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Interview with Tricia Albertson

Discovering new among the old

Choreographer? Probably the majority of Americans couldn’t name one. It simply is not of interest to them. Jerome Robbins? Most people over 50 have heard the name, but couldn’t tell you who he was. West Side Story? Now we’re talkin’.
Miami City Ballet’s next program is a tribute to Robbins on the 100th anniversary of his birth. What he contributed to theatre and movies is inarguably greater than any other American choreographer/director. Dancer Tricia Albertson took time off from the rehearsal of this overwhelming project to talk about how Robbins has influenced her career.

T. Albertson/J. Robbins (© Alberto Oviedo)

“With Robbins it is more internal. You develop a very tight relationship with the other dancers. You are definitely a character. If you are not being yourself within the role, it won’t work. With Balanchine it is much more about playing to the audience.” Tricia has been with the company since 1997 and has a repertoire that includes dozens of roles. This season she adds The Cage. “The audience has not seen anything like this one. Robbins has the dancers move in a way they never have before and only Stravinsky’s music would work. It has been a tremendously rewarding challenge.”

Like many people (dancers or not), Tricia remembers as an adolescent seeing the movie version of West Side Story. “There were always pieces of Robbins’ works you would find as you were studying, but the first real Robbins ballet I saw was Dances at a Gathering. That one made me take everything differently. At the end when we look out at the audience after the boy in brown touches the floor, dancers get a rare moment to just stand and absorb music that is so so beautiful. It’s hard not to cry.”

But these works are quite old now; will a young audience still find them meaningful? “Robbins and Balanchine will never date. Their ballets feel as if they were just created. There are other choreographers whose works just don’t have as lasting an impact on me as a dancer. But then there are people like Justin Peck who is a genius. He is steeped in tradition and completely innovative yet subtle, he doesn’t hit you over the head.”

D. Bramaz & T. Albertson in Robbins’ In the Night (© Kyle Froman)

And what about today’s Miami City Ballet audiences? “There is no question that the Miami audience shows an appreciation we don’t get in other places; that isn’t to say that other audiences are not wonderful. But in Miami, they don’t hold back. It feels great.”

After the Paris tour in the summer of 2011, the company quickly gained world class status.”The tour was a shock because we almost sold out all performances. We were finally performing to live music instead of recordings; the company really grew up.”

West Side Story Suite generates tremendous passion, but will audiences feel as strongly about the rest of the program? “The Cage will knock them out! I can’t wait to get up there and really do it. Circus Polka will be a blast because there will be so many kids on stage. Because of the Robbins centennial Other Dances is being done all over. I won’t do it in Miami but will when we take the program north. So though we know they are waiting for West Side Story, they are going to have a lot of great unfamiliar stuff to experience first.”

Tricia emphasized how in addition to The Nutcracker, pieces like Rubies (from Jewels) send an audience soaring. Her dedication and trust in the power of Robbins make us feel that we are about to soar even higher.

[Interview with Jeff Haller]



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