Oh good Fortuna! The weekend of Nashville Ballet’s performance of Carmina Burana at the Touhill is finally upon us. The 40 visiting dancers will be joined by 60 musicians in a full orchestra and 120 singers from the following local organizations: University of Missouri-St. Louis Orchestra & Singers, Bach Society of Saint Louis and St. Louis Children’s Choir.I’ve been dreaming of this weekend since Dance St. Louis debuted the ‘Powerhouse Season’ teaser video (the one that plays before the start of every show) and the popular Carl Orff score has been stuck in my head ever since. I had the great fortun(a) of speaking with one of the performers in anticipation of the big show and I was sorely tempted to ask every question in the melody of the well-known music. (Do….You…like Dance!? Why!….do you Like Dance!) But I contained myself. Instead, the talented Brett Sjoblom and I talked about dance beginnings, habits,and what keeps the wheel of fortune spinning.
JR: What are your earliest dance memories and what drew you in?
BS: I didn’t start dancing until I was thirteen (JR- Oh wow, that’s late!) and I did it to become more active. I didn’t play sports growing up. My Mom enlisted me for Ballroom dance lessons (I think he said WITH her, but don’t quote me on that, my tape’s a little fuzzy) and I found that I had an easy time of picking things up. From there, I transitioned over to jazz, hip-hop, and ballet.
JR: How did the community and your family play a role in your dance? Were they supportive?
BS: Family was, yes. I think it was hard, being from Missouri (he grew up in Colombia) where the emphasis is largely placed on sports. I lost friends that didn’t understand, I was bullied and made fun of. After three years of that, I ended up attending Virginia School of the Arts. (Small world, one of his old teachers- Jennifer Medina- is my current artistic Director!)
JR:Has your love of dance changed over time as you have moved from student to professional?
BS: I have, since I started, felt that I was made to do it. Dancing has helped my confidence. I enjoy the physicality of it, as well as the acting side. In dance, you can act beyond your limits without even using words.
JR: What is the best part/ most challenging part about life as a dancer?
BS: I really love the hours in the studio, that extended period of time to push your body and the endless hours of being fit. On the other side, I enjoy the chance to express. While at Boston Conservatory, I really got to develop my artistic senses and now love the opportunities to utilize both sides of being a performer. I think a challenge is keeping the bosses and the higher powers happy and worrying about that.
JR: What are the most important aspects of your professional life that you need to feel fulfilled?
BS: I am a person that likes clear direction, especially from a choreographer. I want to be able to dig into the movement so I value clarity while figuring out the physicality. I think part of my draw to dance is the challenge so I look for places that will provide me with that challenge but also the freedom to make it your own, artistically. I feel like I was often told how I was supposed to feel in dance. A definitive moment for me came while doing a piece at Boston by Ohad Naharin where I had to choreograph a section myself and I really understood letting go and letting things happen naturally.
JR: What is the best aspect and biggest challenge about performing in Carmina Burana?
BS: Again, the physicality. It’s a marathon. I’m only in five or six sections while it’s really non-stop for some of the other dancers. It can be really hard to maintain artistry when you’re dead tired. But everything about it, the subject matter, the music, it’s so powerful that you have to go all out, you can’t give less than everything.
JR: Do you have any pre-show rituals?
BS: I have to stretch my hamstrings for a good twenty minutes. They always require that extra attention. I like to keep calm before a show, center my breath, and don’t get too excited too far in advance.
JR: What about winding down afterwards?
BS: The minute the curtain goes down, I’m the person jumping up and down and hugging everyone.
JR: What is fun or not-so-fun about bringing a show like this on the road?
BS: Well, we have a show the weekend before so we’re going on the road already a little burnt out. We’ll already be tired but it always gives you that extra boost of energy to be in a new environment.
JR: Are you looking forward to performing in your home-state? Does that change how you feel going into a show where you know people in the audience?
BS: It gives you an entirely new confidence to have supporters out there. I am really looking forward to it, I have twenty-six family members coming to see the performance.
Twenty six-family members and at least one extra fan out there. Many thanks to Brett for taking the time to speak with me and share a little of his words. I hope that I heard them all correctly, unlike this video featuring the music of Carmina Burana and all the wrong lyrics.
Now that’s singing my tune. See you all in the theatre! xo-jess
Extra info on the show and tickets: