The fall of the New York City Ballet comes and goes, and if Teresa Reichlen being honest with herself, she doesn’t feel it. This was related. What kind of dancer doesn’t want to perform after 18 months off the stage?
“I had a couple of shows that were amazing and it felt like they always have,” she said, but “I struggled a little bit. Everyone is like that, so, Therefore Nice to be back and I wasn’t at that level. “
An injury prevented her from performing in “George Balanchine’s Nutcracker”. One night in December when she was playing on the floor with her son, Ozzie, now 11 months oldShe said a thought crossed her mind: “I should be at the theater right now, but I wouldn’t want to not be here with Ozzie for the evening.”
At that moment, she knew what she had to do. “I had a crazy ballerina life,” she said. “I have traveled all over the world. I had a frantic schedule, hopping until 11:30 every night. I love it. I’ve never been a normal person before, so it made me feel very nervous. ”
On February 19, Reichlen will dance her farewell performance in Balanchine’s one-act play “Swan Lake” before moving on to her next career: the director of Templea Lower East Side gallery focused on pagan and self-taught artists that her husband, Scott Ogden, opened in 2016.
If Reichlen really is an off-stage person, the type who doesn’t suffer from stupidity, on stage she’s mysterious, quiet, aloof. Wendy Whelan, City Ballet’s deputy artistic director and former principal, says that her husband, artist and photographer David Michalek, calls Reichlen one of the company’s Hitchcock blondes. This season, she even cast Grace Kelly as the Stripper in Balanchine’s “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” – elegant, savvy, and a little sly as she slits her long legs in the air.
“She has this underrated glamor that pops out, and you’re like that,”Gosh: look at those legs, look at that body,” Whelan said. “She has an incredible facility, and she can shape it in so many different ways: angular, curvy, classic, contemporary.”
Russell Janzen, one of her associates and a friend, calls her the selfless, ballet-first type of dancer. “There is a great bit of separation,” he said. “It is not judgmental. Sometimes it’s fun, which I think is really fun, especially when it’s one of those pieces that’s like that in her wheelhouse – it allows you to enjoy the choreography with her. that. ”
Reichlen, 37, has been dancing for as long as she can remember. She didn’t know much about Balanchine, the founder of City Ballet, when she was growing up in Virginia, but the City Ballet School of American Ballet was already on her radar because no one from her dance school had yet. receive. “I was so scared to try it, and then I did and I joined,” she said. “I was thinking, maybe I should go – as if I was the only one who got in.”
After that summer course, she was invited to stay for the year. In 2000, Reichlen became an apprentice, and in 2001, as a member of the ballet troupe, where even dancing in the last row she became a standout. She’s tall – about 5 feet 9 inches – which has led to her being cast in many coveted Balanchine roles: the tall girl in “Rubies,” the glittering lead in “Diamonds,” as well as in “Firebird.” , “Symphony in C” and “The Prodigal Son”
But she is rare: Despite her height, she can dance. Jonathan Stafford, artistic director of City Ballet, said: “We always say that Tess has the best conversation in the company. “She will fly through the air. I would joke with her that I didn’t get a chance to be with her.”
One of his favorite memories of dancing with her is when she hit the stage in Balanchine’s “Firebird” at the last minute in 2007.
She had about an hour and a half to study the entire ballet. “She knows every phrase, she just doesn’t know the order,” Stafford said. “She would look at me on stage during the performance, and I would say the first step of the next phrase and she would go into it and make it absolutely right.”
Stafford will also miss her as a human being. As an officer with the American Association of Musical Artists, or AGMA, she fought for dancers’ rights; When Stafford took over as artistic director of City Ballet, in 2019, he counted on her as a board of directors. “I would call someone at random at any time of day and be like, ‘I need your advice?'”
One of Reichlen’s most impressive moments on stage was speaking, not dancing. That’s after a photo sharing scandal, which comes shortly after the company’s longtime leader, Peter Martins, has left amid allegations of sexual harassment and verbal and physical abuse. (He denies the accusations.) Reichlen reads a speech she wrote to Adrian Danchig-Waring, another lead dancer. It begins: “We will not put art before conventional decency or allow talent to shake our moral compass.”
Whelan, who likened Reichlen in that moment to the Statue of Liberty, said speech felt seismic. It was as if she had pushed away a cloud and signaled “the beginning of a new hope, a new path ahead,” Whelan said. “It makes people rethink the old and how we need to change all the parts that have been tied together for so long. She broke it off. ”
Reichlen said she had never been so nervous in her life. “I feel like that defines me more than I dance in a weird way,” she said. “It’s more like that’s my personality than a ballerina.”
She wanted to join AGMA because she was frustrated with a lot of things at City Ballet. “It’s just the only way I can see to fix things or try to fix things,” she said. “When I first started working, we used to get our daily schedule at 7:30 p.m. before that. Is crazy. Its madness. So that’s one of my proudest achievements – we get our schedule a day and a half in advance now. ”
But regardless of how important her career has been and how important it is, Reichlen almost left the company during her solo career. “I did the same things over and over again,” she said. “I was very restless and really unhappy.”
She decided to stick around for a year or so and keep going – she was also a student at Barnard College, majoring in biology. “I just said like, OK, you better have fun, you’re just going to do this for a year or so,” she said. “I tried to let go a little bit. And then there was a bunch of injuries, so suddenly I was dancing a lot, and then I was happy.” In 2009, she was promoted to principal; including her apprenticeship, she has been with the company for 22 years.
Now, as her performance days are passing, she says: “It’s strange that there’s only a finite amount of weapons left. I’m trying not to pressure myself and being nice to myself over the past few weeks. I’m trying to act like, you’re a good dancer. You look great. ”
And she’s excited about her future at Shrine, which will open a branch in Los Angeles over the summer. In our video interview, she sits under a painting by Sanford Darling; then she took her laptop to see some other work in their apartment:”Hawkins Bolden really my favorite,” she said of the self-taught, blind artist as she aimed the camera at “Untitled (the scarecrow),,” made with a metal wheelbarrow, a garden hose, and wires. “Arrive direct with these pieces? I used to think that was crazy. But when you live with them, they feel this really fun life. “
She also enjoys getting to know artists and “watching success happen and knowing you can be a small part of making it happen,” she says. “My husband said, ‘Wait until you have your first sale, you’ll feel great. You get an adrenaline rush. ‘ I was like, ‘Ohso it’s like a show. ”’
But before she can begin her new life, her breakup performance is looming.
It would be “typical Tess style: low key,” says Stafford. “During the ceremonies, she didn’t want the bouquet. She just wants single roses, and she doesn’t want it to be a parade of all the main dancers who feel like they have to. She just wants anyone who wants to give her a rose. And she will happily accept it. “
He added, “She’s pretty popular. I imagine a bunch of dancers would want to do that. “
Apparently, this made Reichlen nervous. “I really enjoy dancing,” she said. “The recognition and the compliments just make me feel very uncomfortable. And in the past in retirement, when I was with them, the whole time I thought, this is my worst nightmare.” Well, maybe not her the worst nightmare – she stopped, clearly in pain.
“That’s not me,” she said. “I am the dancer standing in the back corner of the studio. Obviously I love being on stage, but it’s funny: I’d be happy if the curtain came down and we didn’t have to bow.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/17/arts/dance/teresa-reichlen-retiring-from-new-york-city-ballet.html A City Ballet Star bids farewell to ‘The Life of a Crazy Ballerina’