Jennie Somogyi talks about her return to New York City Ballet

Principal dancer Jennie Somogyi talks about returning to New York City Ballet after tearing her Achilles tendon

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Time Out New York: Do you talk to Peter Martins about your rep? 
Jennie Somogyi:
I am probably the only person in the company [who doesn’t]. I know, I’m a freak. I have never gone in and asked to do anything. It’s just not me. I just feel like everything I did I earned, and I always felt like if I went in and asked for something that that’s why I was doing it. I’m not the artistic director, so I feel like people see themselves in things that maybe they shouldn’t. I always felt funny saying, “I think I should do this.” Well, maybe I shouldn’t. So I never did [request roles], and people always used to yell at me about that. “Why aren’t you doing this? You should go in and ask!” If I was supposed to do it, I’d be doing it. So we don’t talk that often. [Laughs] I mean, we get along great, and it’s not that I’m scared of him or that we have a bad relationship at all; I just feel those are his decisions. I probably would do more if I did. I got to a certain point, and I thought, I’ve been here so long—do I go ask for something now? It just seems like, again, if I was supposed to do it, I should have done it.

Time Out New York: Just look at the younger generation and do what they would do.
Jennie Somogyi:
Oh, I know! I’m completely not the norm. I’m like, Well, do I sell out now? I went this long. [Laughs]

Time Out New York: Yes! Do it. Plus, you’re not selling out.
Jennie Somogyi:
I have gotten better as the years have gone on about saying no to things; they just asked me if I wanted to do turning girl in Who Cares? for my first show back, and the old me would have been like, Well, this is a challenge. Just do it. It’s your job. And then I thought, That’s not what I want to do for my first show back. I understand they thought, There aren’t a lot of jumps. But it’s tricks. And I thought, I don’t think that I’m going to enjoy it, and I certainly want to enjoy what I’m doing after I did all this work to get back. That’s not what I want my first show to be. So certain things I’m getting better about.

Time Out New York: What would you ask for?
Jennie Somogyi:
Oh, gosh. Don’t do this to me. No, no, no, no, no…

Time Out New York: Who do you work with ballet master–wise? Or do you work on your own?
Jennie Somogyi:
Each ballet has a different [ballet master], so I work with everybody. But if it’s something that I’ve done and done a lot, then I tend to not call anyone [to rehearsal]. For my personality, I like to work through things and feel it out, and then at the end, somebody will come in and look at it and give me pointers. I feel if I get too many corrections right off the bat, it starts to mold my performance, and then I never find myself. I used to feel bad about it; I felt like coaches took it the wrong way that I didn’t call them. I would always do it at the end. You get into that whole wanting to please your coach, and sometimes you sacrifice things that you like that you were doing. And then sometimes, if you work with somebody too long, there are so many corrections—every step has a correction, and you kind of feel stunted when you get out there. So you get a few at the end that are the important ones.

Time Out New York: You live in Pennsylvania. How often do you travel to New York now?
Jennie Somogyi:
I have my daughter there. I want her to have a yard. I’ve been spending a lot of time there. Once she starts school, I can do more here, but I primarily have been there; even if I can see her a half hour before she goes to bed, I’ll go home. I still have my apartment here.

Time Out New York: What is the commute?
Jennie Somogyi:
If I take the bus, it’s two hours; if I drive and there’s no traffic, it’s an hour and 20 minutes. But I can’t do this forever; I’m like, So I don’t sleep a lot for a couple of years. [Laughs]

Time Out New York: Do you take company class?
Jennie Somogyi:
I do. I get up at 6:30am. It’s really funny, because on days off, everybody’s like, “Oh, I got a massage and went to the spa,” and I’m like, “I went grocery shopping, went to the park.” These are the sacrifices you make. [Laughs]

Time Out New York: Was your mental state similar during each of your injuries? It’s so depressing, right?
Jennie Somogyi:
Yeah. I’m just a physical person, so that’s the hardest part: My husband always goes nuts, because if I have a day off, I can’t just relax. I mean, I can for a period of time, but not the whole day. That’s the most depressing part: Those first few months when you can’t move. And I don’t like to sweat—I mean it’s not something I enjoy—but I’m always like, I just want to sweat. My body does not want to sit. The first time I could get on a treadmill at physical therapy and I broke a sweat, I remember thinking, like, Ahhhh!

Time Out New York: We are not so different.
Jennie Somogyi:
Yeah—just to get the blood moving. For the first injury, I was more scared, because they really didn’t think I would dance again. I was 26. I was thinking, Am I going to have a limp? I go from being a world-class athlete to what? I can’t walk? I was more stressed out. This was just really awful. I truly believe everything happens for a reason, but I kept thinking: this timing! This couldn’t be worse. Trying to get back in your thirties—I thought it was going to be a lot harder. In the end, it wasn’t. Overall, my mind frame was in another place this time. But with both injuries, I set small goals, and then you get so thrilled that you accomplished them, that you start building up that confidence. I never really got depressed.

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