Artist Spotlight: JoAnna Schmidt
Your Go-to Relaxation Activity: Sleeping
Non-dance Hobbies: “I like to cook, play piano/ukulele, go for walks, read, travel, listen to live music whenever possible, and spend too much money on tiny, delectable cocktails.”
Family: “I have my mom, dad, older brother and older sister.”
Pets: “A whippet named Laika.”
Favorite Pittsburgh Restaurant: “I love a lot of restaurants in Pittsburgh, but if choosing only one, I’d have to say Park Bruges. It’s only a couple blocks away from my apartment and I love everything on the menu (plus, they serve brunch).
Top-Played Song on Your iPod: “Hallways” by Islands
Do you have a pre-show good luck ritual? No, I’m not superstitious and I’m too afraid of developing inflexible rituals because nothing ever goes exactly according to plan…at least for me.
If I wasn’t a professional dancer, I would be… “a writer of sorts, possibly a journalist.”
For someone who has never ever heard their names, how would you describe the genius of these choreographers?
“Well, Jerome Robbins is known beyond the ballet world. Not only did he create many highly acclaimed ballets, but also he was the choreographer for many Broadway plays including West Side Story and Fiddler on the Roof. He is considered one of the greatest American choreographers of the 20th century. While Robbins created works based off of classical ballet, Kylian is most famous for the abstractness of his choreography. Kylian’s pieces cannot really be categorized as a certain style of dance; his movement is very original. Mark Morris is sort of the happy medium between Robbins and Kylian. Although his choreography is considered modern dance, Morris has created many works for ballet companies as well. His pieces exude cleverness while maintaining the sincerest reverence for the music accompanying them. In sum, these choreographers each made a significant impact on the world of dance with their imagination and innovation.”
Do you consider these works ‘bucket-list’ material as a dancer?
“Absolutely. Sometimes, there are ballets a dancer aspires to perform simply because of their reputation. These three works have incredible reputations, but that’s not why I consider them bucket list worthy. Each piece demands those who dance them to be true artists. To simply execute the steps, without the proper feeling or quality, in any of these works is practically sacrilegious.”
What do you think is the key to the comedy of “The Concert?” Describe one of your favorite scenes from the ballet.
“I think the randomness of everything that happens in this ballet is so amusing. The characters go through such unexpected scenarios. It all seems so outlandish, yet the characters take themselves so seriously. It’s nonsensical and very detailed, which is what makes the humor so successful. If I tell you my favorite scene, it will spoil the randomness of it.”
Mark Morris is known for his wit, musicality and sense of humor. What makes this piece special to you or exciting to dance? Can you give us an insider’s tip on one of your favorite sections or elements of this ballet?
“Above all, what’s most special to me about Sandpaper is how lighthearted it is. My favorite element, one of the fundamentals of this ballet, is the grid. The dancers have to make, and dance within, a grid formation multiple times during this piece. It almost feels like a game, trying to maintain straight lines in every direction while everyone’s switching places.”
“Petite Mort” is an incredibly powerful work. In addition to the precision and originality of the movement, there is some really intriguing symbolism on display. Why does this work resonate with you? How do you interpret it?
“It resonates with me because of its rawness. It’s very voluptuous and serious. The title is a French idiom for having an orgasm, so the movement is sensual and organic. To me, this work portrays basic human instinct. There’s something I find very primitive about the way people look dancing this ballet.”