The world of a professional dancer includes the glamour of performance, the tedious memorization of complex choreography and diligence from an early age.
A window into this world will open up to the Vassar community Saturday, Nov. 8 when NYC Ballet principal dancers Sara Mearns and Jared Angle will perform at the Frances Daly Fergusson Dance Theater in Kenyon Hall. They will be performing two pieces at 7 p.m. and host a Q&A session afterward.
Even though its reputability may seem insurmountable, the proximity of Vassar to New York City is one of the reasons that this event is able to take place. John Meehan, Professor of Dance on the Frances D. Fergusson Chair and Chair of Dance at Vassar, said, “The Dance Department [organized this event]. We’re so close to NYC, we have this absolutely world class facility and dance theater so it’s the perfect opportunity to put the two things together. We have world class performers from NYC and I believe it’s created a lot of interest on campus because reservations are pretty heavy.”
Mearns and Angle’s closeness in age to undergrads positions them as relatable figures for students, especially those also studying dance. Meehan said, “What’s going to be interesting is that they’re not too much older than Vassar students. They had to face, as they were in their late teens, many of the same questions that people in high school were feeling: What am I going to do with my life?”
Mearns had to answer this question early on in order to become the successful dancer that she is today. Mearns wrote in an emailed statement, “In ballet, you have to decide at a very young age if you want to make this a career, that means at 13 years old. You try to get into the best schools in the country which will then hopefully be exposing you to the directors of major ballet companies which will in turn hire you at age 17. It takes the effort of your parents and teachers to provide the best training possible for you to succeed. You take advantage of every opportunity such as summer programs, master classes, schooling, and in my case, financial aid to further you at a young age.”
Mearns continued, “My background from an early age is mostly ballet. But I have also studied tap, jazz and musical theater. I studied in South Carolina, in both Columbia and Greenville, Charlotte, North Carolina, and finally New York for 14 years. My mom put me in ballet class at age three.”
Angle and Mearns have been able to work together for some time now due to their positions in NYC Ballet. Meehan said, “Sara Mearns and Jared Angle are two principal dancers at New York City Ballet. New York City Ballet is one of the two major American ballet companies and it’s based in New York City. Jared and Sara have danced together quite a lot and have a wonderful partnership. Sara is considered one of the most important ballerinas dancing today. The New York Times has called her one of the premier dancers of her generation. Certainly, she’s extremely well-thought of. And when [Jared and Sara] dance together, they have a truly amazing partnership.”
This closeness between Mearns and Angle have allowed them to feel comfortable while dancing together. Mearns wrote, “It’s always a dream and thrill ride to dance alongside Jared. He is one the best partners in ballet so I always know I am in good hands. I can be and do what I feel within reason and he will be right there with me. It never feels like work with him.”
The event this Saturday will include a full program featuring two performances, distinct in style, that showcase the performers’ range of talents. Meehan said, “They’re doing two dances, one is the pas de deux from Swan Lake, and the other is the slow movement from a ballet by Peter Martins called Barber Violin Concerto.”
This event will be the first time that Mearns will be performing in front of an audience like this one. Mearns wrote, “I have not performed in this capacity before. I have been part of galas at universities but not in such an intimate setting. I am very excited for it. I love how informal and down to earth it will be. I feel I can relate really well to this type of audience.”
Sara Mearns will have the opportunity to show the Vassar community a bit of her personal style as a dancer, and perhaps even influence some of the students. Mearns wrote, “[My style is a] ballerina with a rockstar edge. I don’t take myself too seriously, but pour every ounce of passion and willingness into my art form. A bit emotional and dramatic at times, but don’t get caught up in the drama and selfishness of it all.”
Besides this event at Vassar, all of the upcoming performances at New York City Ballet will be keeping Mearns and Angle busy. Mearns wrote, “Coming up soon is Nutcracker at New York City Ballet. Soon after that in January and February is our winter season.”
Vassar dance students in particular are excited to see the performance to see what they can learn from these professional dancers. Zerlina Panush ’17, a member of Vassar’s dance group VRDT wrote in an interview, “I am excited to see NYCB principal dancers, Sarah Mearns and Jared Angle perform on the Vassar stage. The experience is truly one of a kind and I hope to garner much inspiration from their dancing.”