This week we have 10 questions with Luke Willis of San Francisco Ballet….enjoy!
Luke Willis, San Francisco Ballet, Corps de Ballet
1. How did you get into ballet and what made you decide to do it for a living?
Well I’ve always danced. I remember when I was a kid my dad was always very proud because I could do any dance moves that the fly girls did when we all watched in living color together. I used to create shows with my little brother and I ended up going to an arts high school for acting. I was at Boston University still studying acting when I fell in love with ballet. I was going to every performance of the Boston Ballet I could and I started taking open adult ballet classes around the city. Eventually I enrolled in a dance minor at my university. I was given a scholarship to spend a summer at Jacob’s Pillow and two weeks later I withdrew from the university and enrolled in classes at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. Now here I am.
2. How did you wind up at San Francisco Ballet?
I sent in a video tape and Helgi asked me to come audition in person. He offered me a job after two days of taking company class.
3. What is it like to dance with the company there?
It’s fantastic. I am living my dream. The hours are long. The emotional and physical stress is difficult. But, in the end I’m doing what I love for three thousand people every night.
4. Can you share an especially great moment from your career thus far?
Hmmm, so many. I have to say I really enjoyed dancing Nicolo Fonte’s Left Unsaid in Gucci suits on an outdoor stage, on an oceanside cliff in Greece. That was special, but there are so many moments like that that I have stored up in my memory bank. Every moment is special when I am dancing.
5. What tips would you give male dancers who are serious about doing this professionally?
The same advice I would give females, work hard, everyday, and stay positive. Also, watch dance as often as possible and form your own opinion of what you think is beautiful and what dance should be.
6. Who are some of your favorite dancers, and why do they appeal to you?
It’s a difficult question because I admire so many other dancers and Im always looking for something to love about each one so that I can incorporate those traits into my own self as a dancer. But, I admire all of my co-workers here in San Francisco. They are all artists with strong commitment and something vital to share with an audience. I also love Katie Dehler of my former company, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. Her dancing is cathartic for the audience members and her work ethic is incredible.
7. What about favorite ballets? Any that you just love performing or watching?
Anything by Jorma Elo. I love to watch and dance his ballets. They are all seamless journeys and they excite and inspire the dancers and the audience. As for full lengths, I have yet to dance the lead in a full length, but I dream of playing Romeo one day. I will be very good in that role. I’m also very excited about John Nuemeier’s the Little Mermaid which we are dancing this summer. I like dancing my role, but I think I would be fantastic as the Poet which is the character in the ballet that represents Hans Christian Anderson, the author of the fairytale.
8. You write about dance as well–can you tell readers a bit more about that?
I write for two different blogs. I recently started Dancing Raw where I talk about what I eat and how it relates to the demands I make on my body everyday. I also write for the San Francisco Ballet’s blog, called Open Studio 455. That is a more general blog about dancing with San Francisco Ballet. I have entries about what I do on my lay off, or stories about when I was cast in a principal role and only had one week to learn it, etc.
9. Have you ever had an injury that sidelined you? If so, what was it and how did you deal with it?
So many. Mostly I have tendonitis. I rest and find cross training options that help prevent re-injury. Yoga is my favorite cross training for injury prevention.
10. Can you share a bit about any new projects you are working on?
The Little Mermaid is going to be really great. You should come see it.