The new Romeos
NYCB introduces two new heartthrobs: Zachary Catazaro and Taylor Stanley.
Mon Feb 13 2012
Do you talk much about character?
Catazaro: We haven't really gotten to that point yet because we just finished the whole process of putting everything together in order.
Stanley: Erica and I are solidifying the partnering first and working in the nuances now and then as we go.
Catazaro: We have the Franco Zeffirelli film. Have you watched that yet?
Stanley: No. I'm reading the play right now. Once I finish the play.
What do you appreciate about the film?
Catazaro: Okay. So, first of all, Olivia Hussey is so pure in that movie. It's just so believable. And Romeo as well. He's young and kind of soft; when Tybalt kills Mercutio, he goes nuts. And I'm like, Wow, where did that come from? But that's so what Romeo's like, I would think. When you're a young boy, you're so irrational with your decisions because you don't know yet how to handle situations like that. What 14-year-old knows how to handle their best friend getting stabbed? Even though it was an accident, he just goes nuts and all of this built-in rage comes out, and in the movie, he's screaming and all of his friends are holding him back, and then finally he escapes and runs after Tybalt. Who in their right mind would run after one of the best sword fighters in the town? Somebody who's just completely lost it.
How do you like the play?
Stanley: It's cool. I love the way Shakespeare uses his words, and in rehearsals, I love seeing the things that I read in the play come to life in us. I love the parts about the hands: Katie always talks about the significance of hands in the ballet; you're reaching to grab Juliet's hand to pull her off her feet, and in the play, Romeo is talking about how his hands are too rough to hold her smooth hands, but he just goes for it anyway. I like that image, and that's what I've been thinking about.
What are the tricky parts in this ballet?
Catazaro: The pas de deux are really hard. Peter has a knack for making really great, challenging pas de deux. I feel it makes you better as a partner. It's just great for that. They're hard, but they're fun.
Stanley: The promenades are the trickiest part for me.
Catazaro: There's a lot of lifting, too. But we have small girls, so it's fine. [Laughs] Stanley: Our partners are manageable. And they know how to...
Catazaro: Be partnered. Hold themselves. At least with Tiler, I feel like she finally trusts me, so it helps with the whole pas de deux. When there's that "I haven't danced with you really before," it takes awhile to get used to each other. There are a lot of lifts. The last lift is just really hard at the end of the balcony scene, when you do the final press and you walk around with her, you're just so tired. And you slowly put her on your shoulder. The balcony scene—it doesn't matter that you're so tired because you're not thinking, Oh, I'm really tired. Your mind is...
Stanley: You're like, I'm in love with this girl! And she's on my shoulder! [Laughs]
How does the music affect you?
Stanley: It digs deep. I've been listening to the music at home and while I walk, trying to get used to different moments. There are so many recurring themes, like when Juliet enters onto the balcony: That theme of music is throughout the ballet, and that's what gets me. I love hearing that part of the music. The score is just amazingly beautiful.
Are you talking to other people about this? What else are you doing outside of the studio?
Catazaro: Nobody that's danced it before, but one of the dancers here, her husband is an actor, and I talked to him about it. I want certain moments to read. You can do things onstage, but it just doesn't always read, and I just want to get it right. So he gave me some books on the basics of acting. In each rehearsal, I try something different and see what I feel most comfortable doing, and if Katie says, "No, don't do that," I know. And eventually it starts working, and then you can just keep doing the same thing.
Stanley: I'm just reading the play and listening to the music and getting acquainted with the story, because I was never that familiar with it. I read it in high school, but didn't really think that I'd be dancing it one day, and now that this moment has come, I want to get everything I can out of the play and to create in my mind certain things that I want to incorporate. The way that Mercutio and Benvolio act—they're your best friends, and you know everything about your best friends, so it's kind of cool to see how they speak in the play.
I like how NYCB uses younger dancers for this production. How do you feel about that?
Catazaro: I think it's a great idea. In other versions, not necessarily Alessandra Ferri—leaving her out of the picture—I feel that the older you get, the harder it is to find that fresh, almost naiveness of the age. When you're younger, you're still at a close enough point where you can go back a couple of years and remember: What was I doing when I was 14 or 15? It's just easier, and the audience sees it too.
Stanley: It's truer to the story.
What were you doing when you were that age? Were you at the Rock School?
Stanley: I was at Rock West. I was just going to school, and then ballet after school, until 9 or 10pm. Doing homework. I had love interests—you're young and that's how this is kind of supposed to feel. When you're younger you meet someone, and it's that bubbly feeling inside.
Stanley: Yeah. And that's what Katie wants out of us. She wants us to have that feeling inside of us when we act. That's how you feel when you're younger and you meet someone and it's new. It's like something you've never experienced before, and that's why it makes you so happy—it's the first time and it's fresh. I didn't really think about that until now. [Laughs]
Catazaro: For me, it was the same exact thing: went to school, did my homework, ballet class till 9 or 10pm. I remember my first girlfriend. I just remember seeing her and being really nervous around her and getting the butterflies when we kissed for the first time. You don't really get that feeling as much anymore. Not to say anything bad... [Laughs] But it's not the same. Nothing's ever the same as the first time, as your first love. Because you never repeat that.
What is the extent of Peter Martins coaching you?
Catazaro: He's got a lot of really good things to say, especially about partnering. Little hints and tricks he gives you really help. Even Katie was like, "Doesn't he just have the greatest things to say?" He can really help a lot with even one correction of, "Put your hip here." Or, "Put your thumbs into your back." "Quick arm in and then switch your arm as soon as she gets around." Because there's one part where she does a promenade...it was fine, but it wasn't exactly what he wanted, and he said, "Try this: Throw your hand in almost like you're not quite getting there and then quickly start going around backward as you switch your other hand." It made the turn so much smoother, because I didn't take away from her momentum of the turn at all. Those little things.
Stanley: It's pretty much the same for me. With all those promenades, you don't know where her weight is going to be, or where your weight is going to be once you step in and take her. I have a tendency to be really rough, and I have to remember that Erica is my partner and she doesn't need to be manhandled: I can take my time. The promenades are the hardest thing for me because she's so on her leg, and I just have to find where I need to put her in order for everything to revolve smoothly, instead of me trying to make it happen. It'll just happen on its own if you just relax with it and use your hands and your fingers. That's what he says all the time: "Use your thumbs." There's so much power in your fingers that you don't even have to tense your body so much.
Catazaro: It saves energy, too. Which you need. [Laughs]
Stanley: Yeah. It's all about saving yourself for the next moment.