Rebecca King was born and raised in Northern California. Ms. King received her ballet training from former San Francisco Ballet School Director Richard Cammack, former ABT and SFB dancer Zola Dishong, and former Royal Swedish Ballet dancer Katarina Wester at Contra Costa Ballet Centre in Walnut Creek, CA. Her senior year in high school, she attended The Rock School in Philadelphia. After graduating in 2006, Ms. King moved to Miami to train at Miami City Ballet School. Ms. King was offered a Company Apprentice contract for Miami City Ballet’s 2007-2008 season, and was promoted to Corps De Ballet in 2008.
Q. How did you get interested in ballet?
A. My mom and I were walking past a ballet studio when I was about three. I saw all the girls come out in their ballet clothes, and I said, “Mom, I want to do that.” So she enrolled me and that was it really. No looking back. I trained at a couple of small schools in the East Bay of San Francisco. Then I went to San Francisco Ballet School for two summer programs, which was a wonderful experience for me. For my senior year of high school, I went to the Rock School in Philadelphia.
Q. How did you end up in Miami?
A. I actually ended up having surgery after my year in Philadelphia. I had what’s called an os trigonum, an extra bone in the heel of the foot, which is very common and many dancers have the procedure. It takes three or four months to recover. Since I had auditioned for Miami City Ballet School a few months before my surgery, I emailed the school’s Director, Linda Villella, asking if I could attend MCB’s year round program. She said yes and placed me in the advanced level. I ended up recovering here with MCB’s great physical therapists. I performed The Nutcracker with the Company that year, as well as Giselle, and Balanchine’s Symphony in Three Movements. The next year I joined the company as an Apprentice.
Q. You went to the Rock School, a prestigious dance school. Do you think that’s necessary or very helpful in terms of making it into one of the major companies?
A. A lot of the dancers in this company went to very prestigious schools for much of their high school careers. There is something about being thrust into a professional atmosphere, which is somewhat of a wakeup call. All of a sudden you find yourself surrounded by a lot of really talented dancers: it can be very intimidating. I feel that element of the professional school is very important.
Q. When you go to a prestigious ballet school is there a relationship between the Artistic Director of the Rock School, for instance, and the Artistic Directors of the major ballet companies, so that if the school director says, “she’s a really good dancer. You should take her or really look at her carefully “ you will get a closer than if you came from a less well-known school.
A. That can happen, yes. Dancers can ask for letters of recommendation from their schools, to be submitted with a resume.
Q. Now you just performed in Giselle. Did you have a corps role in that?
A. Yes, I was a villager in the first act and a Willie in the second act.
Q. A lot of the corps work is on the sides being very still.
A. Standing, yes.
Q. Not even looking at the stage. It must be extremely annoying.
A. It comes with the territory.
Q. We always think of ballet schools training dancers to dance. Do they train you like a mime in how to be still for a long time?
A. That is something you focus on more in a company than in school. In company rehearsal we’ll work on the specifics; how to stand, where we’re looking, what our intentions are, and being in a straight line, those sorts of things. We don’t stand on the side in character every rehearsal.
Q. A classical ballet usually requires the whole Company and maybe extra dancers from the school but the corps parts aren’t as interesting. Whereas modern ballets generally require less people but those who do dance, are always doing something more interesting. It’s a trade-off. Do you have a preference?
A. Each is a special experience and there are always things that you find to work on. In a classical ballet, there are different elements to focus on, than say George Balanchine’s Ballet Imperial, which we recently performed. The cast of Ballet Imperial is likely the same size as the cast of Giselle, but Balanchine really challenged every single dancer on stage with his choreography. There is so much for the corps to do. That’s something that’s really special for us to be a part of. In something like Giselle, it is a different kind of challenge for us. There are those other elements, like a character role, which requires a lot of acting. Giselle’s mad scene is a great acting challenge for the principals and corps alike. In the studios we work on how important it is for the villagers to respond to what is happening in the appropriate way. So yes, classical ballets and neo-classical ballets present different challenges for the corps.
Q. In the second act in Giselle, there’s the Willis. Is that more difficult?
A. It is more difficult. Since we are wearing long white tulle tutus, everything is magnified. We have to move in such unison, be in perfect formations, move our heads at exactly the same time, and make sure our arms are the same height. Everyone onstage has to be constantly aware of each person around them. Working on choreography like this is really important for a dancer’s growth as a Corps de Ballet member.
Q. The Miami City Ballet dances in a few different places. Does that change in terms of the lines in a ballet like Giselle?
A. Well, it will change a bit because the stages are slightly different sizes.
Q. Do you like more modern dances or more classical?
A. I definitely like more modern things, but I very much appreciate the classics. I remember growing up watching Giselle on video over and over again. So it’s really cool to be out there on stage, doing a part I always wanted to do since I was a little girl. However, I definitely enjoy the challenge of Balanchine ballets. Here in the company, we get to do a lot of different things, which is really enjoyable for us as dancers.
Q. Now you also just returned from Paris.
Q. Was that your first trip there?
A. It was my first trip.
Q. So that must’ve been a tremendous fantasy going with the Ballet Company to Paris.
A. It’s funny, because I would say it is a tremendous fantasy, but it honestly never even occurred to me that it could ever happen. It was such a great experience. I will look back on it forever with such fond memories.
Q. Do you have any kind of adventures, any kind of fun things that kind of stick out?
A. Oh my gosh, we did a lot of great things. When we were there, we were so much more than tourists. We were working and living there; so it had this great dynamic. The best part was interacting with the Parisians through our performances. They showed us so much love and enthusiasm through their applause each night. We will never forget that.
Q. Now, you have your own website.
A. I do.
Q. And it’s an excellent website. And actually there’s a question that I think you deal with a little bit on your website. It’s one of the things I’ve noticed about professional ballet rehearsals. They’re not usually very impressive.
A. Yes, that’s true.
A. There’s always something magical that happens on stage. So, yes, we will take it easy in some rehearsals once we are comfortable with a piece. Then, when we get on the stage with the lights, the costumes, and the audience, it becomes a lot easier to project and let your face reflect the way you’re feeling.
Q. Another thing I’ve noticed is that all their student lives dancers have to wear uniforms but when they finally join a company, it’s like a badge of status that they can wear wild outfits and raggedy clothes.
A. Definitely. I remember when I joined the company, I loved planning my outfit for the day. I’ll never miss having to wear a school uniform. But it’s true, we wear our rags.
Q. Why did you decide to start your website? You already have a blog on the Miami City Ballet website.
A. Yes, I’ve been working a little bit with Miami City Ballet’s social media team and contributing to their blog, which has been a really fun experience for me. My website is its own separate entity. I think the Internet offers a unique venue to discuss different elements of the ballet. People are fascinated by our art form and I think ballet blogs are a way to get people involved, get them interested, get them to attend the ballet, and give them a deeper understanding of what they are seeing. There’s so much more involved than what a new audience member might think. Being able to educate curious audience members is just wonderful. Dancers haven’t been able to do this until now. Toni Bentley wrote a book called Winter Season, which was her version of today’s blog.
Q. Yes, totally.
A. I’ve been really overwhelmed by the response I’ve gotten from my website. I’ve been able to connect with so many people around the world, who are really interested in ballet. It’s wonderful!
Q. One of the most interesting things you deal with on your website is partnering. And you did it with a male dancer/blogger from Europe.
A. Yes, Henrik Lamark from Tights and Tiaras (http://www.tightsandtiaras.com/).
Q. So how did you two get together?
A. He contacted me. I had found his blog and we were corresponding through Twitter. He said he was trying to write a blog post about partnering, but he needed a girl’s perspective. We collaborated to create two informational partnering articles. He was really great to work with and the response from our readers was wonderful.
Q. It’s an excellent piece.
A. Thank you. It was very successful and we hope to collaborate more in the future.
Q. While you dealt with lots of partnering issues, one you didn’t deal with is what if the guy you’re partnering with is your ex-boyfriend?
A. That does happen.
Q. I know.
A. I don’t know exactly what that would be like personally but we are all serious about our work and I expect the two would act professionally. We just want to do our jobs well.
Q. One of the lines you mentioned in your blog is that “I’m always careful talking to a guy who’s going to be holding me seven feet in the air.”
A. Absolutely! It’s definitely important to keep communicating and stay positive with the men in the company. Partnering experiences usually end up being really fun, as you grow together as friends.
Q. In the Miami City Ballet Giselle I saw the performance where Jennifer Kronenberg is dancing with her husband. I would think in a marital relationship that could be great or very tense.
A. They work very well together and are an audience favorite. It’s so fun to watch them work on roles like that; it’s like watching their own little love story. It’s great to see.
Q. Where would you like your blog to go? It seems like you have a second career burgeoning out.
A. Yes. It’s very cool. It’s developed into something that could be a second career. Right now I want to continue to grow my readership numbers. Having my own blog will help me with future career endeavors.
Q. Another interesting thing you mentioned in your website is timing and speed and how you have to adapt with live orchestras and recordings?
A. We met that challenge recently during Liam Scarlett’s piece, Viscera. We had been rehearsing to a recording of the music that was very speedy, which we got really used to. When we got to the theater, Liam told the Maestro that he wanted the music to be slower throughout the whole piece, which felt like a shock! With time, we realized why Liam wanted it to be slower. It was great to see how the ballet could have two different feelings with a quicker or a slower tempo, a very stark comparison for us.
Q. Do any of the dancers ever talk to the Maestro about things like tempo?
A. Gary Sheldon is our Maestro and he is wonderful. He often has a dialogue with the principals about tempos; there’s a lot of communication with him on that level. He really works to foster a personal relationship with each dancer of the company. We all really enjoy him.
Q. Did the Maestro come with you to Paris?
A. Yes, he was in Paris with us and he comes to all the different venues.
Q. Do you have any advice for young dancers?
A. It’s funny because I do hear from young dancers who tell me their parents don’t see professional ballet as a viable career path. It’s hard to hear that when I know these dancers just love ballet. I think it’s so important for these young girls and boys to understand that a professional career is possible; it’s very fulfilling and can bring success. I deal with this topic in one of my most recent blog posts: ttp://tendusunderapalmtree.com/2012/03/breaking-into-a-career-in-ballet.html
Q. Any books or movies that you recommend?
A. Winter Season is a great book that I would definitely recommend. I also recently read Jacques D’Amboise’s book, I Was A Dancer. Allegra Kent’s book, I Used to Be a Dancer is also wonderful. Right now I am reading Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear: Inside the Land of Ballet, a new book by Stephen Manes, whom I interviewed on my blog (http://tendusunderapalmtree.com/2012/01/an-interview-with-stephen-manes-author-of-where-snowflakes-dance-and-swear-inside-the-land-of-ballet.html.). Snowflakes is an inside look into Pacific Northwest Ballet. Manes was a writer for Forbes magazine before he decided to write this book about ballet.
A. So Peter Boal, the Director of Pacific Northwest Ballet, gave him full access to explore PNB for a year. He wrote this book where he observes our world as an outsider. It’s very fascinating.
To check out Rebecca King on Miami City Ballet’s website, click here: http://www.miamicityballet.org/. To return to Ballet Connections, click on the Back Arrow in the upper left hand corner of your browser.
To check out Rebecca King’s website, click here: http://tendusunderapalmtree.com/. To return to Ballet Connections, click on the Back Arrow in the upper left hand corner of your browser.