Clara Miller and Isabella LaFreniere talk about the School of American Ballet
School of American Ballet students Clara Miller and Isabella LaFreniere talk about dancing Balanchine at this year's Workshop Performances
Thu May 23 2013
Time Out New York: Clara, what about you?
Clara Miller: My teacher, Peter Stark, was a principal in New York City Ballet. But I didn’t really know that until I found out about SAB. Someone told me that they liked girls who were tall and who had long legs and feet, and I had really awkwardly long feet and legs. I was so young and had to grow into my body. I remember being really excited to hear that there was a place that would like what I had to offer. I auditioned and came for one summer. I came the next summer. During the in-between year, after I had experienced SAB, I just loved it so much and I would go on the website every day and look at any videos I could and had tons of pictures around the room at home. The second summer, I was asked to stay.
Time Out New York: Did you know much about New York City Ballet?
Clara Miller: I didn’t know anything about it. You would talk to other students, and they’d ask, “Who are your favorite dancers?” I’d say, “Janie Taylor, Maria Kowroski and Wendy Whelan” because they were in the Body Wrappers ad. [Laughs] I said, “Oh yeah, those are definitely my favorite dancers.” Those were the only people I knew.
Time Out New York: Who do you like watching?
Isabella LaFreniere: Right now, I really like watching Tiler Peck. She’s still growing. We were discussing how she’s so perfect.
Clara Miller: You can’t not like Tiler Peck.
Isabella LaFreniere: But she’s still improving so much. It’s like, Wait, I thought she was perfect, but she got even more perfect. [Laughs] What’s happening?
Clara Miller: Watching the new ballet that was choreographed for her and Robbie Fairchild—you’re just watching her and enjoying yourself and it looks so effortless, and you’re like, wait a second—she just did a turn and opened up into à la seconde. She’s amazing. You don’t even realize it when you’re watching.
Isabella LaFreniere: She makes it look effortless. But I also love Maria Kowroski’s long lines. She’ll développé that leg, and it’ll just be, Oh. I feel like everyone in the crowd has their jaw open. Those legs.
Clara Miller: I love watching all of the principals. And then my friend Indiana Woodward—she’s in the corps, but she’s gotten to do a couple of lead roles in ballets and just watching her and knowing her is really special. I also just think that she is so incredible. She’s so young and so new. You can’t take your eyes off of her.
Time Out New York: How did the two of you become friends?
Isabella LaFreniere: We met at the PCS boat cruise.
Clara Miller: Yeah, at the very beginning of our first year—before anything actually started—we went on the boat cruise and my parents came up, and my mom was talking to your mom before we got on the boat and she said to me, “You have to go over and introduce yourself to Isabella—her mom is really nice, and you can be friends.” My mom still asks about you. She doesn’t know many kids from SAB, but she knows you from that boat cruise.
Isabella LaFreniere: We had all of our freshman classes together and a lot of our sophomore classes. This year, we have English and history.
Time Out New York: What is the boat cruise?
Isabella LaFreniere: You just go around the Statue of Liberty to start the school year. You meet all the new kids. There were so many new kids that year going to SAB. It was kind of fun. We were talking about it a couple of days ago. When we came, there were so many new boys and girls, and we became such close friends and have stayed so close throughout these past three years. We were discussing how sad it’s going to be when we leave. One of the older students just left, and I was putting myself in that position. I can’t imagine leaving. It’s been such a big part of our lives. I see Clara more than I see my parents.
Time Out New York: It’s almost like you’re having a college experience.
Isabella LaFreniere: Oh yeah. That’s what my parents say. They’re like, “We sent you away to college already—at 14.” [Laughs]
Time Out New York: It’s so true. How do you balance school and ballet?
Clara Miller: Isabella does it really well. I’m not quite there! But I think I’m more of a Type-B personality, so…you know, you should answer this one. Make it sound like we both balance it really well. [Laughs]
Isabella LaFreniere: Usually, we end classes at four and go to Pilates afterward; I get dinner and do my homework after that, and I try to plan ahead of the week: Oh, I have this big assignment due, so I should maybe do this on this day, so I can go to the ballet the next day.
Clara Miller: [Enthusiastically] Yeah!
Isabella LaFreniere: Clara’s like, What’s planning?
Clara Miller: I finished nine seasons of Grey’s Anatomy in a month and a half. That kind of took top priority.
Isabella LaFreniere: It took me seven months.
Clara Miller: But you did your homework! That’s the difference.
Time Out New York: You’re both returning to the school next year. Can you talk about the SAB experience?
Isabella LaFreniere: There’s so much that we’ve both gotten out of it. It’s kind of hard to explain.
Clara Miller: Yeah. You’re not even the same person when you arrive here. You’re so young. We were a really rambunctious group of kids when we came. We were so loud and annoying I’m sure, and we’ve all matured by being around each other and developed as people as well as dancers. Inside the studio, you don’t even realize the progress that you’re making every day because you feel so engaged by the teachers and by the curriculum.
Time Out New York: So this is your first workshop experience. What are your thoughts?
Isabella LaFreniere: I’m super excited. These past two years, we would watch [Workshop Performances], and it was the thing that all the older students would look forward to. This year, when we were in C2, we realized that we had the chance of getting to be in workshop. I was excited just to be in workshop. When I found out that we were going to be doing the lead in Faust, that was, like, shocking. Now it’s kind of…you learned all this stuff, and it’s getting so close that I’m kind of nervous, but I’m excited just to do it. I’m nervous now, but once I get onstage I’m going to have a lot of fun and it’ll be a great memory, too. A great opportunity.
Clara Miller: I’m excited for the orchestra, because the piano is great to rehearse with, but it’s just so different with an orchestra.
Isabella LaFreniere: I’m looking forward to it.
Clara Miller: It’s just weird that it’s us doing it.
Isabella LaFreniere: We were actually on the elevator the day that the casting went up. Your roommate texted you, and my roommate texted me and was like, “Come down.” We looked at the board and saw our names, that we were going to be rehearsing the lead in Walpurgisnacht.
Clara Miller: I wasn’t surprised for you. That was very expected.
Isabella LaFreniere: Clara looked at me, and she looked like she was going to cry. We hugged.
Clara Miller: It was kind of like shell shock.
Isabella LaFreniere: We’re barre buddies, so we stood next to each other at the barre that day.
Clara Miller: I don’t remember one step of any combination, but we had Susie. [Laughs] She understood.
School of American Ballet’s 2013 Workshop Performances are at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater (at the Juilliard School) June 1 and 4.