Alexandra Basmagy - American Ballet Theatre
Born in New Jersey, Alexandra Basmagy began her ballet training at The Academy of Dance Arts under the direction of Jennifer James Church. In 2001, she continued her training at Studio Maestro, in New York City, with Francois Perron, Deborah Wingert, and Fabrice Herrault.In 2004, Basmagy was accepted into the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at ABT and graduated from the JKO School under the direction of Franco de Vita. In 2008, Basmagy joined as a member of Corella Ballet in Segovia, Spain. Under the direction of Angel Corella. Basmagy performed Tall Pas d’Action and a Shade in Natalia Makarova’s La Bayadère, Pas de Trois and a Big Swan in Swan Lake, Stomper in Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room, Friend Variation in Marius Petipa’s Raymonda, Clark Tippet’s Bruch Violin Concerto, Christopher Wheeldon’s VIII and the first principal Pas de Deux in DGV: Danse a Grand Vitesse. Basmagy joined the corps de ballet of American Ballet Theatre in October 2011. Her soloist roles with ABT include the Tall Pas D’Action in Natalia Makarova’s La Bayadere, the Spanish Dance in Kevin McKenzie’s Swan Lake, the Spanish Dance and the Sugarplum Fairy in Alexei Ratmansky’s The Nutcracker, Madame in Kenneth MacMillian’s Manon, and a Harlotin Kenneth MacMillian’s Romeo and Juliet.
How did you start dancing and where did you train?
I first started with gymnastics from the time I was four until I was about eight. While at the gym, we would have an hour ballet class to help us with grace on the floor, and I ended up liking that part more than the gymnastics! So we found the small studio where that ballet teacher taught and I started there. After a year there, I switched to a more professional school in New Jersey called The Academy of Dance Arts. From there onto Studio Maestro in New York City. Then I was accepted into the inaugural year of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at ABT.
What is your favourite thing being part of American Ballet Theatre?
One of the most amazing things about being a part of ABT is being surrounded by the worlds most talented, beautiful and inspiring dancers on a daily basis. Also, getting to tour the world isn't too shabby either! I've been to 17 different countries!
Have you danced with any other ballet companies?
Before joining ABT, I danced with Corella Ballet, Angel Corella's company, in Spain for about 3 and 1/2 years.
Swanilda's Friends in Coppelia. Photo by Rosalie O'Connor courtesy of American Ballet Theatre
Can you compare differences working in Europe and America?
I think in Europe there is more of an appreciation for the history and culture of the arts. Ballet and art have been part of European culture for centuries. America, by comparison, is a very young country whose history does not involve the arts. The public appreciates different aspects of ballet. American audiences tend to like flashy, quick-paced performances where the European audiences can appreciate all types from the most classical to the most contemporary.
What would be one of the most unforgettable performances of your career till now?
My very first time performing on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House with ABT. It was a real "I accomplished my dream" moment.
If you could dance a dream role, what would it be?
I love to act while I dance. To become someone else. I think one of my dream roles would be Juliet.
Which dancer is your biggest influence?
I like to draw influences from many dancers. I love to observe the differences that each of our principal woman bring to the same role and use my favourites of each to apply to my own dancing. It's about finding what works for you.
Is being a professional ballet dancer anything like you imagined it would be when you where training?
I think it is. There can be long, hard days but it can also be very rewarding.
Photo by Rosalie O'Connor
Which is your favourite theatre in the world?
The Metropolitan Opera House in New York and the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona.
Who would you choose as one of your favourite choreographers?
I can't pick one! I like dancing all different styles of choreography. Balanchine, Ashton, Petipa, Wheeldon, Tharp... There are too many to name!
Do you have a favourite ballet step?
Not one in particular. I like to move. So I'm usually fond of a big waltz with turns!
How has ballet made you the person you are today?
The confidence it takes to make it in the ballet world I think carries over into everyday life. It's made me a confident, independent, strong willed person.
What is your escape from the ballet world?
Just going home to my husband is my escape. He used to dance, so he understands when I need to let off steam or just talk about my day, but then we switch gears and just enjoy being with each other.
Have you had any funny experiences in a rehearsal or in a performance?
Not one specific thing comes to mind. I've had a few spills on the stage. And costume mishaps. I have a good sense of humor, so I usually laugh it off. It's not worth getting upset about! Anything can happen in live theatre!
And finally, any advice for young aspiring ballet dancers?
Be one hundred percent sure that this is what you want to do. It's not the easiest life. There are body aches and pains, occasional disappointments, constant striving toward a perfection that always seems just out of reach. But it can also be one of the most rewarding careers. It's rare that people can say they have accomplished their lifelong dream. A lot of pride and joy comes with that. And it fills you every time you step out of stage.
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