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

Georgina Pazcoguin as Scala in Paul McCartney's Ocean's Kingdom

Georgina Pazcoguin as Scala in Paul McCartney's Ocean's Kingdom Photograph: Paul Kolnik

In anticipation of New York City Ballet's fall season at the David H. Koch Theater, soloist Georgina Pazcoguin talks about her journey, from hanging out with the likes of Ashley Bouder and the Angle brothers at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet to enrolling at the School of American Ballet and eventually making her way in the company. Pazcoguin, who has received acclaim in Jerome Robbins's ballets, will perform in a new work by Angelin Preljocaj. It's a step towards expanding her repertory, which Pazcoguin hopes will continue to expand to include more Balanchine.

Georgina Pazcoguin has soul. Revered for her vibrant performances in the ballets of Jerome Robbins—as Anita in West Side Story Suite, for one—she has blossomed into one of the most plush and dramatic dancers of New York City Ballet. Promoted to soloist last winter, Pazcoguin was born in Altoona, Pennsylvania, where she trained at Allegheny Ballet Company and the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet before attending the School of American Ballet, joining NYCB as an apprentice and—after a rocky start—getting her corps contract. This season at the David H. Koch Theater, Pazcoguin is featured in Angelin Preljocaj’s new work, which is loosely inspired by the Salem witch trials and is set to a John Cage score. She spoke about her ten years with the company.

Time Out New York: Have you worked with Angelin Preljocaj before?
Georgina Pazcoguin:
This is my first time. We’re still trying things on: which couple fits better; I know, for the boys, that they still don’t know exactly what they’re doing. But everybody knows everyone’s stuff, so it’s a really nice working process. I’m really enjoying it. It’s fun, it’s serious, and there’s a lot of laughter and experimentation. Yesterday we danced to “These Boots Are Made for Walkin.’” It takes the pressure off learning these daunting combinations. It’s not like there’s an element of danger or anything, but there are ramps [which are part of the set], and you could tweak an ankle or a foot. 

Time Out New York: How does he walk into the studio?
Georgina Pazcoguin:
He has an idea and either takes it another direction or keeps it the same when he adds in the element of the dancers and sees how they adapt to his movement quality. It’s not what we do every day. It’s just like every other choreographer that comes in: Mauro Bigonzetti has a certain movement, Alexei Ratmansky has a certain movement. So it’s [making] adaptations to what he does so wonderfully and then taking the City Ballet dancer and seeing how he or she adapts to the form; he takes it from there, and it finds its way throughout the rehearsal. Sometimes he finesses it to the dancers; sometimes the dancers match his level. I can’t tell you how great the process is. Both Olivier [Theyskens, the costume designer] and Angelin are super inspired by this whole theme, and it’s driving the process.

Time Out New York: A loose theme is the Salem witch trials. Do they talk about that?
Georgina Pazcoguin:
It hasn’t been specific. We haven’t been sat down and told the story, but we definitely have the idea. We did a lot of rehearsing with our hair down.

Time Out New York: I don’t think he wants to be that explicit.
Georgina Pazcoguin:
No. I think it ends up putting you into a certain parameter if you explain too much. Let it go where it’s supposed to go.

Time Out New York: How is this process different than others you’ve experienced?
Georgina Pazcoguin:
Each choreographer has his own feel and process. Angelin just has a wonderful, relaxed vibe to him, and it’s inviting; it’s also interesting that he doesn’t speak English with the ease that he speaks French, so he has two ballet masters who are so helpful. He uses analogies for movement that you can’t translate from French correctly, so [the ballet masters] are really key in getting those sorts of ideas of movement. We were talking about going up and down the ramps, and they were like, “What’s the word for it?” and I said, “Pendulum?” And they were like, “Yes!” So it’s that kind of stuff. And because he’s not saying the steps, it’s so visual. He will demonstrate, and we’ll all be in a group following him for the first couple of minutes. We’re picking it up, and he’ll be silent, moving around, figuring out where he wants to take the combination, and we’ll follow in silence with serious intention to learn the step. That’s how it’s different. A lot of times, you’re bantering back and forth with different choreographers. Yes, he speaks English, and, yes, there is that banter there. It’s seeing him do the movement and seeing Julie [Bour, a ballet master] do the movement and then Julie and Angelin have their own conversation about it; then, Julie’s able to translate what Angelin has trouble saying.

Time Out New York: Are you dancing with the other women mainly? 
Georgina Pazcoguin:
We’re dancing together as an ensemble mostly. There’s a girls’ movement, two guys’ movements, then we have the ramp sections. The girls are united with this theme. [Smiles] There’s a lot of sisterhood.

Time Out New York: The costumes feature red shapes that signify birthmarks or some sign that these women are different. Where is yours?
Georgina Pazcoguin:
I am the right arm and the right leg. I think that’s cool. The whole mark that you can’t see. It’s a deep concept and it’s something you can go home and sip your glass of wine—if your mind happens to wander to work after 7pm, which mine normally doesn’t. [Laughs] It’s more apt to in the morning over coffee when I’m thinking about the day. There’s a lot there that you can tap into, so it’ll be fun to get out onstage and see the lighting. Get into the movement more. Just get over to the theater in general. It’s nice to just be in the theater. We do it a lot. Is it six times?

Time Out New York: I think so.
Georgina Pazcoguin:
[Whispers] Keep it together, Gina, keep it together.

Time Out New York: Do you know what else you’re dancing this season?
Georgina Pazcoguin:
I have no idea. I know I’m doing Hungarian in Swan Lake, and we are working the Preljocaj piece. I don’t really trust casting until I’m out onstage. I don’t want to jinx myself with anything.

Time Out New York: And not get to dance it?
Georgina Pazcoguin:
Right! That would be horrible to either get hurt or have something happen, because things do here.

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