Interview with Emilie Gerrity, principal dancer at New York City Ballet & Williamsburg resident
WILLIAMSBURG — Last February, New York City Ballet dancer Emilie Gerrity was promoted from soloist to principal, reaching the loftiest level of her profession. This Thursday, July 20, as part of New York City Ballet’s short summer season at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, she’ll be performing in Justin Peck’s “Copland Dance Episodes.” In her thirteen years with the company, as a member of the corps, then a soloist, now a principal, Gerrity has been in 23 Balanchine ballets,13 Jerome Robbins ballets and multiple roles in ballets choreographed by Alexi Ratmansky, Christopher Wheeldon and Justin Peck. She is an exquisite, commanding presence in the company. It’s a joy to watch her.
STAMELMAN: You first danced in a Justin Peck-choreographed ballet, “In Creases,” which was also Justin’s first work for New York City Ballet (NYCB). And he personally selected you to be in it. Since then you’ve danced in many Peck-choreographed ballets. In fact, you are dancing in Justin’s “Copland Dance Episodes” this week at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Do you feel that you have a special affinity for his work?
GERRITY: Yes I do and in fact, “In Creases” was first performed in Saratoga. And, as you say, that was Justin’s first work for NYCB.
STAMELMAN: When you were 5 years old and studying at Betty Jean’s Dance Studio in Wappingers Fall, did you ever imagine you’d be a principal with NYCB.
GERRITY: No! In fact at first I didn’t love ballet. But as I grew older I became a bit of a perfectionist and I grew to like the striving for perfection that ballet provides.
STAMELMAN: You attended the School of American Ballet, correct, which is the feeder school for entry into NYCB?
GERRITY: Yes I did.
STAMELMAN: Are any of your classmates now your colleagues?
GERRITY: There were several, but now there’s only one, Taylor Stanley, who is one of my best friends.
STAMELMAN: On the official NYCB website I watched a video of you and Unity Phelan dancing a segment from Balanchine’s “Kammermusik,” a very demanding ballet. You say in your narration “…and that’s where the canon aspect comes into play.” What did you mean?
GERRITY: The canon aspect essentially means that one girl starts before the second girl and it keeps that up during the ballet I start and then Unity is one count behind me the whole time.
STAMELMAN: And that’s known as the canon?
GERRITY: Yes. Similar to a canon in music.
STAMELMAN: I’d like to ask you about Balanchine. Have you read Jennifer Homan’s “Mr. B” yet?
GERRITY: (laughing) No, but there are many copies circulating among the company and I’m waiting to borrow someone’s!
STAMELMAN: I believe you’ve danced almost the entire Balanchine repertoire – do you have a favorite?
GERRITY: Gosh, that’s such a hard question to answer. I do dance a lot of Balanchine ballets, tutu ballets, leotard ballets, but particularly I do a lot of the black and white ballets, which because I do them most often, I lean toward them. And I feel I’m most like myself in them, because I grew up doing them in the company. It was the direction I was sort of pushed in. But it’s just so hard to choose one – there are so many. I like them all for different reasons.
STAMELMAN: Are there any roles that you haven’t done yet that you’re dying to do?
GERRITY: Oh, for sure. Totally.
STAMELMAN: Because your resume is pretty exhaustive.
GERRITY: (Laughing) It is but there are always things you can add. I would love to do Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 2., Swan Lake. I’m trying to think…
STAMELMAN: You’ve also done a lot of Jerome Robbins.
GERRITY: I have. I’ve been really, really lucky.
STAMELMAN: That video of you (on the NYCB website) dancing to an excerpt from “Piano Pieces” with Jovani Furlan is quite wonderful.
GERRITY: Thank you. That was like a dream come true. I actually learned it prior to the pandemic and, obviously, we got canceled and shut down. When we got back I wasn’t sure I was going to get to do it, because many other dancers wanted to do it. And I was like “Oh, I really want to do this ballet” and I was really lucky to get the experience of doing it.
STAMELMAN: You were born and raised in Danbury, Connecticut and most of your early dance training was in upstate New York. Do you expect a lot of friends and family to be in attendance this week at Saratoga?
GERRITY: My mom will typically come. Or my dad. But my friends not so much. Everyone’s very busy in the summer and it’s hard to get them there. But I do have people I have danced for in the area and they always come.
STAMELMAN: You’ve said how much you like living in Brooklyn, particularly Williamsburg. How did you get to Brooklyn?
GERRITY: My husband lived here and loved it. I loved him, so I moved here, and now I love Williamsburg, too!
The New York City Ballet’s Summer Season at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center begins this Tuesday, July 18, and runs through Saturday, July 22. For tickets and more information go to spac.org.
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