Dancer Spotlight: High Flyer

Pennsylvania Ballet corps member Alexander Peters is only in his third year as a professional dancer, but his short career has already had more than its share of twists and turns. And while the twists have been surprising—including dancing the lead in two full-length ballets—the turns have been impeccable. “The first thing you notice about him is the technique,” says PAB artistic director Roy Kaiser. “He has one of the cleanest, purest classical techniques that I’ve seen on anyone.”

Peters began building that technique early, starting with gymnastics, then following his older sister into dance. Tap and jazz at 7 led to ballet at 10, with one small hitch along the way. “I remember skipping my first ballet class after I found out that I had to wear tights,” says Peters. “I called my mom and had her come pick me up.” Fortunately, he returned, and within a few years, he made ballet his focus. By the time he reached the School of American Ballet, he was a force. He won the school’s coveted Mae L. Wien Award and a Princess Grace Award, among others.

After graduation, he headed west to join Kansas City Ballet. He spent the 2010–11 season learning the ropes, and creating the lead in Tom Sawyer. The new full-length was slated to open the company’s new venue, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, in October 2011. But for Peters, another event would come first.

He returned home to Pennsylvania for a break and took some company classes at PAB. Kaiser offered him an apprentice contract on the spot and Peters jumped at it. He had long loved PAB’s Balanchine-heavy rep and been a fan of the company since childhood. But there was a lot riding on Peters back in Kansas City. With Kaiser’s blessing, he returned to dance Tom Sawyer—and danced it brilliantly. As Alastair Macaulay wrote in The New York Times: “Tom, marvelously danced by the young redhead Alexander Peters, is life-enhancing.”

Ready for the next chapter in his career, he joined PAB in time for The Nutcracker. He hit the ground working, impressing as much with his quiet determination as his natural ability. When he was cast in the title role of Trey McIntyre’s Peter Pan, he was still an apprentice—for a day, anyway. Kaiser watched his first rehearsal and gave him a corps contract. And the role, which included being strapped into a harness and executing moves in midair, was another soaring success.

Peters has achieved these heights without, well, notable height. “Technically, I’m 5' 6",” he says. “At first I felt like my height prohibited me from doing things, but it has actually enhanced my career. It’s made me more of an individual.” He adds, “Being short doesn’t have to limit you. If anything, it makes me want to dance bigger.”

One potential difficulty: partnering. Soloist Evelyn Kocak danced opposite him in Peter Pan last spring. “We are roughly the same height, so that posed some interesting challenges for us,” she says. “But he is one of the most focused, hardworking people I’ve ever danced with. He brought a lot out in me. It was very inspiring!”

Kaiser sizes Peters up this way: “He’s unique, in size and physical appearance. He has that bright red hair. There’s no doubt who that is when he comes out on stage.” In Peters’ case, he says, that’s a good thing. “He’s tremendously likable. When people see him, they want to follow him, to go down that path with him.”

So where will that path lead next? “For Alex,” says Kaiser, “it’s wide open.”

At a Glance

Alexander Peters

Age: 22

Training: Allegheny Ballet Company, School of American Ballet

Dream role: Male lead in Balanchine’s “Rubies”

Favorite performance: The Gigue from Balanchine’s Mozartiana

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