Georgina Pazcoguin talks about coming to terms with her body as she turns a new page at NYCB
Soloist Georgina Pazcoguin talks about her rise at New York City Ballet and working on the new Angelin Preljocaj ballet
Thu Sep 12 2013
Time Out New York: Can we talk about some roles? Anita in West Side Story Suite.
Georgina Pazcoguin: Oh, Anita is amazing. Just a grin ear to ear, unbelievable opportunity. I’ll be reprising it hopefully in October when we go to Tokyo. I am second cast to Jeni Ringer, who is the best at everything. [Laughs] She is the ultimate role model. What would you like to know about Anita?
Time Out New York: Did you know the role before you learned it? I’ve never seen anything so natural in my life.
Georgina Pazcoguin: I watched West Side Story for the first time when I was in fifth grade, and I was like this [Grips the edge of the table]. Everyone else in the class was like this [Rests her chin on her palm] and doodling, and I loved it. Fully sold! But it wasn’t through seeing it. I didn’t see it on Broadway. I was sort of green, [ballet master] J.P. [Frohlich] asked me, “Would you like to audition? Can you sing a few bars?” It was during Saratoga. I have never sung anything beside humming in the shower. I didn’t know! I grabbed Kyle Froman, because I knew he had certain experiences with acting, and I said, “You’ve gotta help me!” And he taught me how to breathe from my stomach when I sang and then we went downstairs to the tiny practice room, and [pianist] Elaine Chelton and J.P. were there, and I just started singing, and they were kind of like, “Whoa—okay.” And they had me do it again. I didn’t even know if I was singing it on key. We came back and did another audition. It’s very awkward. You feel very stark. How many times have we been onstage in just a leotard and tights? That’s stark, but this felt very intimate. It’s not your first talent. “Hey, I can sing!” I never would have whipped that card out. And then it was whittled down to four or five, and Jeni Ringer taught us the dance. I believe I did it with Amar first, and that was super fun. Who doesn’t like to dance with Amar Ramasar? He’s so experienced and a very comforting partner. And that whole dance at the gym—you’re getting puffed and you have to run around and all of a sudden recompose yourself to do something totally different. That first time, stepping out onstage and getting ready to sing, all of a sudden I felt no moisture whatsoever in my mouth. [Laughs] This is probably not what you should feel. And nervousness that cannot be described. It was something that I’d never felt before. I’d always expressed myself with my body, and to have to express myself with my body and my voice at the same time was a trip and a half. I kind of blurred through the first one, and I don’t even know what J.P. said. I was in shock and thought it was the best thing ever and came offstage and hit the floor. It’s puffy. There are pop artists who don’t sing their songs and dance at the same time. Amen, Michael Jackson. He always did it. It’s just one of those feelings onstage where I feel like I’m encompassing part of what the universe has intended for me in a kooky sort of way. It’s one of those I-can-be-bigger-than-who-I-am and what makes it great is that I’m shielded behind a character, so it is this character, but it can be me shining through the character, and even though it’s out there, and I’m not claiming to be a singer in any respect, it’s something that I can put on and feel completely different and feel good about and still be kind of protected by this character.
Time Out New York: And you’re wearing a wig.
Georgina Pazcoguin: God bless a wig. A wig, heels, hoop earrings and a lot of makeup.
Time Out New York: What is it about Jerry Robbins and you?
Georgina Pazcoguin: It’s a difficult question to answer. I don’t know what it is. I only know Jerry through a third person. I never got to meet him. I never got to have a conversation with him, so what I learn is stories through J.P. and through other dancers. I remember Miranda Weese, after one of my Opus Jazz shows, said, “Jerry would have loved you.” When I was younger and started to do more Jerry rep, that whole, “Jerry would have loved you,” and I was like, “Well, what do you mean?” I like the honesty of his work in that you are, a lot of times, a person. You’re a lot of times a person who is a part of a community, and these are not new ideas. He wants it to be full-out, but not full-out, and so I find that challenging. And challenging in the way for an artist that I can always come back to a Jerry Robbins piece and feel like it’s brand-new. There is always something else to work on within the line of the process. It feels organic to me. The movement, the feeling, the approach. It hits my soul in a way that I can express it. I’m happy to be one of those people to step into these roles and perhaps carry them onto the next generation.
Time Out New York: Opus Jazz is amazing.
Georgina Pazcoguin: That piece is just amazing. And to see what it was and where it’s been and how it has withstood the test of time as any good ballet has to be able to do. Political ideas change, cultural ideas change, and when it still resonates today, that says a lot.
Time Out New York: What would you want to dance in The Cage?
Georgina Pazcoguin: I would love to be the Novice. I feel it would just bring my career full circle, since that’s what I fell in love with the first time I saw a professional company do ballet. It seems almost sacrilegious that I didn’t see NYCB do Jerome Robbins. I didn’t see the home team in a sense. SFB has wonderful dancers, and I’ve come to learn that when you have the Robbins bug, it doesn’t matter where you are—you can do it. I would love to do The Cage. That’s a theatrical piece that has a character, that has a certain darkness to it that I would chew on for days, months, weeks.
Time Out New York: I really love you in Russian Seasons.
Georgina Pazcoguin: Even my original part in it—the two girls—I loved it. I was in the maroon dress at the beginning. That was a particularly awesome experience, because you just see [Alexei] Ratmansky move and all of a sudden, he just moves from his core in a way—there’s so much power, and yet he’s this wonderfully gentle man and so insightful and so talented, and you see him move: He gets from one side of the room to the other in one movement, and I didn’t even see his legs move. It basically came from his ribs. These experiences help my classical dancing, I think. You learn how to move your body in different ways, and it can only help. You’re able to draw upon different ideas and formulate and take from them what you can and apply it and you apply it the next time around, more of the same idea, less of the same idea.
Time Out New York: Even to a Balanchine ballet?
Georgina Pazcoguin: Yes. The Balanchine technique is about precision and going beyond the reach of the foot—how do you do that? Some people are better at it than others, and he’s an amazing mover, so you take that power and try to piece it in.
Time Out New York: Do you still enjoy dancing Balanchine?
Georgina Pazcoguin: I love Balanchine. I wish I could do more Balanchine. Please, with my love of Jerry and of new choreography, I don’t want to exclude the Balanchine work at all. I love the Balanchine rep, although the governing factors have not placed me in the lineup to take on those roles. There’s always a hope; there’s always a change. Not for changing me, but for changing what they see. It’s what they see. It’s not that I couldn’t do these things. I could. If they gave me a chance to rehearse these things, I could do them and show it to them and make a believer of them—it’s just getting in the room. I don’t know what parameters and what exactly they need other than body type, which obviously can’t change.
Time Out New York: But there are so many body types at NYCB.
Georgina Pazcoguin: I agree with you.
Time Out New York: Do you rehearse by yourself?
Georgina Pazcoguin: I always pick something to work on. A couple of seasons ago, I worked on Firebird. I guess it could be looked upon as a faux pas, but it was a season in which I wasn’t dancing a lot, and I wanted to keep myself in shape. The best way to get myself into dancing shape is to dance. And that’s the thing. When they tell dancers that they don’t fit a certain aesthetic, and then they take them out of everything—that is frustrating, because it is the dancing that gets you into that sort of aesthetic look. You can go to the gym all you want. There are things that help toward it, there are things that enhance it; what I do in addition to ballet is Gyrotonics, which is amazing and has changed the way my body feels when I dance now, and also not being a spring chicken anymore, it helps with those aches and pains! But it’s dancing that keeps you in shape, and I still work on things. If they were to say tomorrow, “We need a Sugar Plum,” I could do it, because I’ve rehearsed myself, I’ve had multiple partners, I’ve had people come in and be eyes for me—usually other coworkers. The best critics are your coworkers. They appreciate watching you. They are honest with you. There’s also that competition. I find that some of the best feedback you get is from your fellow dancers. I just want to be ready. In the off chance that something may happen I’m ready to go. Maybe some day. Maybe some day, someone will do a new Firebird. Or maybe I’ll do a Firebird somewhere else. You never know. The door is open, and we are on a new page.
Time Out New York: A new page how?
Georgina Pazcoguin: I’m leaving the frustrations of being in the corps behind. I’m trying to move forward with the positives. And not forgetting anything—not just wiping the slate clean and being a doe-eyed newbie again, but taking the lessons learned. I am working toward making myself a stronger classical dancer and a stronger Balanchine dancer. Perhaps eyes will see, eventually. That’s the only thing. To just keep working. Just keep working. There’s no end to it. [Laughs] Thank God I like working.
New York City Ballet is at the David H. Koch Theater (at Lincoln Center) through Oct 13.