Dancer Spotlight: Nathan Chaney

Ballet San Jose sits down with our newest company member, principal dancer Nathan Chaney. This season is Nathan’s first with Ballet San Jose. In this interview, Nathan speaks about his dance background, what inspires him, his advice for aspiring professionals, and his views about dancing with Ballet San Jose.

Nathan Chaney is Ballet San Jose's newest Principal Dancer. See him perform May 9-11 in Masterworks of Movement and Theatre

Nathan Chaney is Ballet San Jose’s newest Principal Dancer. See him perform next May 9-11, 2014 in Masterworks of Movement and Theatre.

Tell us about your dance background before you came to Ballet San Jose.

I started training on a professional level when I was 13 in South Florida. While there, I moved in with Magaly Suarez, the former teacher of many Cuban stars. Then at age 14, I went to Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington D. C. for two years under the training of a Ukrainian named Anatoli Kucheruk. When I was 17, I moved to St. Petersburg, Russia to train at the prestigious Vaganova Academy, and after leaving Russia, I started my professional career at Orlando Ballet in the second company. Close to the summer of 2010 I left Orlando Ballet and moved back to South Florida with Magaly to train for Jackson IBC and Cape Town IBC, and then following that summer, I moved to Zurich, Switzerland and began working for Heinz Spoerli. I have done a lot of traveling over the years.

At what point did you decide that you wanted to make ballet your career?

I decided that I wanted to pursue ballet when I moved in with Magaly. I had to sacrifice going to public school and doing other sports that I was interested in, in order to dedicate myself to ballet. My family also had a big influence in my decision to become a professional because they would push and encourage me every day to go to ballet class. When I was young, I never wanted to go, but then I realized that if I worked hard enough, I could accomplish anything I set my mind to. I decided I wanted to do something different with my life. Doing ballet would allow me to travel and allow me to experience a different life, which was exciting to me.

Who in the dance world inspires you the most?

Jeffrey Cirio is a big inspiration to me because when I was 13, we were both living with Magaly and he was preparing to go to Jackson IBC. I had made it my goal to go to Jackson in four years, and he was accomplishing that goal already. He gave me something to work toward. Now, Jeffrey is a principal dancer with Boston Ballet, choreographing, guest dancing, and doing many other things outside of ballet. He does everything. It’s rare to find a dancer that has so much to give to the ballet world.

I’m also very inspired by José [Manuel Carreño, Ballet San Jose Artistic Director]. He was in one of the first movies I ever watched about Ballet when I was 13, and I really looked up to him. At that time, I never thought I would be here at Ballet San Jose, learning from José. It’s one of those ironic, coincidental instances that happen in life.

What is the one role that you have always dreamed of dancing?

Prince Albrecht in Giselle, to be the man that makes a girl kill herself. It’s so dramatic. I think it would be a fun role to play.

What does ballet mean to you?

To me ballet is a means of creating art with my body. For me, it’s really the combination of the music and movement that is really powerful. For someone to experience art with so many senses, it surrounds them and can be very moving. I also really like the live element of ballet. The performance happens in a moment of emotion, and then it is gone. You can see the same performance later, but it will always be different.

How do you prepare for a performance?

I try not to do anything out of the normal. It’s when you try and change your routine to accommodate something like a performance that you mess up. Your body is on a muscle memory, day-by-day plan, and when you try to wake up earlier or you stretch too much, it’s not good. If I want to stretch enough for shows, then I’ll start stretching two weeks before, instead of two days before. Your body has to be in tune for the performance. I might stretch for class for 10 minutes, not as much as I would for a performance, but again, you don’t want to drastically change anything. Really, my body is trained for a performance year round because I dance pretty much every day, so I don’t need to do much above and beyond.

Do you eat differently when you know you have a performance, compared with how you would normally eat?

I eat a lot, normal meals, but I eat a lot. I need a lot of energy to do my work. Again, I don’t like to change things drastically for performances. You don’t want to throw off your body’s routine.

What piece of advice would you give to aspiring professional dancers?

The years you get in school, you never get back. It is better to work as much as you can in your first years as a professional dancer than to try to start working hard later. When you get out of school, you get out of a lot of professional training, and you feel exhausted, but that is the time to keep pushing. In your first couple of years as a professional, you are setting yourself up to learn, grow, and get the roles you want. It’s like any other job really. The first years are very important to establish yourself professionally.

You have lived all over the world. How do you like living in San Jose, California?

I like the sun and the vibes of California in general. It is very different from Russia. San Jose is good because it is kind of a quiet city, and I can really focus on my work, but I also go to San Francisco all of the time for fun. There are a lot of great things to do around here, and I would rather live in a smaller city than live in a bigger city like LA. I like that there is an element of environment here.

Nathan Chaney and Alexsandra Meijer in costume for Igal Perry's Infinity. The company premiere was performed as part of Ballet San Jose's second program, Popular Music, Transcendent Dancing March 21-23, 2014.

Nathan Chaney and Alexsandra Meijer in costume for Igal Perry’s Infinity. The work was performed as part of Popular Music, Transcendent Dancing, Ballet San Jose’s second program of the 2014 Season.

What are you looking forward to now that you are dancing with Ballet San Jose?

I feel really ready to take in as much as I can from José and make it a good learning and growing experience. I want to take every moment and every day as a chance to better myself in my career. José is a big inspiration to me, and to learn from someone who I really respect and admire is one thing I have been looking for in my career. I am very excited to be dancing here.

What piece are you most excited about in this upcoming program?

I am really looking forward seeing my fellow company members performing In the Upper Room, although I won’t be dancing in that work. It is a really cool piece, and the music is incredible. The ballet really speaks for itself, so you’ll just have to see it.

See Nathan on stage at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts May 9-11 in Ballet San Jose’s final program of the season, Masterworks of Movement and Theatre, featuring Roland Petit’s Carmen and Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room. For tickets, visit or call 408.288.2800.

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Review Roundup: Ballet San Jose’s Neoclassical to Now

Ballet San Jose Company members Alexsandra Meijer and Joshua Seibel in Jorma Elo’s Glow-Stop. Photo by Alejandro Gomez.

Ballet San Jose Company members Alexsandra Meijer and Joshua Seibel in Jorma Elo’s Glow-Stop. Photo by Alejandro Gomez.

This past weekend, Ballet San Jose presented Neoclassical to Now, the first program of our 2014 Repertory Season, and the reviews are in! We are already starting to prepare for our quickly approaching second program, but we thought we would take a moment to reflect on the successes that just took place on the stage. Take a look at what our reviewers said about Serenade, Glow-Stop, and Minus 16, as well as our new Artistic Director José Manuel Carreño.

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Ohad Naharin, choreographer of Minus 16

Neoclassical to Now opens in one week on Friday, February 14. This program offers a wide range of styles, from Neoclassical Serenade choreographed by George Balanchine, to Jorma Elo’s contemporary Glow-Stop. Also featured in this program is the company premiere of Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin’s Minus 16. Each work differs dramatically from the others, and Ballet San Jose’s dancers have to quickly adapt and move from one style to the next.

Transitioning into Minus 16, the dancers remove their pointe shoes and take on a very different style of dancing called Gaga. Pioneered by Ohad Naharin, Gaga is a “movement language” emphasizing sensation and pleasure in movement. This particular style of dance is very popular in Israel, especially in Tel Aviv, and it is the main style of dance taught at Batsheva Dance Company where Naharin is artistic director. Through Gaga, our dancers are learning and discovering new ways of moving, and according to Danielle Agami, assistant to the choreographer and one of the stagers for Ballet San Jose’s performance, “some of them are beginning to understand Gaga. They have to break down the habits that have been ingrained through years of classical ballet training.”

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Media Roundup: Ballet San Jose 2013 Gala

In less than two weeks, Ballet San Jose will host its 2013 Gala in celebration of new Artistic Director José Manuel Carreño and will feature guest artists from American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, Boston Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, and more. Our excitement is growing by the day, and so are our media mentions! Take a look below to see who else is getting hyped up for our event.

To buy tickets and to find out more about this year’s Gala, visit our Gala homepage at


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Ballet San Jose at the Napa Valley Festival del Sole Dance Gala, July 19

From Ballet San Jose Music director George Daugherty:

The Dede Wilsey Dance Gala at the Napa Valley Festival del Sole is going to be an INCREDIBLE evening on July 19. Here is the official program and casting. Extraordinary dancers will wow you, the fabulous musicians of the Russian National Orchestra will fill the air with music from the orchestra pit, a long-lost Fokine ballet will come back to the stage, a collection of breathtaking pas de deux and ballets will thrill and move you, and the rolling hills of Napa at sunset in the summertime will enchant you as you hold a perfect glass of locally-produced Napa wine. What more could you want? Please join us!

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Merce Cunningham’s “Duets”: Rehearsal Process with Patricia Lent, Merce Cunningham Trust

Master Choreographer Merce Cunningham. Photo by Annie Leibovitz.

Seminal choreographer Merce Cunningham. Photo by Annie Leibovitz.

Contributed by Harriet McMeekin, Ballet San Jose corps de ballet


The rehearsal process we’ve experienced so far is vastly different from our normal rehearsals at Ballet San Jose: no music. Silence. Sing-song rhythms echoing in the studio. We eventually graduate to the soft beep of a stopwatch. “And begin,” then gradually “stop,” and “cue.”

“Not bad, only 15 seconds slow,” she says.

It’s a process that’s taken getting used to but has bolstered my confidence in my inner rhythm. I am better able to connect and communicate with my partner and fellow dancers without words. This is critical, as we don’t know what music we’re performing to until we get onstage.

Ms. Lent gave us a little history about the Cunningham ideology, but Wikipedia sums it up neatly:

The most famous and controversial of these [radical innovations] concerned the relationship between dance and music, which [Merce Cunningham and John Cage] concluded may occur in the same time and space, but should be created independently of one another.

Initially the Cunningham/Cage concept of separation between choreography and music seemed sacrilegious. How do you choreograph if you’re not inspired by the music? How do you dance the steps if the music doesn’t tell you what to do? Typically, the music is the primary focus of classical ballet. You might learn the steps to start, and there might not be music at first, but the ultimate goal is to dance “with” the music. The Cunningham ideology requires getting used to a different style and method of working. Holding the music in different regard. Not relegating it but respecting it as its own separate entity.

The dance happens onstage. The music happens while the dance is happening. It’s their occurrence in time that binds them together.


See Ballet San Jose perform “Duets,” along with works by innovative choreographers Jorma Elo and Jessica Lang, beginning this Friday, April 19, at the San Jose Center for Performing Arts downtown. Buy tickets online at, or call our Box Office at (408) 288-2800. See you at the theater!

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Neoclassical Master: Works by Sir Frederick Ashton in Ballet San Jose’s 2013 Season

Rudy Candia and Alexsandra Meijer in Sir Frederick Ashton's "Méditation from Thaïs." Photo by Robert Shomler.

Rudy Candia and Alexsandra Meijer in Sir Frederick Ashton’s “Méditation from Thaïs.” Photo by Robert Shomler.

One week from today, Ballet San Jose’s 2013 Season will continue with our mixed repertory program, Neoclassical Masters. We’re especially thrilled to be performing two incredible ballets by legendary ballet choreographer Sir Frederick AshtonLes Rendezvous, a suite of witty, light-hearted dances set in a park; and Méditation from Thaïs, a rich and poetic pas de deux set to the beautiful violin solo “Méditation” from Massenet’s opera Thaïs.

The stagers of these incredible works–former Royal Ballet soloist Hilary Cartwright (Les Rendezvous) and former RB principal Bruce Sansom (Méditation from Thaïs)–shared their thoughts about Ashton’s choreography for our Playbill, and we want to give you a sneak peek! Read on for some interesting insights to the pieces, and don’t miss seeing them performed for the first time on the CPA stage next weekend.

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Artist Spotlight: Ballet San Jose Dancer Annali Rose

Ballet San Jose dancer Annali Rose

Ballet San Jose corps member Annali Rose

After the dazzling company premiere of Don Quixote, Ballet San Jose is gearing up for an awesome mixed repertory program in March. In preparation for Program Two, we caught up with Annali Rose (one of our new corps de ballet dancers this season) to discuss her dance history with Sacramento Ballet and Trey McIntyre Project, the academic interests she pursues in her free time, and the three words that best describe her (which she answered with a little help from her friends)!

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Review Roundup: Ballet San Jose’s “Don Quixote”

Ballet San Jose Soloist Junna Ige as Kitri. Photo by Robert Shomler.

Ballet San Jose Soloist Junna Ige as Kitri. Photo by Robert Shomler.

Ballet San Jose’s company premiere of Don Quixote may be over, but the reviews are rolling in! We had such a wonderful run last weekend of ballet’s original romantic comedy that even now we can still hardly believe it’s over! Take a look at what some of the critics around the Bay Area have said about this production of Don Quixote (staged by Ballet SJ Artistic Advisor Wes Chapman), our special guest artist José Manuel Carreño, and our fantastic company.

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Ballet SJ apprentice Thomas Baker. Photo credit: Olivier Wecxsteen.

Ballet SJ apprentice Thomas Baker. Photo credit: Olivier Wecxsteen.

After a successful run of The Nutcracker in December, Ballet San Jose is all caught up in the magic of love! The company has spent the past month preparing in earnest for the company premiere  of Don Quixote — or, as we like to call it, ballet’s original romantic comedy. While Kitri polishes her fouettés and Mercedes perfects her sultry smolder, we’re continuing our Artist Spotlight blog series, in which we have been focusing on the new dancers in the company this season.

For all the male dancers out there, here’s another interview just for you! Thomas Baker is a new apprentice with the company, and he has some pretty interesting stories to tell. Find out how Thomas got his start in ballet, his favorite memories from 2012, and the inspiration that made him such a fabulous “Fritz” in the world premiere of Karen Gabay’s The Nutcracker.

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Artist Spotlight: Ballet San Jose Apprentice Thomas Baker

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