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Roper Ropes It In

Interview with Alison Roper, Oregon Ballet Theatre

by Dean Speer and Francis Timlin
17 February 2012

We were able to sit down and have an all-too-brief visit with Oregon Principal Dancer Alison Roper on a break while they were in the midst of preparing for a new staging of the Romantic-era iconic ballet, “Giselle.”

Thanks for your time in meeting with us. It’s great to see you again and have the opportunity to talk about your role in the upcoming “Giselle.” I’d like to first hear how this version compares and contrasts with your previous experiences with earlier OBT Giselles.

We last did “Giselle” in 2003 but I had to pass on participating that time due to expecting a baby, but the last time I did do it was in 1998 when I was cast, as I am now, as Myrtha. The coaching experience I received then was so helpful. This was from our then Ballet Mistress, Sarah Slipper who is now heading Northwest Dance Project. She was so exacting and detailed – we’d spend 45 minutes and repeat many times just the chausé, grand jeté section.

I’m grateful for the coaching that I received in this early phase of my career and find that it’s really nice to return to the role. It’s interesting to return with a more mature understanding that every step has some singular meaning.

I now feel that our approach this time is that Act II is to be very calm – Myrtha is very cold but does not have to angry and vindictive – through harsh gestures. She should be more royal and commanding.

How has it been working with stager Lola de Avila?

It’s been great! I wish we had more time with her. She liked my interpretation and it was amazing that it felt as familiar as it did, considering it’s been since 1998. In her one Company class that she taught she talked a lot about fluidity and port de bras. She came for a week during the run of “Nutcracker” and now has been here for a couple of weeks. She has tried to make the ballet more organic, has coached us to be elastic in our roles and encourages us.

How are your children? What other projects are you up to?

The two boys are great! I’m setting “Like a Samba” for Trey McIntyre at Washington Ballet. It’s one I’ve done before but have only five days to stage it this time. I’m also working on “Liturgy” for Chris Wheeldon. I’ll be teaching at Artur’s [Sultanov – guest artist with OBT] school and may try my hand again at choreography. Many years ago I did two pieces – the first was fun to do and the second, not, so we’ll see.

I want to dance as long as possible, which means doing fewer performances. For example, not being cast as Giselle herself probably extended my career by a year. I see what they go through, and knowing how hard it can be on the body, am grateful.

The current makeup of the Company feels strong and the new hires are working very hard.

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