Here's a bit of a departure as this interview was conducted with an up and coming ballet dancer as she trains and prepares year 'round for her field of choice. She spent last summer with the Pacific Northwest Ballet and is spending this summer in person with Ballet West. Please welcome Chloe Webster!
Eclecticartszine AT gmail DOT com
(all photos provided by Gina Webster)
Eclectic Arts: Hi Chloe! How are things for you and your family over on the east coast of the US during this unprecedented time?
ChloeW: Things in North Carolina are going pretty well. We are all stuck in our houses under a Stay at Home order, which is less than desirable for a dancer, but we are making the best of things. I have enjoyed spending more time with my family, but I can’t wait to get back into a dance studio and to see my friends in person.
EA: Tell me about your background please. Were you born in North Carolina? What you were like growing up, how you got into dance, what you enjoy about dance, etc.
CW: I was born in a small town in North Carolina. I would always have to drive a good length (about an hour) to go to school and my dance classes and most other big events. When I was very little I was always skipping and dancing around the house and most everywhere my parents took me. Yes, I was that little girl twirling and doing jetes down the grocery store aisles. One time my family and I went to the fair when I was about 2 and a bluegrass band was playing there. My parents captured me on video dancing around to the bluegrass music without a care in the world. I think that is when my parents decided to put me into a summer dance camp. After that dance camp my love for dance just continued to grow. My parents enrolled me into a year round dance school. When I was 6-7 years old, I spent my first year on their competition team and then competed again with them one year after that before I made the decision that I wanted to train classically. I auditioned for UNCSA’s Preparatory Dance Program at the age of eight and was accepted. That summer I attended the summer program with Prep, and on day two I declared that “I felt at peace at the barre,” and this sensation still resonates within me today. I truly felt like ballet was what I needed to focus on to develop as a dancer. There is something so unique about ballet, having to appear as delicate and graceful as a feather while burning every muscle in your body. To me, it is a wonderful feeling. I have been training with Prep for the past six years and for the past two years I have been fortunate enough to train at the top level. This past February, I auditioned for the high school program at UNCSA, and I was accepted. Hundreds of dancers apply for this program for a handful of spots. This is where I will train for the next 4 years. This summer I plan to attend Ballet West (onsite) and ABT California (virtual).
EA: What have you had to sacrifice in order to move forward with your dance career aspirations?
CW: Yes, there have been a few things I have had to sacrifice for ballet, even at a young age, but it is never really a hard decision to choose dance though. I always feel so guilty when I miss a ballet class. Some of the things that I have given up for dance are other hobbies, sports games, school dances and socials, after school clubs (I was able to make time for Art Club and Student Government Association in middle school), and other events that were optional with school.
EA: Where or who are you currently studying with (pre pandemic and virtually now)? What can you tell me about the company, instructor?
CW: I am currently studying at UNCSA Preparatory Dance Program for my final year before attending the UNCSA high school. Currently I am training under the Direction of Susan Brooker. Susan Brooker is one of the people who helped design and write the national American Ballet Theatre Training Curriculum, and is an international ballet examiner. UNCSA was established in 1963 and is America’s first and oldest public art’s conservatory. The school (approximately 1,250 students and a world renowned faculty) includes a high school (where I will train), as well as a university. There are 5 nationally ranked schools within the conservatory: Dance, Design & Production, Drama, Filmmaking, and Music.
EA: What are your goals as a dancer? Professional ballerina with a company? Open your own studio? Some other non-ballet profession?
CW: I love to choreograph my own dances because I feel that it gives me a sense of freedom to create my own story with classical movements that I can manipulate or keep the same to best communicate my feelings, thoughts and stories to an audience. I feel that to make myself a better choreographer I need to expand my training in classical technique as well as composition. I don’t just choreograph in one style I like to combine both classical and modern aspects in my dances to give my dance more depth and a more clear message. I hope to expand the amount of female dance choreographers, because for dance to be such a female dominated art form there are far more male choreographers than female. Pointe magazine has pointed out that in major ballet companies that fewer than 10 percent of the works that were going to be performed were going to be choreographed by women and really hope that in the future I can help be a part of the change that brings more female choreographers to the dance community.
I would love to go full circle in the dance world by joining a company, climbing the ranks, then becoming a choreographer, and it would be truly amazing if after all of that I could become a dance instructor and share what I have learned and keep dance moving forward.
I don’t really have a particular company that I would call my “dream company” and I am not fully committed to just ballet dominant companies, I would not be opposed to something like the Rockettes or more of a contemporary company. I am open to the opportunities life may offer as I continue to train and explore.
EA: It's kind of funny but I don't remember how we got connected on social media. It may have been through the Pacific Northwest Ballet or perhaps we liked the same post? I'm old so my memory fails me on a regular basis ;) I'm sorry we didn't get to meet in person last summer but what can you tell me about your experience studying/living here in Seattle last summer? Good things, not so good things, etc.
CW: I loved every bit of last summer between the excitement of being at PNB, one of the most amazing ballet companies in the world, and the beautiful scenery and city community of Seattle. It was incredible all around. The food in Seattle was simply amazing and there were endless things to do. Every day, I woke up and looked to see if “the mountain was out.” I found that I was always taking photos and wanting to do dance pictures because the architecture and nature scenes were stunning and inspirational. From the top of the Space Needle to the edge of waterfront at Alki Beach to the bustling fun of Pike Place Market to the rural wonders of Vashon Island, I enjoyed every angle and adventure offered during our time in Seattle. I also enjoyed traveling to see Mount Rainier upclose and to various waterfalls and interesting, quirky places (like the gum wall and the Fremont Troll). I loved all of the faculty members at PNB. The growth that I made there was tremendous. Every teacher I had there had a new perspective to offer, and to be honest there was not anything I would change about last summer -- except maybe to make it last forever.
EA: What are your current summer dance plans (subject to change of course due to the pandemic)?
CW: Originally, I was planning to attend Ballet West’s summer intesive for five weeks in Salt Lake City Utah, and then fly out to California and attend American Ballet Theatre’s summer intensive with one of my good friends from UNCSA Prep, who I will be going to the high school program with next year at UNCSA. Now due to the pandemic, I will be attending the ABT intensive online, but at the moment Ballet West is planning to hold their intensive in person with extensive safety precautions.
EA: What do you like the most about dance?
CW: I dance to convey a story or a message to an audience and to share an art with the world so people can continue to be inspired and keep the world moving forward with innovation and creation. I choreograph to convey my own experiences, thoughts, ideas, and stories through my own movements based off of basic technique.
EA: Thank you so much for taking the time to do the interview!
CW: Thank you for interviewing me. I enjoyed an opportunity to think back about my dance journey and share my experiences with you.