May 4, 2011


Jonathan Stafford knew he wanted to pursue ballet as a career when he was 15 years old during his first time in the audience at the New York City Ballet (NYCB), the renowned dance company where he is now a principal dancer. Originally from Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Jonathan started dancing when he was 8 years old, and made the move to New York City when he was 17 to study at the School of American Ballet (SAB). A year later, he was invited to join the NYCB. Now, at 30, Jonathan is still dancing with NYCB, is a faculty member at SAB, and is also pursuing a degree in Organizational Leadership at Fordham University Lincoln Center. It is clear that Jonathan’s career will continue to lead him to new levels of success. And fun fact for all you Center Stage fans out there: Jonathan was in it.

Jonathan’s ambition and talent from a young age allowed him to make the cross over from the audience to the stage--which, if you think about it, is pretty much statistically impossible. Bravo!

Photo credit: Henry Leutwyler (c) 2010.
Describe yourself as a dancer.
I consider myself somewhat of a quiet dancer and by that I mean that I'm not flashy. I can't do all kinds of flying acrobatic tricks or multiple turns which might make me stand out. Instead I focus on the technique and the feeling of what I'm dancing and I try to make it as smooth as possible.  
Do you read your critical reviews?
I read about half because sometimes I can't resist seeing what the critics have to say. I think you have to take a critical review in stride, and understand that it is one person's opinion and that we aren't out there on stage performing just to impress critics.

The most challenging part of dancing?
To avoid being too hard on myself. Ballet dancers are constantly striving to be as close to perfect as possible. It’s one of the aspects of ballet that is incredible and horrible at the same time because we will never achieve perfection.

The most rewarding:
Performing. There is nothing like the rush I get when I’m out there and am feeling good. I'm having fun and all my stress and worry just disappear.

Your favorite role:
My favorite role to dance is the male principal in the Diamond's section of George Balanchine's Jewels. My debut performance of Diamonds was one of my all-time favorite performances ever, and the part will always be special for me.

Accomplishment of which you are most proud:
Making it into a professional company as a ballet dancer--it’s like making it to the major leagues in baseball. It requires a lot of hard work, determination, and luck, and I have been so fortunate to have made it where I am today.  

What do you hope to be doing in 5 years?
I hope to be in the dance world either dancing or teaching. It is what I love to do, and I hope that I am fortunate enough to still be involved in the ballet world for years to come.

Your greatest fear:
That ballet will lose its foothold in our world someday. Support for the arts in general is harder and harder to find these days, and ballet is no exception. It kills me to think that other young people like myself might not have the chance to have all the experiences that I have had dancing with a major ballet company and that all of our fans might someday lose something that they love.

How do you deal with performance nerves?
You would think that since I did my first performance at age 8 and am now 30, I wouldn't get nervous anymore...but I still do at times. Leading up to a performance I just try to get myself and my body as prepared as possible so that I will be confident in my ability to dance the best I can when the time comes. My nerves basically go away right before I go onstage and the adrenaline kicks in.

Your guilty pleasure:
I love food. It’s hard for me to ever turn down food, especially chocolate. And steak. And cheese.  

Most overrated virtue:
People have told me that I am very patient. I think that’s a compliment from a teacher’s perspective, where I know that I have to be very patient in the classroom to be a good teacher. However, I can be a very impatient person outside of the ballet studio. I hate waiting for anything and can be impulsive.

Your current state of mind:
I am a happy guy right now. It is spring, which is my favorite season in the city, and we start our 6-week spring season tomorrow at NYCB. I always look forward to getting out on stage again. With the warm weather also comes the opportunity to play some golf, which is my favorite hobby and I am committed to lowering my scores this year.

Talent you’d most like to have:
I wish I played a musical instrument really well. We are so fortunate to dance to some of the most beautiful music ever created, and I would love to be on the other side of that and make that same music.

Music that most inspires you:
The classical music that we dance to is incredibly inspiring. Just warming up backstage and listening to the piece before mine is all I need to remember why I love ballet so much.

Your motto:
Have integrity and go about things the right way even if it is the hard way. The rewards in the end will be much greater if you earn them and if you do it fairly.  

Favorite place to perform in NYC:
I would have to say the David H. Koch Theater in Lincoln Center, which is our home theater. A lot of the biggest moments in the last 13 years of my life have been in that building and it will always be a special place for me.

No comments:

Post a Comment