You saw the show. Now check out our interview with one of the stars, Gaia Waisbrod! After two nights of sell-out shows of Skidmore’s collaborative production, Swan Lake, lead female ballerina, Gaia Waisbrod told Her Campus about her entrance into the field of ballet, her experience putting on Swan Lake, and where she’ll be going after graduation.
Her Campus: How did your ballet career begin?
Gaia Waisbrod: I started dancing when I was five as so many little girls do. I went to a small school in Bergenfield, New Jersey where I trained all the way through high school. I think I was about twelve when I decided that I really wanted to commit myself to ballet. I trained for a year in Venezuela with Nina Novak, a former Ballet Russe ballerina and I really believe that that changed the course of my dancing.
Her Campus: What made you chose Skidmore?
Gaia: I picked Skidmore because at that point in my life, I had been obsessed with ballet for so long (a feeling that I think most artists can understand) and was desperately searching for balance. I wanted an academic degree at a place where I could meet people with various interests. Skidmore has been fantastic. I am not a dance major or minor but I have been able to continue training here at a very high level. Beyond just maintaining my technique, my performance opportunities and instructors at Skidmore have helped me grow from a dance student to what I hope is now a true performer.
HC: What is your most memorable performance to date?
G: I mean, Swan Lake 100%. I have been waiting to dance the leading role in a major ballet for so long. Having the opportunity to do it in such a legitimately professional manner was a dream come true. I have never thrown myself into a role the way I did for Swan Lake so the performance was satisfying on many personal and professional levels.
HC: What was it like to play Queen of the Swans in such a collaborative production with the orchestra?
G: The first time I came to an orchestra rehearsal and heard them playing the theme music from Swan Lake, I was a crying mess. I wasn’t sure what to expect from them was blown away by how good they were. Also, when performing, I have always been acutely aware of what I need to do for myself to be successful. This was my thought process at the beginning of all this but as we kept working, I became more and more aware of how much of a group effort this really was. More and more, I found myself exploring how to relate to the stage, the other cast members, and even the orchestra so that we could all be successful in our collaboration. It was overwhelming and humbling.
HC: Tell me about the process of putting on sell-out show.
G: When we heard that we had sold out Zankel, my heart dropped into the pit of my stomach. It was such a mix of thrill and fear. I did not want to disappoint Mrs. Limoli, the college, or myself. The days before the show were tough and my nerves really felt like they were getting the better of me. When we got on stage, though, for dress rehearsal and then for the performance, I felt a sort of remarkable and reassuring calm. I knew how ready we all were and I felt so glad that we had the unique opportunity to share our work, which we were all so proud of with a large, large, large group of people.
HC: Tell me about the leading man, Jacob Goodhart. What was it like to work with him?
G: I can’t say enough good things about working with Jacob. We went to the same school back at home but didn’t get so close until he came to Skidmore the year after I did. Where I am anxious and a perfectionist to an almost debilitating degree, Jacob is confidant and calm. He pushed me to explore the drama of the character and I don’t think I would have felt as comfortable finding that ability in myself had I been working with someone else.
HC: What was it like to work with Denise Limoli?
G: I knew how much this project meant to Mrs. Limoli and I really got the feeling she knew how much this performance meant to me. As such, our work together was really productive all the time. We quickly learned the choreography and then the rest of our rehearsals were mostly coaching. We practiced nuances more then steps. She always knew when it was time to give something a rest and when it was okay to push it. I was so, so grateful for how closely she took the time to work with us.
HC: How about the guest star, David Otto?
G: David Otto was an awesome character to have around. He wasn’t concerned about his part since it was fairly simple so he spent a bit of time helping Jacob and I with our partnering. It was so helpful to have the insight of a male partner. I think Jacob appreciated that most!
HC: What are you most looking forward to after graduation when you’ll be joining the Ballet Theatre of Maryland?
G: After graduation, my boyfriend and I are moving to the Annapolis area and I am so excited to be joining a company. As a little girl, I had dreamed of working for a large and prestigious company like American Ballet Theatre but I honestly feel so lucky to be going somewhere where I can be sure that I won’t get lost in a large corps of dancers. It’s a small company but I truly think it’s a great fit. I am looking forward to working my butt off and hopefully moving up in the company with time. I am looking forward to dancing in the classical ballets that I have not yet gotten a chance to work on.
HC: Where do you hope your career in ballet will take you?
G: All I can hope is that I can thrive in this company. I don’t see myself as the kind of dancer that will want to audition forever and skip from company to company. I’d really like to settle into a company where I get to dance well and often, get along with the other members and directors, and can continue to grow as a person and as a performer. I am hoping that Ballet Theatre of Maryland does all of this for me, and I’m looking forward to living the life I had always imagined for myself! At least, I hope it lives up to that!
Photo Credit: Chris Weigl