ballo della Regina” at the school’s annual Workshop Performances. The virtuoso ballerina Merrill Ashley, for whom he was made, coached him. If he had played “Ballo”, would Martins have given him more classical, technical roles later on? “Or worse,” he said, “yet same career?”

In an interview, Ashley said she agreed with Pazcoguin that if she had been able to perform “Ballo” things might have gone differently. “His foot was so bad, and ‘Ballo’ is about the worst ballet you can try and dance with a bad foot,” Ashley said.

Pazcoguin now believes part of the reason he’s been holding back at the company has to do with race. “A lot of feedback is being offered in a fix,” he said. “As you need to fix it. Then you get closed comments and what do you think? I can’t fix mine features. And that’s when, what just happened?”

If he had said anything at the time, he said, “it would have turned out very badly for me,” but looking back, he realized that he had some of these conversations backstage.

One was with Albert Evans, who was a ballet master at the time. Evans, the second Black dancer to become principal of the City Ballet (died in 2015), he realized that he was in pain. “It was like, ‘You just keep working,'” Pazcoguin said. “‘I see joyful.’ I didn’t realize we were talking about race, but we were.”

He remembered after watching Ashley’s performance at Robbins’s. “NY Export/Opus Jazz” “You don’t know how many people have asked who the black-haired woman is,” Pazcoguin told him for the first time. “It’s like, ‘You have to get out of here. He will never use you the way you should.”

Ashley said she didn’t remember the “Opus Jazz” part of the comment, but that didn’t surprise her. He remembers talking to Pazcoguin, who has been with the company for a few years and doesn’t dance much: “He came to me and asked for my advice, and I was like, ‘What’s your point? What kind of dance do you really want?”

She thought Pazcoguin might be a star on Broadway, but that classical ballet was a different story because, Ashley said, “I didn’t think she would automatically be given classical roles.” “She would be given something more contemporary, more dramatic. I was trying to be open with him.”

There were many things that were beyond Pazcoguin’s control. “I look pretty Asian when I do my makeup,” she said. “I can’t change that. I can’t change my body type, my heritage. I’ll never be a weak body type. And so the ‘rogue’ creation came here.”

“Sometimes,” he added, “you just have to embrace what makes you different.”

And Pazcoguin’s career expanded beyond many of his fellow dancers. he got permission Perform in “Cats” on Broadway and also appeared on the FX show “Fosse/Verdon”. In October, she will be dancing a trio originally performed by Gwen Verdon as part of the Verdon Fosse Legacy presentation at the Fall for Dance Festival in City Center.

Pazcoguin, who spent most of the epidemic in Los Angeles, has not had an easy time in the last few years; Her departure from New York helped her temporarily focus on her mental health and prepare for the publication of her book. “I knew this was going to be the biggest roller coaster ride of my life,” she said. “There’s no blaming a choreographer. No blame on the director. It everything me.”

Pazcoguin sees “Swan Dive” as a deep look at himself – as a person and as an artist, although it may seem like a study of the workplace.

“It’s a necessary step towards self-confidence and my ability to be front and center and have it,” she said. “I can stand here as a multicultural Asian American woman and be a queen. And be a rogue ballerina. And get messy. And totally put together. I have an interesting narrative and I have something to say and weight to say. I can be the lead character.”

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