The new Romeos

NYCB introduces two new heartthrobs: Zachary Catazaro and Taylor Stanley.

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Photograph: Paul Kolnik

Zach Catazaro rehearsing Romeo + JulietChoreography by Peter MartinsNew York...

Zach Catazaro rehearsing Romeo + Juliet

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Photograph: Paul Kolnik

Tiler Peck and Zach Catazaro rehearsing Romeo + JulietChoreography by Peter...

Tiler Peck and Zach Catazaro rehearsing Romeo + Juliet

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Photograph: Paul Kolnik

Tiler Peck and Zach Catazaro rehearsing Romeo + JulietChoreography by Peter...

Tiler Peck and Zach Catazaro rehearsing Romeo + Juliet

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Photograph: Paul Kolnik

Tiler Peck and Zach Catazaro rehearsing Romeo + JulietChoreography by Peter...

Tiler Peck and Zach Catazaro rehearsing Romeo + Juliet

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Photograph: Paul Kolnik

Erica Pereira and Taylor Stanley rehearsing Romeo + JulietChoreography by...

Erica Pereira and Taylor Stanley rehearsing Romeo + Juliet

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Photograph: Paul Kolnik

Erica Pereira and Taylor Stanley rehearsing Romeo + JulietChoreography by...

Erica Pereira and Taylor Stanley rehearsing Romeo + Juliet

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Photograph: Paul Kolnik

Erica Pereira and Taylor Stanley rehearsing Romeo + JulietChoreography by...

Erica Pereira and Taylor Stanley rehearsing Romeo + Juliet

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Photograph: Paul Kolnik

Taylor Stanley rehearsing Romeo + JulietChoreography by Peter MartinsNew York...

Taylor Stanley rehearsing Romeo + Juliet

Romeo + Juliet is back at New York City Ballet, but it won't be the same old tragedy. In line with choreographer Peter Martins's approach to keep things young and fresh—he's no fan of the 40-year-old Juliet—he is introducing two new Romeos this season, beginning February 16 with Zachary Catazaro (he's like the Jordan Catalano of NYCB) and February 18 with Taylor Stanley (he really is Harry Belafonte reborn). Their Juliets are more experienced: Catazaro, 22, will dance opposite Tiler Peck, and Stanley, 20, with Erica Pereira. Recently, they spoke about taking on one of ballet's most monumental roles.

How did you find out you were dancing Romeo, and what was your first thought?
Zachary Catazaro: I found out in the hallway of the eight floor. Tiler Peck told me. She said, "I think you're going to be my Romeo." I was like, "What?" [Laughs] I just wasn't expecting that at all.
Taylor Stanley:
I found out the last day of Nutcracker. I was doing Spanish corps in the second act. I guess the rehearsal schedule had come out for that coming Tuesday, and it said, "Pereira/Stanley," and someone came up to me: "You're learning Romeo!" It was cool. It was New Year's Eve, and it was fun to think that that's what was going to be coming next in the New Year.

Did you have the desire to dance this part?
Catazaro:
It's something that every male dancer wants to do. It's a dream role, really. It has everything in it: dancing and acting and self-expression. It's not just positions. There's a story to tell and it's open for interpretation, which is fantastic.

I imagine it must be a relief in that you don't have to be a prince.
Catazaro:
Yeah, that too. It's romantic, of course.... It's human.
Stanley:
You're more of a boy, you're younger, and you are supposed to be acting like a little kid who is new to romance and love. It's cool to go back into that, instead of, I have to be grown-up and more princely.

I hope it's not awkward to be talking about all this together.
Stanley:
Oh, no. I feel like we both know the struggles.
Catazaro:
He's right next to me in the dressing room.
Stanley: We talk about it all the time. [Laughs] It's been quick learning the pas de deux and the miming, the acting. So far, it's just been Erica and me dancing together or just [ballet master Kathleen] Katie Tracey telling us, "This happens next" and "This comes before" and "Now you have to go over here." There's really no one yet in the process; we don't have Mercutio, Benvolio...
Catazaro:
No other characters. We're acting to air.
Stanley:
And you want to feel what you're going to do right away, so it's like, of course, you want to put as much energy into that gesture as you can.
Catazaro:
But also, everyone in my cast at least has done it before. That will help a lot because they'll be there for support. It's just how we do things around here; there are so many ballets being rehearsed. It's not necessarily because they don't want to rehearse, it's just because they can't get time in.

So you're both working with Katie?
Catazaro:
Yes. Occasionally Peter [Martins]. This is the first time that I've worked with her as a coach.
Stanley:
I've worked with her on Fearful [Symmetries]. She's really precise about telling us where to be and the emotions that need to happen behind the movement.
Catazaro:
She's been trying to work with me on loosening up my upper body a lot. [To Stanley] You're a very natural mover, and sometimes I get a little stiff, so she's been really helping me be more fluid with my movement. I'm used to straight, Cavalier kind of stuff. This has been a really good experience, because it helps me grow as a dancer. Anytime I'm going through a position with my arms, I just think of trying to make it softer. As opposed to getting into the position, I can actually grow to the position. Katie's really good with that kind of stuff.

Have you danced with your partners before this?
Catazaro:
Just once. I was supposed to do Divert [Divertimento No. 15] last February, but I injured my foot and had to have surgery. But I did rehearse with Tiler for a while.
Stanley: Erica and I have never really worked together before. It's definitely a new partnership; it's a process, and you grow in every rehearsal. You learn more about their body and their personality and the way they react to you while you're dancing and partnering each other, and Erica is great. There's life in her dancing, and I feel we have a good chemistry so far, and hopefully it will continue to grow. Katie works with us on the playfulness of it all, which has been helping too. It's funny: You're doing all this tricky partnering, and then at the same time, you're a kid. It's funny imagining 14-year-olds partnering each other. [Laughs] I mean, I know it's a ballet, but it's a funny thought.

Do you talk about what kind of relationship you want to have?
Catazaro:
Well, it's nice. Tiler, believe it or not, is my age. [Laughs] She got in really, really early and moved up really quickly. I was still in Ohio when she was in the company.

She was on Broadway when you were in Ohio.
Catazaro:
I know. She was in movies when I was, like, seven. [Laughs] She'll be like, "Okay, for this part here, you're going to be really tired, so maybe save it a little bit." Just little tips here and there.

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.
Catazaro:
Butterflies.
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.

Have you been doing cardio work?
Catazaro:
Some.
Stanley:
[Sheepishly] Not really.
Catazaro:
I've been doing the bike every once in a while. I'm ten months out of surgery. I'm trying to get there. I had a bone that was too big in my ankle, and it was pushing into my tendons, so they had to cut it off. I think by this point, I'm in pretty good shape.

In terms of your interpretations, to what extent can you be your own Romeo? Who is your Romeo?
Catazaro:
They let you find it, which I feel is a good thing. We're not on chains or anything. They're letting us do our own thing.
Stanley: I feel like they find joy in seeing the diversity in the way we each portray things, and Katie's really good at finding our strengths and seeing our weaknesses and finding a balance in all of that, which is cool, and I think it's cool for her to see, too. It's fun to work with her when she coaches you. She prepares you for your next entrance: to feel what you need to feel before you go out. For the Madrigal pas de deux, she always tries to make me laugh. You've seen Juliet twice already, and you're happy—so you run onto the stage with a pleasant face, smiling. You're looking for her. It's cool to see your coach enjoy it with you and root for you.
Catazaro: It's a team effort.
Stanley:
And we're going through the same thing, so she shares with all of us what the other couple may have learned or what Peter said to them about this or that. It's a growing process for all of us.

Do you watch tapes of other dancers?
Catazaro:
Robbie [Fairchild] and Sterling [Hyltin]. That's our version.

You should check out Kathryn Morgan and Seth Orza, too.
Catazaro:
I watched them dance it. I actually learned the ballet with Katie when I was in the School of American Ballet. I was her original Romeo. That's when Callie [Bachman] was still doing Juliet with Robbie. It was before they switched out the cast and made it with company members. I was brought in almost at the very end of the process, but I was there when things were being choreographed. I remember going through the balcony scene. I was like, "He wants me to do this." [Winces] I was 17.

Was it embarrassing?
Catazaro:
Rosemary [Dunleavy], Russell Kaiser and Peter were there. Fayal [Karoui] was there. All these people were in all these rehearsals all the time, and I didn't know who any of them were. I remember I walked in for a sword rehearsal, and Adrian [Danchig-Waring] came up to me and said, "Hi, I'm Adrian. If you need anything at all"—he thought I was an apprentice—"just come to me. I'm the company spokesperson." It was funny. The only scene that I ever did alone with Katie for the full length was the death scene. That was five years ago. But ever since then, I've always wanted to do it.

What are the points in the ballet where you have had more questions than answers?
Stanley:
First learning the pas de deux, I was questioning a lot. I was thinking about acting at the same time as trying to partner, and there are so many in-between moments that you can fill it up with something or you can just do nothing and it will be just as meaningful. When you walk up to her in the balcony scene and slowly take her hand, that can be like nothing. But it's something. And then you do your solos. Today, for instance, I would go back to this position—holding my heart each time—but there are so many other things I can do.
Catazaro: When I started watching the tape, as soon as Romeo meets Juliet, I was like, this could go really wrong. It's something that might not read at all. So that's something that I've been thinking about: When we meet Juliet for the first time, we stare at her for a long time. But there are other aspects instead of just staring at her. You have to think, You're 15 and you have a huge crush on somebody the first time you see them. What would your face look like at that point? You can stare or you can stare like, Wait a second. What?

There's that amazing part in the Kenneth MacMillan version, where Juliet is sitting on the bed, and she's trying to figure out what to do without moving. Everything is in her face. Is that what you're talking about?
Catazaro:
Yes. It's that process of thinking about what you're feeling. Your face will do what your mind is thinking.

Are there any actors you admire in particular?
Catazaro:
I would have to say Johnny Depp. He can just do anything.
Stanley:
I don't know—no one in particular. This whole thing is making me want to watch more movies in general and to have new experiences around the city: to go somewhere and do something you've never done before. You want to be reminded of what those new experiences feel like, even if it's just something small.
Catazaro:
Be method.

New York City Ballet performs at the David H. Koch Theater through Feb 26.

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Comments

17 comments
ninagracechloefaith
ninagracechloefaith

hey t stan we love you sooooooooo much still please reply to us because we love you!!!! so this deborah gets a shout out and we dont come on that is so NOT fabulous :(

ninerschlofaithygrace
ninerschlofaithygrace

I LOVE YOU TAYLOR! our real e- mail is marklayfamily@gmail.com PLEASE SEND US A SHOUT OUT We love you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

chloeninafaithgraceweloveyou!!!
chloeninafaithgraceweloveyou!!!

Hey taylorrrrrr we love you sooo much mr. stanley we really want to meet you and we are still in love with you so please give us any shout out we will accept anything PLEASE we arent stalkers just huge fans :)! please answer you are so cute and we thing you are an amazing ballerina did you ever get that dog you wanted?? we are just 4 innocent 14 year old so please answer thanks luvya T-STAN MY MAN!!!

harrypotta
harrypotta

Heyyy t-stan! we love you please please please write back!!! deborah got a shout out!!! what about us pleaseeee we love you!!!!!!!!!!!

garceandninaarethebiggesttstanfans
garceandninaarethebiggesttstanfans

Hey Taylor Stanley! Me and Nina really love you a lot and we were wondering if you had a show or performance coming up that we could go to cuz we love to watch you dance you are our favorite male ballerina! and we might have a party for you this year for your birthday again but we will follow through this time! ;love ya t stan our fave man!

chloeandninaluvtaylor
chloeandninaluvtaylor

taylor we love you and we want to come to your next show HOW CAN WE GET THEM!???

Taylorstanley151
Taylorstanley151

Hi girls I had a great birthday i'm sorry I couln't come to your party! I'm so flattered to have fans like you girls! hugs and kisses!

PJ
PJ

ELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELMELM

ninagracechloemadison
ninagracechloemadison

WE LOVE YOUOOOOOOO COME TO OUR PARTY PLEASEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!! TAYYYYYLOORRRRRR

chloeninagracemadisonlauren
chloeninagracemadisonlauren

We love you taylor we realllllllllllllly want you to come to our party that we are throwing for you we love you like soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo muc and we would feel fabulous if you came love, your #1 fans!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

ninagraceninamadisonlauren!
ninagraceninamadisonlauren!

Dear taylor Stanley, we are huge fans.....we love your dancing! You are amazing! we were going to throw you a party on may 30th.....we have everything planned! You would make the party awesome! we go to school at Mother teresa catholic elementary school...liberty township, oh! you can come at 1:00. We absouloutly love you!

chloeninagracemadisonlauren
chloeninagracemadisonlauren

we love you tayolor stanley1 we are evnhaving a party for your birthday! .. haha well you need to come please we love you sooooo much its at mother teresa chatholic elementery school in ohio PLEASE RIGHT BACK WE LOVVEEEEEEEE YOUUUUUUU love

chloeninagracemadisonlauren
chloeninagracemadisonlauren

we love you tayolor stanley1 we are evnhaving a party for your birthday! .. haha well you need to come please we love you sooooo much its at mother teresa chatholic elementery school in ohio PLEASE RIGHT BACK WE LOVVEEEEEEEE YOUUUUUUU love