Interview with Ballet San Jose's Preston Dugger
by Francis Timlin and Dean Speer
We met backstage with one of the newest additions to Ballet San Jose, the energetic and affable Preston Dugger, prior to the rise of the curtain on Dennis Nahat’s “Romeo and Juliet” in which he would be dancing the role of Benvolio.
Due the short amount of time for a face-to-face interview, we continued and concluded our conversation through the use of modern technology. Here’s a summary of those conversations.
How did you get started in ballet? Tell us about your journey from the East Coast to the West.
I grew up in Washington, D.C. and attended a performing arts magnet school – Thomas G. Pullen – where there were classes in the arts, sports. I found a dance class at age 14 and didn’t like it at first, but really liked the attention I got from performing.
I went on to study at Washington Ballet and at Dance Institute of Washington which had a teacher on staff who was a former principal with Dance Theatre of Harlem. I was also able to take advantage of a weekend residency program that DTH had at The Kennedy Center.
Arthur Mitchell offered me a spot in DTH’s Summer Program and later asked me to go to Spain with the company – I was hired within a year as a member of the corps de ballet. It was an exciting and heady time for me – just a new, young dancer. We toured to China and Australia.
Naturally, I was upset by the folding of DTH and went to BalletMet in Columbus, Ohio where I got to do classical work. However, a family situation forced me to leave and three months later, Lowell Smith suggested I contact Karen Brown, the Artistic Director of Oakland Ballet, as he had heard she was looking for a dancer.
She asked me to send her my résumé and a video, which I worked hard to do. When I flew out to audition, it was with a one-way ticket. I really needed this job! [Laughs.]
What were some of your experiences there?
I got to work with some great choreographers and be in some really good ballets. Working with Donald McKayle for example, and learning the historic “Les Biches” and dancing in “Peter and the Wolf.”
I knew our contracts were over in December and started looking around. I took class at BSJ and am very happy that I’ve been taken on by Mr. Nahat. It’s been a little nerve-wracking. [Laughs.] I’ve been in the company since January.
As a dancer, what kind of repertory do you like and what do you think best suits you artistically?
I like both the classical and contemporary works. I’m up for anything, but particularly like contemporary works.
All dancers and performing artists are continually working to improve ourselves. What are some of your short-term and long-term goals?
I like to move big but have to be reminded not to pump it out so fast and hard – to be softer and more refined. After all, I shouldn’t be standing out all the time, especially in a corps of six other men.
It’s been great to see so many more boys and young men aspire to ballet. What might you say to them?
Dancing can be an opportunity – if you put your mind to it, you can get there! I didn’t at first think of myself as a role model until one Kennedy Center residency performance, where I found younger boys looked up to me, even though I was only 20 or 21.
What are some of your interests outside of ballet?
I like to read, I use my computer. I’m currently working on a BFA through the LEAP program. I feel strongly that I need my education – dance can be a fleeting career.
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