Neoclassical ballet

Philadelphia Ballet’s Charles Askegard on Balanchine’s outburst

Charles Askegard has spent his career perfecting the work of George Balanchine – first as a dancer with NYCB and now as rehearsal director for the Philadelphia Ballet. The company will present Audacious Brilliant Balanchine as part of its commitment to honor and celebrate its rich Balanchine roots. Askegard spoke about the upcoming program and his time at the Philadelphia Ballet.

Debra Danese: What part of the rehearsal process do you enjoy the most?

Charles Askegard: I love it when, after the dancers have learned everything, we are able to work together on all the details to perfect it and make it shine. After putting everything together, the result is really awesome.

NOT A WORD : What were some of the challenges in preparing for Audacious Brilliant Balanchine?

CALIFORNIA: The biggest challenge was the timing – both for the dancers and the artistic staff who staged it. The company has learned Symphony in C in 2020. Last fall, we relearned it with Entertainment No. 15 and stars and stripes, and we have been repeating since December. We had to keep the knowledge of these ballets for a long time while learning and preparing for other productions like Nutcracker, Swan Lakeand New works for a new world. The planning was difficult, but everything is going so well. These ballets are so amazing and being able to do all three is amazing.

NOT A WORD : What part of Balanchine did you prefer to play?

CALIFORNIA: When I joined New York City Ballet, I didn’t always know what roles I was going to play until I was called in for a costume fitting. One of the first fittings I was called to was at Capezio to be fitted with a pair of boots for stars and stripes. This meant that I would play the role of El Capitan, which was one of my first roles with the company. Still in first year, I performed the 2nd movement of Symphony in C and I continued to dance both roles throughout my NYCB career. For this reason, these are my two favorite roles.

NOT A WORD : Why do you think Balanchine’s work is so timeless?

CALIFORNIA: George Balanchine was really into this idea of ​​America, but he was also rooted in classical ballet. So a lot of the ballets that we do are very classical but are new, or neoclassical. They last a long time because they are rooted in it, even doing some of his most contemporary works. And of course, the choreography. Choreography when you teach it, watch it and understand its patterns is genius. It’s such a joy to dance, watch and train.

NOT A WORD : What has been the highlight of your time at the Philadelphia Ballet since joining in 2015?

CALIFORNIA: It’s hard to point to a specific thing! All in all, the highlight of my time here has been working with each of the dancers that show up and seeing them take on new opportunities and put on wonderful performances. I adore them and I am delighted to work with them, to be able to pass on my knowledge to them and to see them flourish. It was a wonderful experience to watch everyone grow and develop as artists.

Audacious Brilliant Balanchine will perform at the Academy of Music at the Kimmel Cultural Campus from March 17-20, 2022.