In the Spotlight: Tegan Rich

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Tegan Rich dancing Spanish in The Nutcracker

Tegan Rich is in her sixth season with FBP, having started as a Trainee and risen through the ranks to become a company dancer. She has recently performed leading roles in ballets like Viktor Plotnikov’s Sharps & Flats and Andrea Dawn Shelley’s For Saskia. We sat down with Tegan to learn a bit about her background, some of her memorable roles, and more…

Hey Tegan!  Let’s jump right in.  You grew up in Florida and moved from home to train at the Miami City Ballet School.  What was that like?

Yes! My mom and I moved down to Miami for my sophomore year of high school. We had spent the second half of my freshman year driving two hours each way every Saturday for classes at the Miami City Ballet School. The training totally opened my eyes up to what the professional world of ballet is like. Like FBP, Miami City Ballet uses the same studios as the students do. Being that close to professionals was very inspiring for a young ballet student. I idolized the company and was able to watch them work, sweat, rehearse, cry and anything else that comes with a life of  professional dance.

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The Miami City Ballet is a Balanchine based company, and in that technique the steps are quicker, the musicality is different, the arms move differently, and the way you work your feet is much different than a Russian based training. I really loved this training, however. I like to jump and move quickly, both of which are often highlighted in Balanchine’s choreography.

The training and the teachers were very intense and demanded a certain level of professionalism, even as a student. I learned serious classroom etiquette and a sense of professionalism that I don’t think I would have learned if I had not made the move. I loved every minute of my time at MCBS and am so grateful for all of my teachers that I had while I was there.

You’ve been exposed to so many different dance environments!  After graduating from Miami City Ballet School, you were accepted into Fordham University.  Can you tell us about your time there and your decision to leave to focus on a more classical training?

While my time at the  Ailey/Fordham BFA program was very short, I truly believe that the classes I took, the choreography I learned, and the dancers I shared classes with really opened my eyes to a different aspect of the dance world and changed many of the ways I approached my dancing.While I totally loved living in New York City, going to college, and dancing at the Ailey School, as I got further into the semester, I started to realize that it wasn’t the best fit for me. I just felt that the ballet world was where I wanted to be.

And we are so glad you did!  Now, what brought you to Festival Ballet?

I actually had a teacher at MCB,, Alexandra Koltun (you might know her from those two giant pictures of her behind the front desk at FBP) who had guested with FBP for a few seasons and a massage therapist who used to dance with FBP as well. They both had mentioned Festival to me. When I left Ailey, I went back to Miami City to continue to train and get my ballet legs back underneath me.

I auditioned in Orlando for FBP’s Summer Intensive, and I was accepted on full scholarship. At the end of the program, Misha hired me as a trainee.

What was that transition into company life like?

The transition into company life was relatively seamless for me. I moved in with Kirsten Evans (hey, Kirsten!) we became fast friends and everyone else in the company was very warm and welcoming. It definitely took some time for me to find my own stride… I was injured the first three months of my first season so I didn’t feel like I was diving in head first with, but rather slowly easing in from the shallow end. As a trainee at Festival, you are required to take additional classes and it was these classes taught by Mindaugus that really helped me to better understand the technique that Festival was going for. Mindaugas allowed me to feel like I was still receiving training and guidance while also figuring out how to be my own teacher and critic, both of which are important things to learn in this line of work.

It must have been a pretty huge change to move from Florida to Rhode Island.  Did you have to adapt to a new culture here in Providence? 

Providence definitely has a different culture than South Florida. But I have never felt home sick since moving here. I think I was meant to be a New Englander. The only time I have second thoughts about that is mid-March while shoveling snow off of my car before work. The biggest difference I’ve noticed is how much less I sweat through the majority of the season. I’ve always been a “sweater,” ask my barre-mates, or anyone else, for that matter, but in the middle of the winter I find it is MUCH harder to get my body as warm and sweaty as I was used to feeling in South Florida. I found that socks, and heavy warm ups were not just a studio fashion, but a huge necessity for my muscles to feel as warm as I like them to feel.

Did the big move have any affect on your artistry as a dancer?

I’m not sure Providence alone changed any artistic aspects of my dancing, but with Misha’s direction and the inspiration of my colleagues, my dancing has definitely changed in a way that I can’t really put into words.

In terms of technique, did you have to make any major changes in your style coming from the Balanchine-based school at MCB to the FBP company?

The best part about this job is that there is no end to your technique or training. Yes, at some point, you can worry less about your technique and focus more on your artistry, but I don’t think you can find a professional dancer anywhere in the world that will say they have stopped working to improve their technique.

There is no settling or finality in ballet and I think that’s one of my favorite parts about it. The slower, more controlled, aspect of the Russian based training at Festival was definitely a shock to my system when I first joined the company, but I am so grateful for what it has taught me. I believe that it made me much stronger, and gave me a different way of approaching steps that proved to be very beneficial for me in the long run. But getting to do things like perform Allegro Brillante, are really special moments for me. It’s almost indulgent. I get to revisit some of my old “bad-habits,” and boy, does it feel good for a second.

 

And done! Cheers to a fabulous run, FBP! #AllegroBrillante

A photo posted by teganrich (@teganrich) on

Speaking of special moments, what has been a memorable role or career highlight for you so far?

I would have to say that Mother Goose was a very memorable role for me. I thought I was just dancing a goofy, bird, storybook character, but it turned out that I was taking on an acting role that I was completely unprepared for. I finally realized that I was going to have to be more “over the top” than any other role I’d danced before.

Also, getting to perform the role of Adela in Viktor Plotnikov’s The House of Bernarda Alba was a definite highlight. I had never performed a lead role in a contemporary ballet before, and one of the most challenging parts of Viktor’s work is to not indulge in the character aspect of the role and instead let the movement tell the story. Bernarda was such a different ballet than anything else I have ever done, I felt very honored to get to dance that role.

You were so fabulous in both of those roles!  In general, what sort of work do you enjoy doing most?

I really love contemporary work. It’s always fun to learn new choreography and learn how far you can push your body and explore movement that you didn’t know your body was capable of doing. I love more character based roles that challenge my acting ability. It’s always fun to become someone else on stage for a night! But I also love the classical work. Swan Lake gets me every time, the music is so beautiful and the corps work is so gratifying. And like I said earlier, anytime I get to do some Balanchine is a great day in my book!

Looking ahead now, what are you looking forward to in the 39th Season?

This season I was really looking forward to Allegro Brillante, and now I can happily cross that one off my bucket list! And now, I am really excited for Carmen choreographed by Viktor Plotnikov. Carmen is a ballet that I have always wanted to perform, and I have only heard wonderful things about Viktor’s interpretation of it, so all I can really is say, Ole!

When you’re not dancing, what are you doing?

When I am not dancing, I am usually whipping up something yummy in my kitchen, nannying for a couple of cuties, or exploring the wonderful little local shops at restaurants that providence has to offer.

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Tegan Rich and David DuBois dancing Spanish in The Nutcracker

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Artists on both sides of the lens

By Ruth Davis

At each of Festival Ballet Providence’s performances patrons are given a copy of the season’s Playbill, a beautiful, glossy overview of the company, and its Thirty-Ninth 2016-2017 Season. The booklet contains information audiences would expect to find in a Playbill: a welcome message from the artistic director, Misha Djuric, details about the company’s history, biographies of the dancers, and information about other parts of the organization.

But the images in this year’s edition are anything but expected, starting with its arresting cover photo–a beautiful image of a dancer, who seems to be in rehearsal, her foot en pointe and her arm arced as it moves around her body, her skirt in motion swooping around her. This photograph and others throughout the program are the work of Shawn Guo, a junior at RISD, who participated in an ongoing partnership between FBP and RISD, a photography workshop, “Photo/Graphic,” taught by Franz Werner, a professor at RISD for more than 30 years.

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Professor Werner approached FBP 2 years ago, believing that photographing dancers would be a wonderful for inexperienced photography students to experiment and learn new ways to observe. “I thought it would be exciting for the students to see professional dancers and to use their cameras to explore the world of ballet.” He added that this idea was well calculated. “It’s truly profound the way that this program stimulates all kinds of creative interpretation, Shawn’s work being a good example.”

Shawn was impressed by watching the way the dancers rehearsed. “I tried to be subtle and not disturb the dancers, and I was aware of a little uneasiness they may have been feeling.” He took some head shots to find an angle that would be interesting, and then began to experiment with long exposures and motion photography. During the class, students walk around the studio, sit on the floor, or stand on the sidelines.

RISD students photograph FBP dancers
RISD students photograph FBP dancers in rehearsal

Shawn said that the figures in the photographs themselves express the motion and energy of the dancers. “I didn’t want color to take away the energy and dynamic aspect the figures carried when they were moving, jumping, etc.”

“At the end of the session,” said Shawn, “I processed the photos and really liked the way they turned out.” He assembled them into a portfolio of the best work from the class and presented it to Misha and Dylan Giles, FBP’s marketing director. Dylan and Misha immediately understood the artistic quality and thought they would be a wonderful way to illustrate this season’s Playbill.

An unanticipated benefit of participating in this workshop was that Shawn appreciated how hard the dancers work and how physical and mentally demanding their job is. “I was so impressed by how they have to constantly train, going over and over routines over again, trying to get to absolute perfection.” He said he could relate their practicing to his own work and how he tries to do the best he can do.

For many of the students, this was their first exposure to ballet.  Shawn, however, had an inside-look at the San Francisco Ballet this past summer, where a family friend has been a guest choreographer for 40 years. Shawn said, “Overall I am really happy I took the class and where it led, in terms of the work I produced.  It was a great experience.”

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Shawn Guo is a Graphic Design major at RISD, class of 2018. shawnguo.com

Ruth Davis manages public relations for Festival Ballet Providence. ruthdavisassociates.com

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