Today for our 10 Questions With… feature we have Danny Ryan…
1. How did you get involved with ballet and what are you doing now?
From the time I started school I was exposed to the arts. The elementary, middle and high schools I attended were all public arts schools, which covered all arts areas as well as dance. However, I never liked dance, and I had a terrible fear of performing on stage. Once I arrived in middle school you were allowed (in your second year) to choose two arts areas to focus on. I started playing music in elementary school so band was a natural choice, but dance I only choose because my best friends father was the teacher. That class consisted more of your creative movement, and introduction to very basic dance composition rather then any “real” technical training. It wasn’t until my sophomore year in high school after almost dropping the dance program completely and having suffered a soccer injury, that a man named Rafael Delgado, a Master Ballet Teacher, took me under his wing and taught me as much as he could in four years.
Now, after performing for the Louisville Ballet, and the Kansas City Ballet I am dancing for Ben Stevenson O.B.E. at the Texas Ballet Theatre in Dallas Fort Worth.
2. Do you have any advice for men who want to do this professionally?
First and foremost work your butt off!!!! Closely followed by dance like a man, be strong on stage but also be beautiful. Performance quality, acting, line, and the ability to convey emotion on stage will always trump tricks. Work on those things, get a very strong and clean technique. You can always work on the tricks later.
3. What have you found to be the most amazing thing about ballet?
Here is a recent example of just one of the things that makes this art form so amazing. At TBT we are in between performances of The Sleeping Beauty. In a recent show I went from 18th century court man, to an evil monster, to a prince from the south, to a peasant, and then Puss n’ Boots. That’s five completely different worlds, people and emotions in three hours. Not many people will ever know what it might be like to portray a cat, or a prince etc. and that’s what is so amazing about ballet.
4. Can you share an experience in dance that was particularly amazing for you?
As an apprentice for the Louisville Ballet, during my very first season in a professional company I was given the oppourtunity to perform Twyla Tharp’s Nine Sinatra Songs. It was the second rep show of the season, and my first major role. It was a Saturday night and the show was sold out, Wendy Whelan and Albert Evans were performing with the us as guests. My partner and I were the first pas in the ballet and I will never forget how I felt once we made it through and the crowd broke out clapping. I thought that feeling couldn’t be topped and walking off the stage I was so high on dance. The first person to grab my arm and say “great job!” was Wendy. I will never forget that.
5. Is there anything you don’t like about what you are doing?
I definitely don’t like when you go to the doctor to have them x-ray your foot to see if you’ve broken any bones, and as he’s looking says “well there is this” but continues on as if it doesn’t matter. So then after he’s done you ask him what was that he saw but passed over, and his response is “well since you’re a dancer its normal, its not a big deal just some wear and tear that is common among those that dance, but if you weren’t a dancer it would be a concern.” Yeah, its gonna hurt really bad later on!
6. Do you have any favorite dancers?
Nureyev is my number one, and when Yuri Possokhov was still dancing for San Francisco he was my hands down favorite of that time. Currently I really like John Michael Schert of Trey McIntyre Project. He has incredible lines, amazing articulation, control and musicality. I will forever love Wendy Whelan, the master of Mr. B’s leotard ballets. My two favorites however are Lucas Priolo and Carolyn Judson. Lucas is the most handsome prince and partner, the emotion and power behind every performance is amazing and his Romeo will make the hardest of people cry. Carolyn unleashes a magic on stage that Houdini himself would marvel at, pure classical lines and performance quality.
7. What do you think that the most important thing is in terms of practicing ballet?
The most important thing is finding a teacher that believes in you, pushes you and gives you sound guidance. Once you find that person the next thing is to work with them as often as you can. If they do a summer program be sure to go, no matter your age. Find a way to make it happen and submerge yourself, turn off the cell phone for four weeks and work!
8. Do you think you have developed skills in dance that have transfered to the rest of your life? If so, what are they?
Absolutely, in dance if you want to be good or become better you have to work hard, and that applies to anything else you pursue outside of dance. Also teamwork, problem solving, working under extreme pressure and with extremely sensitive and sometimes very difficult people. All these skills will also benefit you outside of dance.
9. What is the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you about dance?
First and foremost dance is a business.
10. What is next for you in your career?
Next on my plate is being at TBT and learning as much as I can from Ben and the artistic staff here. I have found the place that works best for me. This summer I will be enjoying home in Milwaukee to see my mom get married and then spending four or five weeks with my teacher John Magnus. Also I’d like to continue developing my choreographic skills and start teaching more. I’m trying to gather as much knowledge and information as I can, so down the road after my performing career I can stay in this field as teacher, ballet master, or director. This is what I love and care about and I want to pass it on.