Kristin Young: Dancer with Nashville Ballet 2
Photo Credit: Image courtesy of Laura Breece Photography.com 2013.
Most ballet dancers follow a certain path: Years of dedicated training, followed by auditions, with the aspiration of eventually ending up with a company contract. Then, every once in awhile, a dancer comes along who is fearless in their interpretation of the “usual,” path, someone whose dancing and training is far from the traditional role of a dancer. Meet Kristin Young: Dancer with the Nashville Ballet.
And yet, she is so much more than that, and on her road to pursuing ballet as a professional career, has managed to come as close as possible to “having it all.” After falling in love with ballet at age five, Kristin began serious training with Ballet Internationale’s Academy, dancing in children’s roles and being selected to perform in the corps de ballet of the affiliated professional company. Opting to skip her junior prom in favor of performing at the Youth America Grand Prix, Kristin placed First in the Classical Division of the Chicago regionals with her performance of Gamzatti. She took the reigns of her career yet again when she opted for a college education before embarking on company life, and graduated from the University of Oklahoma as a Ballet Performance major, which she used as a sounding board to gain experience dancing principal roles, such as Balanchine’s Divertimento No. 15. Eventually joining Nashville Ballet 2 in 2011, Kristin continues to be groundbreaking in her pursuit of her art.
Tell us about your background. What have been the highlights of your career?
I started my ballet journey at age five. In third grade, I realized ballet was my passion and began serious training with Ballet Internationale’s Academy (Indianapolis, Indiana). It was such a privilege to be in an academy affiliated with a professional company, thus allowing me to be selected to perform both children’s roles and corps de ballet roles along side the professionals. As a supplement to my ballet training, I studied modern dance under the direction of Gregory Hancock. Before my sophomore year of high school, I was one of five student dancers chosen to tour in Taipei, Taiwan with Ballet Internationale, performing The Sleeping Beauty. During my junior year of high school, I changed ballet schools and graduated from Indianapolis School of Ballet (ISB) under the direction of Victoria Lyras, a retired principal dancer with the Pennsylvania Ballet.
After deciding that I wanted a college education instead of jumping directly into a company right out of high school, I attended the University of Oklahoma, where I majored in Ballet Performance. There I performed many principal roles, including Balanchine’s Valse Fantasie during my freshman year. I also performed Aurora in Act III of The Sleeping Beauty, Snow Queen in The Nutcracker, and the lead in Carmina Burana while attending The University of Oklahoma. The highlight of my time at OU was dancing one of the principal roles in Balanchine’s Divertimento No. 15, under the staging direction of Joysanne Sidimus.
Upon graduation from college, I was a guest artist with the Tulsa Ballet in Twyla Tharp’s Push Comes to Shove. I also performed Swanhilda in Indianapolis School of Ballet’s spring performance of Coppelia.
In 2011, I joined Nashville Ballet as a member of NB2 (Nashville Ballet’s second company) where I have performed in Cinderella, Nashville’s Nutcracker, Billy the Kid, The Sleeping Beauty, Carmina Burana, and most recently Romeo & Juliet.
Ballet is growing in popularity in the Midwest. How can people continue to support the arts even in smaller cities?
The best way to support the arts is to attend performances! The dancers work tirelessly for months before a performance, and we feed off of the audience’s enthusiasm and energy. Once people experience the beauty, artistry and athleticism of the ballet, hopefully they will continue their support by a financial gift. The arts in general are not typically well funded by government or local companies and we need individuals to gift monetarily so we can continue doing the thing we do best - performing!
In your opinion, what should ballet students know about pursing a professional career?
It is a tough career choice. There is constant scrutiny from directors and instructors; we do not make much money (most dancers have second jobs); and we sacrifice our social lives for our art. But in the end, it all pays off! Your high school friends will not remember if you attended a specific birthday party or basketball game, but YOU will remember the performance experience you gained from missing that event. I missed my junior prom because I was competing in the Youth America Grand Prix New York Finals, but I would not trade that experience for anything. Not everyone can or wants to be a ballerina; it takes a unique person-one who is disciplined, perseverant, musical, and physically strong. Enjoy being that unique person because when the curtain rises and you have transformed into your “character” on stage, it makes those tough moments in class or rehearsal completely worth it!
What role do you aspire to dance?
I would love to perform the role of Gamzatti during my career. Before Ballet Internationale filed for bankruptcy in November 2005, we performed La Bayadere. The ballet has everything I love about classical ballet: a love story, drama, a large corps de ballet, and wonderful choreography! And I think it holds a special place in my heart for another reason. In 2006, I won 1st place Classical in the Chicago Regionals of the Youth America Grand Prix competition where I performed one of Gamzatti’s variations. My coach was Irina Kolpakova, who is currently a ballet master at American Ballet Theater. My dream is to take on the challenge of performing Gamzatti in La Bayadere.
The dance world is moving in some interesting directions. In ten years, what would you like to see happening in the world of ballet?
I am always interested in seeing new choreographers and finding new ways to connect with the audience. I would love to see more collaboration between ballet companies and other artists whether they are musicians, painters or singers. I think having different art forms on stage simultaneously brings an interesting dimension to the performance. Nashville Ballet has collaborated with many artists, and it is fascinating to work with other professionals and learn from them. However, I will always love to perform and attend the classical ballets. In the future, we most definitely should still be performing the classics! We must do this in order to preserve history and honor to the great ballerinas and choreographers who have gone before us.