post curtain chat

Post Curtain Chat With Ralph Ippolito

Ralph Ippolito

I’m not sure if there could be a more satisfying evening at the ballet then to take in a performance of George Balanchine’s Jewels. To me, it is one of the most perfectly constructed ballets ever created. Last year, I found myself happily seated in the second ring of the David H. Koch theatre awaiting the arrival of “Rubies,” the second jewel of the evening. As the curtain rose to reveal Balanchine’s breathtaking tableau, my eye was immediately drawn to a male dancer in the corps de ballet who possessed lines and facility that would make even his female counterparts jealous. However, as he tackled the meaty intricacies of Balanchine’s choreography, this dancer proved to be an exemplary model of what it means to be a male dancer of today. Ralph Ippolito joins us this month for Post Curtain Chat. It’s now 2011, and Ralph has a few things to say about last year, this year, and The Real Housewives of Atlanta.

Happy New Year! Do you have any New Year’s resolutions for 2011?

Well, I don’t usually do the whole “New Year’s resolution” thing because I hardly ever keep them. However, I think my resolution this year will be to take more pictures. I got a really nice digital slr camera for Christmas, so I’m hoping to be more pro-active in documenting my life – maybe even take a photography class at Fordham.

Want to know more about digital slr cameras? Click here.

New York is one of the most famous cities in the world for New Year’s celebrations. How do you plan to ring in the New Year?

I feel like New Year’s Eve is usually a big bust. There are lots of expectations for the best night of your life, but when people around you start a new year belligerently, the night usually goes sour. This year was fun though! The boyfriend of a friend of mine owns a restaurant in downtown Manhattan on Avenue B. They threw a party with a DJ that played 50s and 60s music. I danced all night with a few of my best friends. What could be better?

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Post Curtain Chat with Sean Stewart

This month on Post Curtain Chat we have Sean Stewart, dancer with American Ballet Theatre.  Sean’s casual, “tell-it-like-it-is” mentality and heart of gold make him a refreshing guy to be around, and on a personal note, he is a wonderful friend of mine! He has led a remarkably diverse career – from his beginnings as a competition dancer, to training at the Paris Opera Ballet School and dancing a varied rep with ABT, this seasoned dancer has seemingly seen and done it all. In this edition of Post Curtain Chat, Sean talks of life in New York City, and schools me on the importance of not throwing around the word “Vegan” too casually!

Sean Stewart

1.  ABT has a quite a lengthy break in the summer after finishing their season at the Met. I know you did some guest work and traveling with your time. What were you up to?

Yeah, this year we had 3 months off and I decided to take full advantage. First, I did a show with John Mark Owen at Jacob’s Pillow. We stayed in this gorgeous log cabin in the mountains, so that’s where I kicked off my vacay. After that, I went to stay at a friend’s lakehouse in Virginia. Then I used some miles to fly to Mount Shasta in Northern California and then to Hawaii. It was a good summer… And thank God for frequent flyer miles!

2. What was your most memorable spot in Hawaii?

I really got into the town of Hale’iwa…SO cute!  I also went to this waterfall in Wameia where I was able to swim up and go underneath…incredible!

Want to visit Hale’iwa? Click here!

3.  You were a vegan before veganism became popular. Since you’re a pro on the subject, can you tell us a few of your favorite vegan spots in New York?

You have to be careful when throwing around the “Vegan” title, as some people take it very seriously, which I completely respect. I’m not really a Vegan. I just follow a diet comprised of mostly raw plant foods, which excludes animal foods. I do drink wine, which can use animal products in the refining and clarifying process. With that said, I really like the restaurant Counter in the East Village. Angelica’s Kitchen has a few really good items. Peace Food in the Upper East Side is also pretty yummy. Apparently, S’MAC has a Vegan mac and cheese that I’ve never tried. Pure Food and Wine and Quintessence are two “raw food” restaurants that I have frequented as well. There are so many now! I kind of live in the Mecca of Vegan/Vegetarian dining, which I love!

Click here to check out Angelica’s Kitchen in the East Village!

4.  I’ve heard from many ABT dancers that the Met Season can be exhausting because of it’s numerous performances over a small period of time.  Once a show is finished do you like to go out to unwind? Or would you rather go straight home to your bed?

Toward the beginning of the season, I try to be very responsible because I have to make it through 8 weeks of performing 6 days a week, while rehearsing all day long (after taking daily ballet class). I’ll usually take a taxi straight home after the show and go to bed. Toward the end, I loosen up a bit, especially if I don’t have anything too taxing to dance.

5.  You’ve now lived in New York City for 17 years. As I’m sure you know, it can be a challenging place to live for a number of reasons.  Can you offer any advice for those who sometimes feel they are being eaten alive by the big city?

I had a very hard time adjusting to the city when I first came here. It’s an amazing city, with everything to offer. I knew that from the moment I got here. I was overwhelmed and exhausted though, as I was going to high school as well as working with a ballet company. Eventually, I found “my” NYC. I like to stay in the village mostly. It it feels more calm to me, but it still retains the youthful energy of the city. When I’m uptown, I’ll take a moment to head into Central Park and recharge my battery. Also, get plenty of sleep! You don’t have to do everything that NYC has to offer!

6. The East Village is one of the hottest neighborhoods in New York right now. As an East Villager yourself, do you have any favorite places to hang down there?

I grew up mostly in the east village, so it really feels like home to me. I never know where anyone goes out there. Lately, I’ve been dropping into Shoolbred’s and Ninth Ward, both have very cool vibes.

Click here to check out Shoolbred’s in the East Village!

7.  Finally, give us three words that describe who you are as a dancer, and three words that describe who you are once the curtain has closed.

I’m giving you six words that describe me both in dance and in life: analytical, cerebral, ironic, intuitive, controlled, unpredictable.

Born in Mt. Holly, New Jersey and raised in Vacaville, California, Sean Stewart joined American Ballet Theatre as a member of the corps de ballet in 1997. He began dancing at the age of 10 with Lisa Clark, started ballet at 12 with Yanina Cywinska, and went on to study at Joffrey II and the Paris Opera Ballet School. He participated in summer programs for The Joffrey Ballet in San Antonio and the Bolshoi Ballet at Vail.

Stewart left ABT in 2002. He has performed as a guest artist with the Washington Ballet, Ballet NY, Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, Atlanta Ballet and Chamber Dance Project. Stewart was an original cast member in the Old Globe’s production of Twyla Tharp’s The Times, They Are A Changin’.

Stewart rejoined American Ballet Theatre in January 2008.

In addition to various corps roles in all of ABT’s full-length ballets, Stewart’s roles with the Company include Lankendem in Le Corsaire, the Nutcracker-Prince in The Nutcracker, Benno in Swan Lake and roles in Airs, Black Tuesday, Citizen, Cruel World, The Elements, Marimba, One of Three, Sinfoniettaand Stepping Stones. Stewart created roles in Everything Doesn’t Happen at Once, Gong and Known by Heart.

To see Sean and the rest of ABT perform, visit

Also, look for ABT’s brand new Nutcracker by Alexei Ratmansky this holiday season at the Brooklyn Academy of Music!



Post Curtain Chat with Joshua Grant

The curtain is down, and the tutu is shed. Welcome to Post Curtain Chat! Let’s find out what these artists’ lives are like outside the theatre.

First up is Joshua Grant of Les Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo. By day, he is a striking man with a flair for fashion and a taste for the occasional Stoli martini straight up with a twist. By night, however, he is known as “Katerina Bychkova,” a 6′ 4” ballerina who wows audiences around the globe with his precise pointe work and amazing extension.  Let’s find out how this Trock likes to spend his downtime.

Joshua Grant, Photo by Sascha Vaughn

Katerina Bychkova, Photo by Sascha Vaughn

The Trocks are on the road roughly ten months out of the year. What personal items do you take with you to keep a sense of normalcy through it all?

I try to take as little as possible. Weight restrictions with flights are getting unbearable, and a lighter load is much easier to lug around. I find my life is much less stressful when I’m not trying to bring everything in my apartment. However, there is one thing I can’t leave on tour without. My MacBook is my life on the road. Email, Skype and Google Maps are my connections to home.

The company recently endured an extremely long bus ride from Bilbao, Spain to Budhapest, Hungary when “Eyjafjallajokull,” the Icelandic volcano, reared its ugly head. For long travel days, what do you do to keep yourself occupied?

I’ve been studying Japanese for about 3 years now. Usually that’s what I’m doing to kill the time on long travel days. But I also love to put on my iPod, look out the window and just watch the world go by.
Where is the first place you like to go in the city after coming off a long tour?

My apartment… and not leave for at least 48 hours. Depending on the weather, I like to walk around the city. I do miss it when I’m gone. I’ve been to lots of places, but New York has a special vibe about it that can’t be found anywhere else.

You guys are wildly popular all over the world, but you especially have a huge following in Japan. I know you have a great appreciation for Japanese culture and food. How does the Japanese food in the states compare to that of Japan?

I’ve become a bit of a snob when it comes to Japanese food in the states. Once you’ve had sushi at the fish market in Tokyo, it’s hard to enjoy it as much anywhere else. In the states, I try to eat at Japanese restaurants that are run by Japanese, but I guess that’s a given for all nationalities of food. Also, the Japanese food in Japan is a little wilder. They eat a lot of things that we consider “weird” over here. For example, after a fish is eaten as sashimi, the rest of the fish (bones, scales, head, etc) is thrown in a pot and used to make a stock to be eaten with noodles after the meal. When served, the fish head is in the dish and there is usually a fight for who gets to eat the fish eyes. Yum!

Do you have a favorite Japanese restaurant in New York?

Totally. Shabu shabu is a style of Japanese food very similar to fondue, but with thinner meat cooked by water instead of oil. The vegetables cooked in the water create/flavour the broth. It’s very fresh and very healthy. There’s a restaurant called Shabu Shabu 70 on 70th between 1st and 2nd in the Upper East Side. It’s run by Osakans and always very tasty. It’s my little part of Japan in NYC.

Want to eat at Joshua’s favorite shabu-shabu restaurant? Click here

I had the opportunity to see your bi-annual performances at the Joyce Theatre, and I can’t wait to go back this winter. There was such great energy both onstage and in the audience. How does it feel, after so many performances on the road, to perform for New York audiences and sleep in your own bed once the performance is finished?

First of all, this is my home; this is where my friends are. It’s so wonderful to have people in the audience that you know who you can go grab a late dinner with in Chelsea.  Also, the audiences in New York are full of fellow artists and balletomanes, and that’s always exciting. Knowing you’re performing for your peers adds a special energy. As far as returning to my own apartment, a hotel room is just as good a home to me as anything. I sometimes feel more at home walking through the hotel lobby knowing that I’ll return to a clean room and fresh sheets and towels.

Want to see Joshua and the rest of the Trocks perform at the Joyce from Dec 14 – Jan 2? Click here

Favorite place you’ve been in your world travels.

Tokyo, for sure. It’s the only city that has comparable energy to NYC. Other than there, I love going to Europe. Western Europe has an old world charm that is both romantic and beautiful. You feel so much history when walking down the streets. Bangkok felt incredibly different from anywhere I’ve been. I felt like I was in another world, like I was walking around in a bubble not understanding anything around me. It was interesting to see something so different. I love to travel and see the different cultures and people. It’s hard to pick one spot as my favourite, there are so many fascinating places out there.

It takes a lot of make up to transform Joshua Grant into “Katerina Bychkova.” How do you keep your face feeling fresh after performances?

Why yes it does. Layers, in fact.

I have an ancient Japanese secret that I use on my face. The geisha used to use it exclusively, and now in modern day it’s starting to become a bit more popular. It’s called uguisu no fun. Translated to nightingale droppings. Yep, bird poop. But don’t knock it…it’s amazing. It gently exfoliates, and the antioxidants are great for your skin. When used after washing with regular soap, my face feels toned and fresh.

Finally, we’ve heard a lot from Josh Grant. How does Katerina Bychkova spend her downtime?

She is a hard working ballerina and is in a constant ballet position. She cannot for a moment untie the ribbons of her pointe shoes nor can she step out of the tutu. Her downtime is spent watching ballet videos on YouTube of the old Russian ballerinas or studying the choreographic works of Petipa and Fokine.

She also loves ice cream.

Click here to see Katerina Bychkova and the Trocks in a special feature on Nightline.

Bio: Joshua Grant was born in Americus, Georgia. He received his training at Pacific Northwest Ballet School, and The Harid Conservatory. Prior to joining Ballet Trockadero in 2006, Joshua danced with Pacific Northwest Ballet, and the National Ballet of Canada.

Katerina Bychkova is the author of Dance-Your-Way-to-Beauty Self-help Guide, The Bychkova Make Over. Her unforgettable portrayal was the title role in Godzilla in Tights-warmly remembered for the touching pas de deux with King Kong on top of the Empire State Building.

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