The New York City Ballet principal talks about her debut in George Balanchine’s Diamonds, her changing trajectory, and why she prefers to watch other styles of dance.
Ryan Wenzel (Rail): It’s the fifth day of the season, and you just finished your fifth performance.
Teresa Reichlen: It’s been a very busy week. I’m doing six shows this week and dancing Who Cares?, Union Jack, and Rubies.
Rail: I was disappointed not to see you dancing Concerto Barocco at the start of the season.
Reichlen: Unfortunately it’s on a triple-bill when I dance parts in all of the other ballets, and I haven’t been cast so far. It’s a juggling act. I would love to be dancing it. There’s one Barocco on the last day of the season, which I don’t know if I’ll get.
Rail: You’ve been dancing the Tall Girl in Rubies for about 10 years, and I love watching you do it. How has the way you dance it changed?
Reichlen: I have a level of comfort in that role that I don’t have in many others. I feel this special freedom when I dance it because I know the music so well, I know the steps so well, and it gives me a lot of room to play with the part. I try to do it a little bit differently every time.
Rail: Do you feel that comfort with any other roles?
Reichlen: Dewdrop in The Nutcracker. The solo girl in Agon. There are very few other roles that I’ve done for that long.
Rail: You’re about to make your debut in another section of Jewels, as the lead in Diamonds. How have rehearsals been?
Reichlen: Great! I’m with a semi-new partner, Russell Janzen. He’s very open and receptive to corrections and talking through the part. I also like someone whom I can trust onstage—someone who’s consistent. I like to know what I’m going to get when I go out there.
Rail: What has been most challenging about learning the role?
Reichlen: The aura around it. It’s one of the grand Balanchine ballerina roles, along with the second movement of Symphony in C and a few others. There are high expectations. The music is also so amazing—it’s a challenge to live up to it, and to the dancers who’ve done it before. It can be a challenge to make it your own.
Rail: How have you noticed yourself changing as a dancer?
Reichlen: Since I was promoted to principal, I’ve had a new level of comfort, which has been very nice. I’ve grown into my own skin. I’ve been trying to put less pressure on myself and enjoy myself as much as possible.
Rail: I read that you were studying biology at Barnard College, an unusual course of study for a ballerina. How is that going?
Reichlen: I’m taking a break from school right now for many reasons. I need specific courses to finish my degree, and most of those courses are offered at times that I can’t take. I always hoped and dreamed that I would be a principal, and I was never sure that would happen, so I had a vague plan to dance for a while, then stop, then go to school full time. Now that I’m a principal, I want to continue dancing for a long time, and going back to school full time doesn’t seem practical. And my workload has really picked up. When I was a soloist, I had time to dedicate to school, but now 99 percent of my energy is taken up by dancing.Rail: What ballets or roles don’t you dance but wish you did?
Reichlen: I don’t do many [Jerome] Robbins ballets, although I do a few. His ballets are so different. Balanchine ballets have become my niche—the leotard ballets, the Stravinsky ballets—and I do love those. But as I’m moving on in my career, it would be nice to try more Robbins. There are also many more Balanchine ballets that I would love to dance, like Stravinsky Violin Concerto. I’ve also never worked with Alexei Ratmansky. I would love the opportunity to work with him at some point.
Rail: What do you admire about Ratmansky’s work?
Reichlen: The atmospheres he creates. There always seems to be backstory, and I like how he incorporates unusual gestures. And his work is folksy, in a good way. There’s a tradition behind what he’s putting forth, and I like that.
Rail: When I first started watching City Ballet, I loved watching you in the steely ballerina roles—like Rubies and “Choleric” in The Four Temperaments—but have since come to appreciate your lyrical side in ballets like Vienna Waltzes. Does that style come as naturally?
Reichlen: It’s harder for me to be lyrical. For the first 10 years, I’ve been thriving in fast, jumpy, technically challenging roles. When I’m faced with an adagio, it’s a large amount of time to fill up. Moving slowly is a completely different skill set from moving quickly.
Rail: Do you watch much dance outside City Ballet?
Reichlen: Yes. I saw The Metamorphosis at the Joyce with Edward Watson and loved it. I recently saw Mark Morris’s piece [L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato] and loved it too.
Rail: I’ve noticed that some City Ballet dancers, who are so steeped in choreographers like Balanchine and Robbins, find it difficult to enjoy watching other types of movement. Is that the case for you?
Reichlen: Not at all. I actually enjoy watching it more than ballet. It’s new, and I’m fascinated by it, and I don’t know how it works. With ballet, I tend to be more critical. When I’m not familiar with it, I can sit back and enjoy.
RYAN WENZEL is Dance Editor of the Brooklyn Rail. He also writes about dance on his blog at www.rpwenzel.com. Find him on Twitter at @rpwenz.