Dressing-Room Playlist: Devin Alberda

A ballet dancer can’t listen to classical music all the time: Here’s what gets Devin Alberda going during New York City Ballet’s season

Photograph: Jena Cumbo

Devin Alberda, one of the wittiest ballet dancers in New York, is inspired by music—all kinds. In honor of the spring season at New York City Ballet, where Alberda is a member of the corps de ballet, he has generously shared his dressing-room playlist.

1. “New Slaves” by Kanye West

“Every morning during the season, when the uptown 1 train brakes for the 66th St–Lincoln Ctr stop, I press play on ‘New Slaves.’ Kanye pontificates against the hypocrisies of the day in true Howard Beale fashion for the subterranean portion of my walk to work. I've timed it perfectly so that I can run up the stairs on the side of the David H. Koch Theater just as the drumroll announces the triumphal climax of the song. ‘I won't end this high, not this time again / So long, so long, so long / You cannot survive and I'm not dying and I can't lose / I can't lose / No I can't lose, cuz I can't leave it to you / So let's get too high, get too high again.’ It's a great way to start the day.”

2. “American” by Lana Del Rey

“In explaining to the casual ballet fan what sets apart New York City Ballet, I often find myself leaning heavily on some lazy abstraction of what it means to be an American. With ‘American,’ Lana Del Rey evacuates America of any real meaning or history, appropriating the glamour and despair, and issuing the directive, ‘Be young, be dope, be proud.’ The company is incredibly young; I don't have time to crunch the numbers, but I'd say the median age can't be higher than 24. Our ballet-master-in-chief, Peter Martins, says, ‘The dancers cast themselves.’ There's this sense of freedom and self-determination that is incredibly American, for better or worse. We move faster, we work harder, and we throw ourselves into everything with a zeal that can only be described as American. We're super dope and incredibly proud. Or maybe I'm just speaking for myself.”

3. “Track 15” by Jai Paul

“This song might be the smoothest on Jai Paul's leaked demo, which is really saying something. When we're getting ready for a show in the corps men's dressing room, it's nice to put on something mellow and calming. It permits passive listening while stabilizing the mood in the room, and it's just so nice on the ears.”

4. “Happy (Woodkid Sad Remix)” by Pharrell Williams

“The ubiquity and oppressive positivity of 'Happy' makes DJ Woodkid's reimagining of the track as a stripped-down lament particularly delicious. Shameless plug: DJ Woodkid provided the score for the company's upcoming collaboration with celebrated street artist JR, Les Bosquets.”

5. “Repeat Pleasure” by How to Dress Well

“Tom Krell, a.k.a. How to Dress Well, has been honing his bare-bones take on early-’90s mainstream R&B for three albums now. ‘Repeat Pleasure’ keeps it chill while injecting a burst of energy.”

6. “Still Sane” by Lorde

“We dance a lot. Our days are long and our seasons can be punishing, but the time we devote to our craft shows in performance. All work and no play keeps us on the new shit.”

7. “When a Fire Starts to Burn” by Disclosure

“When the guys start complaining that the music I play is too mellow, I put on Disclosure. The relentless beat, and the vocal samples lifted from a YouTube video by motivational speaker Eric Thomas, really get us pumped.”

8. “Only God Can Judge Us” by Extreme Animals

“Miley Cyrus's ‘We Can't Stop’ is a battle cry for narcissistic millennials like myself. This particular remix of the track makes Mike Will Made It's production even more epic and gives it an arena-rock swell. Which helps make it more palatable to the guys who prefer metal and classic rock.”

9. “Honest” by Future

“I'm always just being honest.”

10. “Bipp” by Sophie

“At first, ‘Bipp’ sounds like something you've never heard before. It slices through the air with unexpected punctuations and warped slides before settling into a more traditional dance track. It just makes me feel better.”

11. “Numbers on the Boards” by Pusha T

“Everyone needs a little braggadocio before they go onstage—or again, maybe that's just me. I like feeling like '’88 Jordan leaping from the free throw’ before I go on.”

12. “Come Down to Us” by Burial

“When the show's over and I'm getting ready to go home, I like to put on this track from Burial's Rival Dealer EP. Its quiet atmospherics and ethereal vocal samplings are like a prayer. If the 13-minute track hasn't finished by the time I've taken off my makeup, I plug in my headphones and head to the subway.”

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Editor: Marley Lynch (@marleyasinbob)


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