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: You are funny. Does it throw you off to dance in the corps de ballet and also in the lead?
Clara Miller: I don’t think it’s confusing, but it is kind of cool to be in the corps de ballet and to see what’s going on from that perspective. And just to get a chance to sit down on the side and watch as Isabella does it. It’s also different steps, and it’s still a really fun part to do.
Time Out New York: At what age, did each of you start dancing?
Isabella LaFreniere: Four. I started dancing at three, but that was jazz and tap. I did some gymnastics. I started with just ballet at seven at a small school in Michigan.
Clara Miller: I was at Orlando Ballet School in Florida for the entire time before I came to SAB.
Time Out New York: What initially interested you in ballet?
Isabella LaFreniere: My older sister did ballet, and she would come home and say, “Guess what I learned?” She would always want to teach me. I looked up to her so much, so I wanted to follow in her footsteps. She was a big role model to me.
Clara Miller: Tell the crack-on-your-head story.
Isabella LaFreniere: When I was two, my sister, who was seven, goes, “Isabella, I learned how to do a pirouette in ballet class today. Come here and I’ll teach it to you.” She does this pirouette and lands, so I try. I do it and tumble and fall and hit the corner of my bed—it’s a wood bed. It was really, really sharp, and I crack my head open. I still have a scar here. [She traces a faint line on her forehead.] My mom was so frantic. I was young, so I started screaming and every time I would scream, it would rip open further and further. My brother and sister were like, “Is she going to die?” I looked like a cyclops. I had a huge gaping hole in my head. I got a lot stitches. I had 12 inside and 25 on the outside.
Clara Miller: [Cheerfully] And that was the beginning of your dance career.
Isabella LaFreniere: My mom was like, “She can take adventures, risks. Let’s put her in gymnastics.” You can’t have fear at all in gymnastics. At the beam, you just have to go for it. I remember I would take a break from gymnastics to go to summer programs for ballet, and I would come back and be so scared of that beam again. But gymnastics taught me to not fear, which is really good. Like that lift at the end of Faust: Just go for it. What happens, happens.
Time Out New York: That’s great. Why did you get into ballet?
Clara Miller: I just was a very hyper child and I remember every time music would come on during a commercial, I would get up and start dancing in front of the TV. My parents loved it; my older brother was so embarrassed by it. I think it was clear that I needed to do something with myself or else I was going to continue to annoy my brother because I was always dancing around.
Isabella LaFreniere: [Thoughtfully] I can imagine that.
Time Out New York: Does she do that now?
Isabella LaFreniere: Yes, she actually does! She’ll be like, “Isabella, I was in my room last night, and I just started breaking out in this little hip-hop routine. I’m like, Clara!
Clara Miller: Okay, I know I don’t look…I feel that maybe, just maybe we should be a hip-hop duo because honestly, I think that we would be so good. We took a hip-hop class together once. I made her! Isabella is actually good at hip-hop, and I just think I’m really good at hip-hop, so I was like, “We have to go take a class. We’re the next big thing.” [Laughs] After workshop ends, we’re going back to Steps.
Isabella LaFreniere: It’s a lot of fun. I like it. It’s different. But Clara always tells me stories about how she just turns on music and starts dancing in her room.
Clara Miller: I made a video for her!
Isabella LaFreniere: Only you, Clara. Only you.
Time Out New York: How was it?
Isabella LaFreniere: It was good.
Clara Miller: [Air bows] Thank you, thank you. I know. Sometimes I just barge into your suite with music and I’m just like, “I really want to choreograph to this.” One time I came in with the music from the Harry Potter movie, and I was like I’ve got to choreograph to this—
Isabella LaFreniere: …for next year’s choreographic [workshop]. She was like, “Oh, Isabella, I found music,” and I’m listening and I said, “Clara, this is Harry Potter music.” And she said, “Yeah, but isn’t it so good? I can just imagine two little dancers, you know, in this part?” I was like, “You can’t use Harry Potter, you can’t.”
Time Out New York: Are you going to choreograph for the next student workshop?
Clara Miller: Yeah. I’ll find different music.
Isabella LaFreniere: I’m not a choreographer. I actually tried one summer at Chautauqua [Chautauqua School of Dance, under the direction of Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux]. I failed miserably. I can’t envision. … I’m not a choreographer. I realize it.
Clara Miller: It’s okay. For our hip-hop duo, I’ll do all the choreography.
Time Out New York: How did you even hear about SAB?
Isabella LaFreniere: There were brochures hanging up at my school. I think I went on their website, and I actually looked at the [virtual] tour of the school and thought, Oh, that’s so pretty. And then I realized it was the training school for New York City Ballet. I didn’t know much about it, but I decided to audition when I was 12, and I came here for the summer. I had so much fun. It was my first summer away. Oh my gosh—I was so young. The following two years, I couldn’t come back because my teachers [from back home] wouldn’t let me, but finally I realized that I really wanted to come, so I auditioned one day during the summer program. Clara was there, actually. I was asked to stay. When I was 13 and 14, I had continued to audition; so Kay [Mazzo] saw me, but I didn’t come.
Time Out New York: Was that difficult?
Isabella LaFreniere: Oh, I really wanted to, but my teachers…I didn’t have much of a choice. I realized that this was really where I wanted to be, so it ended up what I wanted to do in the long run.