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Bauer Bounces Back

An Interview with Oregon Ballet Theatre's Brett Bauer

by Dean Speer and Francis Timlin

13 October 2012

We met with Oregon Ballet Theatre Principal Dancer Brett Bauer during the first weekend of their Fall program, "Body Beautiful," in the lobby of their primary performance home, the historic Keller Auditorium. Originally scheduled to dance Apollo on opening night, Mr. Bauer was sidelined due to an injury he incurred a couple of days prior. None-the-less energetic and very positive in his outlook, Bauer chatted with us about his career and his preparations for this role.

We typically like people to first tell us a bit about their background – how they got started in ballet and their journey to their current career.

When I was very young, I responded well to music. I remember watching a Michael Jackson imitator doing a moonwalk on the Mickey Mouse Club television show – and was able to replicate the moonwalk easily, impressing my mother greatly.

I joined a school that had an all-boys class at the Italian Center in Greenwich, Connecticut. It was fun but soon recognized its limitations and transferred to a larger studio with more performances – the trade off was that I was the only boy. My classes included many forms of dance, including jazz and tap. I started taking ballet – and started to really enjoy it, finding that I was always interested in the details.

At age 11 I started taking semi-private lessons with Myrtha Rosello, who is a contemporary of Alicia Alonso. The Montessori School that I attended allowed me to flex my schedule in order to take class during the day. Another one of my teachers was Laura McLean who had studied at National Ballet School of Canada, which has an in-house academic program. I moved to Toronto at age 13 and stayed there for three years (1997-2000) and then went on to the Kirov Academy in Washington, D.C. for a year. One of my principal teachers at NBoC School was Glen Gilmore, a Cecchetti influence, who was always very positive and kind. I then apprenticed with Suzanne Farrell’s company. I was young and this was my first official job.

How did you find working with her?

Suzanne is very aloof and likes to challenge people with complex combinations – that perhaps only she can do! Working with her was the right career move at the time, but we were only on two to three month contracts, so I auditioned around, including at San Francisco Ballet, where I had earlier taken a Summer Course. Helgi wanted me to train in the School for one year, and then offered me a corps contract for a year (2002).

What were some of your more memorable moments?

I was given a lot of opportunities, including Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante and partnering the great star Muriel Maffre in Nutcracker. I was truly impressed with how helpful she was She calmed and coached me to think of us as equal partners, which did work. I had great opportunities like this throughout my time there. An injury – ACL – torn meniscus in two places and was out for 13 months. I felt like I got a little lost, professionally, but got re-motivated and felt my work improved and I was given several opening night premieres.

I thought I might have stayed at SFB but in 2010, Helgi called me into his office. I thought it was going to be for a promotion but instead found that he was not renewing my contract, that he didn’t envision promoting me and that I should look for work elsewhere. I had to scramble to find the next thing and auditioned for Boston Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, and at Pacific Northwest Ballet. Kester Cotton and Kathi Martuza, whom I had known from working with them at SFB, and who were now at OBT, suggested I try OBT. I came and took class and found right away a good energy and a family-oriented, close company. It probably makes me the happiest to be in an atmosphere where everyone helps everyone succeed.

 

Tell us about your preparations for performing the iconic role of “Apollo.”

I’ve always been fascinated with “Apollo” and the legacy. It’s a hard ballet – you’re on stage the whole time, except for a brief bit – and need to show character development; how the character grows from an adolescent to a god who leads muses. Francia [Russell] came in for several rehearsals and gave many good ideas. The process has been very rewarding!

What is the prognosis for rehab and returning to performing?

I could be back for the end of the “Nutcracker” run. I definitely want to be back for “Swan Lake!”

Do you have a pre-performance ritual?

Nothing specific but I to try to take a one or two-hour nap before the performance, as I find it calms and quiets the mind.

As a role model for young, aspiring dancers, what advice might you give to young men looking at this profession?

It’s easier to get your foot in the door as a male dancer. There is a need to be self-driven as there are fewer competitors. It’s easy to get complacent. Men need to be as dedicated as the women in order to keep the energy flowing in the same direction.

Any hobbies? What might some of your interests be outside of the ballet?

I’m fascinated with astronomy. I like video games. I used to play basketball and enjoy the Portland Trailblazers.

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