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Interview with Robert Fairchild

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Michael Popkin conducted this interview with Robert Fairchild last year, and it was published in DanceView Magazine, a Quarterly Review of Dance, Vol. 29, No. 2, Spring 2012. It's now online in Michael's blog for danceviewtimes.


I was particularly struck by this:

DanceView: Tell me about the competition videos that Megan saw. What was that about?

Fairchild: I came up through the competition circuit. Actually they’re competition conventions. It’s a national tour. You go to regional competitions and take classes with the teachers who are part of the circuit. These were teachers from Steps or Los Angeles. Leslie Browne came in and so did Desmond Richardson. So these were a lot of established professionals and you really got to learn from them and would go perform for them that night. They sat down, watched you perform, and judged you. It’s both great exposure and a great performance opportunity.

DanceView: Do you think those years contribute something special to your development, that’s persisted besides what you got at SAB?

Fairchild: Definitely as far as dealing with competition and being able to make a performance happen. Doing the circuit, you have to go out there, get over the nerves of thinking, “I’m not good enough,” and I’m not this, or that or the other. I do think we all struggle with that, but that circuit taught me to say: “The show’s going to go on and I’m going to make this happen.” And to have that opportunity a lot when you’re very young helps you feel more comfortable when you’re on stage later on.

I had guessed wrongly that there were a few competitions a year, like YAGP and Prix de Lausanne, with local qualifying rounds, but I had no idea there was a circuit that was this organized and that the judges were so hands on, and that there was such an opportunity to work with choreographers and meet people outside the ballet world:

DanceView: You’re growing up in Salt Lake City but some of these competitions are in L.A. or elsewhere. How did that work?

Fairchild: Well, they all came through Salt Lake, so we would do the regionals and, if we did well in the completion, then would go to the nationals. And there you’d get to work even more closely with these choreographers, who were doing things in film and in concerts and such. So it was a good avenue to meet people, network, and be seen.

I know that judges at competitions can be scouting for talent for their own schools and/or companies, but it's a bit scary that a 16-year-old competitor could get world-class coaching and mentoring that might not be available from the company that hires a dancer.

There are also some fascinating things about partnering. Today I listened to David Hallberg talk about the importance of the scholarship that's been created in his name, because often male dancers are the only one in their studios that aren't strong enough to give them the support and instruction. I know it's important for boys to be in classes with each other, but Fairchild describes the opportunity of being the only available partner.

Among other things he talks about dancing with his sister and a number of his NYCB partners, being taught by Peter Boal and being coached/mentored over the phone by Boal, working with Ratmansky, his role models in ballet, his dog, and the highlights of his career to date. Fairchild is thoughtful and articulate, and Michael's questions are the important ones. It's a fascinating read.

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Thank you for drawing attention to this. A fantastic interview with a fantastic dancer! Love, too, what he says about Peter Boal: "there was a kind of reverence in his dancing," I think that really captures something essential about Boal.

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