A City Ballet Star Bids Farewell to the ‘Crazy Ballerina Life’

A Metropolis Ballet Star Bids Farewell to the ‘Loopy Ballerina Life’

New York Metropolis Ballet’s fall season got here and went, and if Teresa Reichlen was being sincere with herself, she wasn’t feeling it. This was regarding. What sort of dancer wasn’t itching to carry out after 18 months off the stage?

“I had a couple of reveals that had been great and felt like they’ve at all times felt,” she mentioned, however “I used to be struggling slightly bit. Everybody was so, so, so excited to be again and I simply wasn’t at that degree.”

An damage stored her from performing in “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker.” One evening in December as she performed on the ground together with her son, Ozzie, now 11 months old, she mentioned a thought crossed her thoughts: “I needs to be on the theater performing proper now, however I wouldn’t wish to not be right here with Ozzie at evening.”

At that second, she knew what to do. “I’ve had the loopy ballerina life,” she mentioned. “I’ve traveled everywhere in the world. I’ve had the loopy schedule, danced till 11:30 each evening. I beloved it. I’ve by no means simply been a traditional individual earlier than, in order that’s form of thrilling to me.”

On Feb. 19, Reichlen will dance her farewell efficiency in Balanchine’s one-act “Swan Lake” earlier than shifting on to her subsequent profession: director of Shrine, a Decrease East Facet gallery with a deal with outsider and self-taught artists that her husband, Scott Ogden, opened in 2016.

If Reichlen is matter-of-fact offstage, the type of one who doesn’t undergo fools, onstage she is mysterious, understated, distant. Wendy Whelan, Metropolis Ballet’s affiliate creative director and a former principal, mentioned that her husband, the artist and photographer David Michalek, calls Reichlen one of many firm’s Hitchcock blondes. This season she even introduced a touch of Grace Kelly to the Stripper position in Balanchine’s “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” — elegant, realizing and slightly sly as she sliced her lengthy legs into the air.

“She’s obtained this underrated glamour that pops out, and also you’re similar to, ‘Whoa: have a look at these legs, have a look at that physique,’” Whelan mentioned. “She’s obtained unbelievable facility, and she will form it in so many alternative methods: angular, curvy, classical, modern.”

Russell Janzen, one in all her companions and a pal, calls her selfless, the form of dancer who places the ballet first. “There’s a little little bit of a cool detachment,” he mentioned. “It’s not judgmental. Typically it’s amused, which I believe is absolutely enjoyable, particularly when it’s a kind of works the place it’s so in her wheelhouse — it means that you can benefit from the choreography together with her.”

Reichlen, 37, has been dancing so long as she will keep in mind. She didn’t know a lot about Balanchine, a founding father of Metropolis Ballet, when she was rising up in Virginia, however the Metropolis Ballet-affiliated Faculty of American Ballet was on her radar as a result of nobody from her dance faculty had ever been accepted. “I used to be form of scared to check out for it, after which I did and I obtained in,” she mentioned. “I used to be like, I ought to most likely go — like I’m the one individual that has gotten in.”

After that summer season course, she was invited to remain for the yr. In 2000, Reichlen grew to become an apprentice and in 2001, a member of the corps de ballet, the place even dancing within the final row, she was a standout. She’s tall — round 5 ft 9 inches — which has led to her being forged in lots of coveted Balanchine roles: the tall woman in “Rubies,” the glittering lead in “Diamonds,” in addition to in “Firebird,” “Symphony in C” and “Prodigal Son”

However she is uncommon: Regardless of her top, she will leap. “We at all times mentioned Tess had the very best saut de chat within the firm,” Jonathan Stafford, Metropolis Ballet’s creative director, mentioned of the massive leap. “She would fly by the air. I’d joke together with her that I had no probability subsequent to her.”

One in all his favourite reminiscences of dancing together with her is when she was thrown onstage in Balanchine’s “Firebird” at the last minute in 2007.

She had round an hour and a half to study the whole ballet. “She knew each phrase, she simply didn’t know the order,” Stafford mentioned. “She would have a look at me onstage through the efficiency, and I’d say step one of the subsequent phrase and she or he would simply go into it and get it utterly proper.”

Stafford goes to overlook her as an individual, too. As an officer on the American Guild of Musical Artists, or A.G.M.A., she fought for dancers’ rights; when Stafford took over as Metropolis Ballet’s creative director, in 2019, he relied on her as a sounding board. “Who am I going to name randomly any time of day and be like, ‘I would like your recommendation?’”

One in all Reichlen’s most spectacular moments onstage concerned talking, not dancing. It was after a photo-sharing scandal, which had come simply after the resignation of the corporate’s longtime chief, Peter Martins, who left amid allegations of sexual harassment and verbal and bodily abuse. (He denied the accusations.) Reichlen delivered a speech that she had written with Adrian Danchig-Waring, one other principal dancer. It started: “We won’t put artwork earlier than widespread decency or permit expertise to sway our ethical compass.”

Whelan, who likened Reichlen in that second to Girl Liberty, mentioned the speech felt seismic. It was as if she had pushed away a cloud and signaled “the beginning of a brand new hope, a brand new manner ahead,” Whelan mentioned. “It made all people rethink the previous and the way we have to shift all these elements which have been cemented in place for therefore lengthy. She cracked it open.”

Reichlen mentioned she had by no means been so nervous in her life. “I really feel like that defines me greater than my dancing in a bizarre manner,” she mentioned. “Like that’s extra my character than ballerina.”

She wished to be concerned with A.G.M.A. due to frustration with loads of issues at Metropolis Ballet. “It was simply the one manner I may see to make things better or attempt to make things better,” she mentioned. “After I first obtained in, we used to get our every day schedule at 7:30 p.m. the night earlier than. Which is insane. It’s insane. In order that’s one in all my proudest achievements — we get our schedule a day and a half prematurely now.”

However regardless of how vital her profession has been on- and offstage, Reichlen nearly left the corporate throughout her time as a soloist. “I used to be doing the identical issues over and over,” she mentioned. “I used to be terribly stressed and actually sad.”

She determined to stay round for a yr or so and to proceed with faculty — she was additionally a scholar a Barnard Faculty, finding out biology. “I used to be similar to, OK, you higher have enjoyable, you’re solely going to do that for one more yr or so,” she mentioned. “I attempted to let go slightly bit. After which additionally there have been a bunch of accidents, so rapidly I used to be dancing quite a bit, after which I used to be joyful.” In 2009, she was promoted to principal; together with her apprenticeship, she’s been with the corporate 22 years.

Now, together with her performing days winding down, she mentioned: “It’s weird having a finite quantity of dancing left. I’m making an attempt to not put stress on myself and to be form to myself in these previous few weeks. I’m making an attempt to simply be like, you’re a very good dancer. You look nice.”

And he or she’s enthusiastic about her future at Shrine, which is opening a Los Angeles department in summer season. Throughout our video interview, she sat below a portray by Sanford Darling; later she grabbed her laptop computer for a tour of a number of the different works that fill their condominium: “Hawkins Bolden is definitely my favourite,” she mentioned of the blind, self-taught artist as she aimed the digicam at “Untitled (scarecrow),” fabricated from metallic wheelbarrow, backyard hose and wire. “To stay with these items? I used to suppose it was loopy. However if you stay with them, they form of tackle this life that’s actually joyful.”

She has additionally beloved attending to know artists and “to observe the success occur and know that you simply had been perhaps a small a part of serving to that occur,” she mentioned. “My husband’s like, ‘Wait til you’ve gotten your first sale, you’re going to really feel wonderful. You get an adrenaline rush.’ I used to be like, ‘Oh, so it’s form of like performing.”’

However earlier than she will start her new life, her farewell efficiency is looming.

It will likely be “typical Tess trend: low key,” Stafford mentioned. “In the course of the bows, she doesn’t need bouquets. She simply desires single roses, and she or he doesn’t need it to be a parade of all of the principal dancers who really feel like they should do it. She simply desires anybody who desires to present her a rose to present her a rose. And he or she’ll gladly settle for it.”

He added, “She’s fairly standard. I think about a bunch of dancers are going to wish to do it.”

Clearly, this stresses Reichlen out. “I simply actually get pleasure from dancing,” she mentioned. “The popularity and the pouring on of reward simply makes me really feel very uncomfortable. And in retirements previously, once I’m at them, the entire time I’m considering, that is my worst nightmare.” Properly, perhaps not her worst nightmare — she paused, clearly agonized.

“It’s not me,” she mentioned. “I’m the dancer who stands within the again nook of the studio. I get pleasure from being onstage, clearly, however it’s humorous: I’d be joyful if the curtain got here down and we didn’t should bow.”

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