Artist Spotlight: Julia Erickson
Backstage Ritual: I have quite a few, though rarely are any of them “mandatory” in a superstitious sense. I like to listen to music and my favorite NPR food shows, Good Food and The Splendid Table, while applying my makeup. You may also find me doing plyometric high jumps a few seconds before I step onstage just to make sure I’m thoroughly warmed up.
Most-played song on your iPod: I love most music and have pretty eclectic taste: I’m usually that blond girl rapping at Karaoke, but I’m also a huge classic rock fan and a bit of a west coast hippie at heart. Right now that song is Uncle John’s Band by the Grateful Dead.
Non-ballet hobbies: Besides building my nutrition bar company, Barre (www.realfoodbarre.com), I love cooking, reading, anything crafty (I’ve just made a bunch of duct tape purses and yesterday I made right little pairs of earrings in a creative spurt!), and yoga.
Siblings: I have one sister, Elizabeth, who’s three years my junior and lives way too far away in Seattle.
Favorite role: If I had to choose, it’d be a tie between Odette/Odile and Waltz Girl in Serenade.
3 things in your ballet bag: 1. My favorite cashmere cardigan which unfortunately got some holes in it, thus was graduated on to ballet warm-up status – anyone who’s seen us in rehearsal knows that “shabby chic” look we end up sporting! 2. A small spiky ball for rolling out my feet 3. Barres, of course!
How many times have you performed the role of Odette/Odile?
This is my third time performing the full length ballet. I’ve danced Odette and Odile separately for tours and galas too.
How did you prepare for the role before your first time performing it – both in terms of acting and executing the technique?
It really is a process. Because the swan port de bras is almost another branch of ballet technique unto itself entirely, a dancer has to build upper body stamina and develop an ease of movement while still retaining a sense of weight in the arms. Ideally it should look like we’re pushing through a light fog with our arms. Also, as with all ballets, each role presents its own set of technical challenges. Odette requires incredible control and fluidity, whereas Odile is arguably more virtuosic and has more challenging steps in quick succession.
The same is true in terms of character development for the dual role. The wonderful thing is that most humans, myself included, have glimpsed these emotions at one point or another in their lives. Like Odette, I’ve felt vulnerable, delicate, scared, blown away by true love. Haven’t we all? And I admit, despite being a generally good and kind person(!!), I’ve felt tricky, cunning, and certainly seductive at times. Granted these emotions are amplified when portraying archetypal characters, but personal experience helps inspire and engender an authentic experience.
How has that preparation changed now that you are no longer new to this role?
Since I’ve taken this journey before I feel I’m able to build upon my past experiences. Swan Lake is really a process of layering – there is a framework and a dancer keeps adding depth and layers in their own personal way throughout the rehearsal and performance period. Building on my previous character and technical development has been a pleasure – I feel my strongest both as a dancer and an artist now, so it’s a privilege to get to further hone and explore the role.
And, because it’s often the question on so many people’s minds, what are your thoughts on the movie Black Swan?
The ballet world and Swan Lake were great backdrops for the storyline in Black Swan. Whatever your opinion on the movie itself, the movie undeniably brought ballet into the limelight, and I feel that’s a great thing!