Today’s “10 Questions With…” features Jacob Lyon from Ballet Quad Cities….
1. How did you become involved in dance?
I had done a few years of show choir in high school with no formal training. Then, when I was 18, a friend of mine asked if I would join her in taking the ballet class at the community college we were attending. I didn’t have any reservations or anything better to do, so I did.
When I went to buy my first pair of shoes, and the store was attached to a studio. While I was trying on shoes, the owner of the studio walked in and stopped dead in her tracks and said, “oh, a boy!” She told me that if I took the ballet partnering class and one other ballet class a week, I could take as much as I wanted of everything for free. The partnering with the ladies was my favorite class, and I started taking as many ballet classes as I had time for. The rest is history.
2. What are you currently doing in the field?
Currently, I dance for Ballet Quad Cities. We do a lot of contemporary work along with some character and modern dance. I love being in a small company because I dance till I drop. Even in shows when I don’t feel like I’m dancing much, I remember that in larger companies, people sometimes only get to do ONE thing in a show. We all get to dance a lot, and I get the opportunity to dance a lot of great parts that I would never have gotten in a larger company. The friendships I have made with the other dancers are also increasingly more important the older I get.
3. Can you share a special moment from your career?
There are quite a few that come to mind, but a recent one stands out. I’ve always had this idea that dancing in New York would be this great honor. I was given the opportunity to perform a piece with some of my other company members at the Ailey Center last year. I was so excited! Our first show, I fell three times in the first minute! I was so excited to dance in New York and the first thing I did was to fall on my backside! It did cause me to relax and truly enjoy what was going on, and I had a great run of the REST of the piece.
4. What advice would you offer other dancers?
Something that I’ve been learning more as I get older (I’m a 33 year-old young man) is that dance isn’t really everything in life. We take class every day, and some days it can just ruin us! We get so caught up in the little things about the way we look, the way we move, the technique, the way the teacher treats us… it’s just a dance class! It’s important to keep things in real perspective and realize that in the grand scheme of the world, that one dance class doesn’t mean very much! Dance is wonderful and beautiful, but if you’re torturing yourself every day with it, you’re really missing out. Smiling helps a lot!
5. What have you had to struggle against in dance?
I think every male dancer has had to deal with stereotyping. People assume you’re one way or another just because you’re a dancer. Within dance, I’ve always struggled with being a late starter. My body wasn’t influenced by ballet at a young age, and I’m not special in the length of time it takes a human body to develop into a ballet dancer. That means that I’m just getting to where I want to be at the age of 33! I’ve also had to struggle against my own emotions. I used to get very angry and frustrated at everything. These days, I understand that it takes way too much energy to be upset all the time!
6. Do you have a favorite dancer or choreographer? If so, what is it about them that makes them stand out?
I admit that my knowledge of the dance world is limited… I never had a bunhead phase! I do really appreciate Jose Manuel Carreno. He has a gentle masculinity in his dancing that is very impressive, along with truly excellent technique. As for choreographers, I enjoy Jiri Killian because he incorporates a lot of different shapes and accents into classical movement.
7. What is the best advice you have ever received regarding dance?
The first thing that comes to mind is, corny enough, from an ABT video when Angel Corrella said that you always have to be a person before being a dancer. It’s a reminder that there is more to life than dancing, and that richness of the world can add to the richness of dance.
8. Where do you think dance is going as an art form?
I think that dance styles are starting to merge. It’s not enough for most dancers to be one thing anymore. I know in my company, if you can’t get a handle of many different types of movement, you’re in real trouble! It’s important to remember what clean, unaffected ballet is, but it’s also important to remember that there are many different styles that can be incorporated into professional work. Learn everything you can and keep your mind open, or you may get left behind!
9. What is it about dance that you love so much?
Hard work. I’ve always been a fan of the exhausting, sweaty rehearsals that leave you spent, wanting to do it again, but knowing that you couldn’t if you tried. I like using my body to do something interesting and beautiful. Partnering has always kept me working harder. It’s what got me interested in ballet, and it makes me push a little more for my partner.
10. What is next for you?
A new career and hopefully a family. I’m getting older, and my body won’t let me dance forever. My wife will always be involved with dance, so I’ll always have that in my life. I’ve gone back to college in pursuit of a degree in chemistry. I’d like to try and make to world a better place through science as well as art.
BIO: Jacob Lyon started dancing in Redding, CA under the direction of Debra Larson. He continued his dance training at the Burklyn Theatre in Vermont under Arthur Leeth, Amanda McKerrow and David Howard. He has also performed as a guest artist at UNC Greeley, dancing “Siegfried” in Swan Lake as well as The Nutcracker in Ft. Collins, CO under the direction of David Keener. With Ballet Quad Cities, Mr. Lyon has danced many roles including “Prince Charming” in Cinderella; “Bluebird” in The Sleeping Beauty and “Cavalier,” “Rat King,” and “Chinese” in The Nutcracker. Jacob has been featured in original works by choreographers Cleo Mack, Julie R. Shulman, Dominic Walsh, Simone Ferro and Deanna Carter. In 2009, Jake captivated Quad Cities’ audiences as “Romeo” in Romeo & Juliet 21st Century. In April of 2010, Jacob proudly represented Ballet Quad Cities performing in Deanna Carter’s Ash to Glass at Ballet Builders in New York City. This is his tenth season with Ballet Quad Cities.