At the beginning of September, Ballet San Jose dancers and artistic and production staff returned to the studio with much excitement and a number of new faces. They began rehearsing in earnest for the upcoming season. This month, we are starting an Artist Spotlight blog series that will span our entire 2013 Repertory Season and will connect you, our online community, with Ballet SJ’s talented dancers and artistic staff–the freshest faces as well as those who have been a part of the Ballet SJ family for many years.
In this first Spotlight, we introduce you to the company’s newest Soloist, Nutnaree Pipit-Suksun—known to friends and family as Ommi. A former Soloist at San Francisco Ballet since 2004 and currently the only Thai ballet dancer performing professionally in the United States, Nutnaree was happy to sit down and talk with me about her dance background, her favorite summer movie, and the pieces she is most looking forward to in Ballet SJ’s upcoming 2013 Season.
Tell me about your dance background before coming to Ballet San Jose.
I was born and raised in Bangkok, Thailand. When I was 15 years old, I was offered a scholarship to train at the Royal Ballet School in London. After graduation, I came to San Francisco Ballet and was there for quite a few years. And finally life takes me here!
What inspired you to become a dancer?
You know, growing up in Thailand, I never knew or thought that being a ballerina was actually possible, or that I would become one. I always wanted to be a dancer, but I wanted to be a businesswoman as well because my dad is a businessman. How I actually started ballet was pretty funny. When I was young, I was rather on the small side and didn’t eat very much. My mom is only 5ft and she was afraid that I would be small like her, so she thought some exercise would do me good so that I would get tired and eat more! Basically, that was her theory and somehow it worked. I’m 5’6″ and she is very proud of my height! But as I progressed in class and at each level, I really grew a passion for ballet. My parents and teachers have always supported me and guided me in the right direction and I think it’s absolutely wonderful to be able to do what I love so much.
That’s a great story!
Nobody knew that I would become a ballerina! Growing up in Thailand, none of my family are dancers. They have no knowledge of dance. But it’s nice to have a family that has nothing to do with ballet. It keeps me grounded and helps me gain a bigger and broader perspective on life, which I value very much.
Can you name one dancer who has inspired you in your career as a dancer?
That’s actually a really tough question. I can’t name just one! When I was growing up, I saw videotapes of Natalia Makarova and Anthony Dowell, but I want to say that those are the dancers who only initially inspired me. I feel like anybody or anything can give me inspiration. It can be anything from listening to music, watching gymnastics or figure skating—the list goes on. Even when I take adult classes outside the company, it is really inspiring for me to see older people trying hard and yet having fun at the same time. Inspiration for me doesn’t have to be about just ballet.
Use three words to describe yourself!
Can’t think of three words, but I’d say: “Life is an evolutionary journey!”
What movies or events did you enjoy over the summer?
I liked Spider-Man!
What non-dancing hobbies or activities do you pursue in your time off?
Sleeping! Reading books… I also enjoy playing piano during my down time. It’s very relaxing for me.
Have you played for a long time?
I actually started piano before ballet, but I had to stop before I went to England in order to focus more on dance training. Now I just play piano for fun, but recently I’m starting to take lessons again. My goal is to be able to play for class in the future!
What works in the new season are you looking forward to?
I’ll start with Don Quixote. I’m really excited for roles like Mercedes! I’ve never done any roles like that—the ones where you get to be a little badass. I’m always the nice one! It might be fun to dance something with a little character. Queen of the Dryads [from Don Quixote] is also going to be a good challenge. Otherwise, I’m looking forward to everything that the season has to offer. But most importantly I’m excited to push myself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I have been working on my inner self the last few years and now my goal is to dance fully and freely, and to purely enjoy the experience.
What one thing do you most want to say to Ballet SJ fans and supporters?
Thank you for the love and support! Without you guys, who would come to the art? We wouldn’t be here without people like you who support the arts so much, so thank you for loving us!
See Nutnaree and the rest of Ballet San Jose on stage this December in an all-new production of The Nutcracker, choreographed by Ballet SJ Principal dancer Karen Gabay. Buy tickets to The Nuctracker when they go on sale to the public this coming Monday, September 24! And there is still time to subscribe to the 2013 Repertory Season at www.balletsj.org. Purchase your subscription and get additional discounts on single tickets, free parking, and other fun perks.
Most of all, don’t miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see this electrifying repertory of company premieres right here in San Jose. See you at the theater!