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For New York City Ballet's fall season, Huxley, 23, will likely reprise his parts in 2 & 3 Part Inventions, Fearful Symmetries and—his favorite—Square Dance. He spoke with TONY while at the Vail International Dance Festival, where he was on tour with the newly formed ensemble New York City Ballet Moves.
You're small for a male dancer. How have you come to terms with your size?
At NYCB I've been able to dance great things considering my height. I was worried I would have to do jester roles all my life. I tried to focus on becoming more of a...
Yeah. I think I am fortunate with my proportions that I look maybe a little taller than I am. [Laughs] I never really focused on trying to do tricks. I focused more on having a style, a stronger technique and a clean line.
One of your best roles is as the male lead in Balanchine's Square Dance. What's your approach in the solo?
When you perform it, you are dead tired at that point [in the ballet], so in rehearsal, I try to do it as technically perfect as I can, to get that strength. But when you're onstage, you can't squeeze as hard as you'd like, so I focus on the essence. It's a solo of yearning, and your brain is working and twisting.
Why did you start dancing?
I was five, and my parents enrolled me in dance classes. I guess my mom would put on music and I'd start hopping around. I was in diapers. I did jazz and ballet. As I got older, my teacher thought I should focus mostly on ballet, and she suggested I go to San Francisco Ballet School. I did that.
How old were you?
I think I was seven or eight. She noticed something, I guess, and thought it would be better for me to go to a more prestigious school and get better training.
How did you learn about the School of American Ballet?
In San Francisco, Gloria Govrin took over, and she really didn't like me. I had to leave. I went to a local ballet studio, Contra Costa Ballet, for two or three years. One of the teachers was a former dancer with New York City Ballet who suggested I go and audition for SAB. I got into the summer course, went for two summers, and was then asked to stay for the year.
Why didn't Govrin like you?
She thought I was too short. She was very Balanchine, and she wanted the guys to be tall and great partners, and I was short and not a good partner and small and weak. She didn't think I had a good future there.
Who did you idolize growing up? There's a lot. Everyone has something special that you can pick up from them. Peter Boal for being so clean—he was a great teacher, too.
Did you also study with Nikolaj Hbbe?
Yeah. I had some classes with Nikolaj. They were very different. Nikolaj was more, I think, technical and clean and precise, and Peter Boal let you, as a dancer, think more about what you wanted to do. He gave you more ideas about how to make your dancing more exciting, whether it was going off balance or not waiting for a turn and just going for it. And Jock Soto—his class was probably one of the hardest classes ever. It's so fast and extremely technical, and afterward you just feel awful, but you know he makes you stronger.
Because you are small, how did he help you with partnering?
In the school, I was pretty shy about partnering. Especially since I wasn't very good. It wasn't the best experience, but I watched a lot. I learned where your hand should be and how to use your legs. It's been a lot of practice, and I'm still trying to get better, but Sean Lavery and Peter [Martins] have really helped me a lot.
What did you perform at SAB's Workshop Performances?
Square Dance. When I was in the school, I saw it and thought it was the best thing ever. So when the rehearsal schedule for workshop went up, I was super excited to be doing it. Suki Schorer taught it to us, and I think we rehearsed it for three months. Square Dance was the most fun thing I've ever done.
How did you get into the company? You were an apprentice for almost a year.
Yes, I was an apprentice from Nutcracker to the end of Saratoga.
Were you scared that there wouldn't be a job in the end?
I didn't feel that stressed about it, actually. I just went out there and did the best I could with the ballets I was given. Actually, when I was an apprentice, that was the year that Peter did Romeo and Juliet, and he wanted the cast to be young dancers. I was one of the Romeos with Robbie Fairchild, David Prottas and Allen Peiffer. We were all learning Romeo. After a while, Peter decided to go with older dancers. So that was most of my apprentice experience. It was horrifying, but I did it.
That must have been a nightmare for someone who's insecure about partnering.
Yeah. It was a little scary. He worked mostly with Callie Bachman and Robbie Fairchild. The rest of us tried to pick it up in the back, and every once in a while, he asked some other people to see what we did. It would always be a wreck for me, but I did the best I could. It was a lot of inexperience; I didn't know how to do things and the partnering was rough. We were so nervous because we hadn't worked with him before. We were all kids. I was 18.
When you were offered your corps contract, was that a surprise?
I thought I was doing well, so I wasn't that nervous. I was nervous, but I didn't feel I was in jeopardy. My first year, I didn't do that much. My first big role was Candy Cane in Nutcracker.
What roles have been especially meaningful to you?
I think the Cavalier in Nutcracker, because you do Nutcracker as a child, and it's your first ballet. You start off as a party child, and as you get older, the parts get harder and harder until finally you do the hardest part: You've made it and your training is complete. It was good for me. It wasn't 100 percent great, but I only had two weeks to learn. [Laughs] I did the best I could. And now I perform Square Dance with Megan Fairchild, and that's great. We have a similar approach to the ballet, she's really helpful, and we have a lot of fun doing it. We don't try to cover it up with gimmicks.