New York City Ballet soloist Georgina Pazcoguin. Photo by Nick Nakahara, Courtesy Pazcoguin.
As conversations in the ballet world about race and representation have opened up in the past few years, its most beloved holiday tradition, The Nutcracker, has come under scrutiny as well. Last year New York City Ballet made changes to its second act Chinese Tea variation, removing elements of racial caricature from both the costume and makeup and the choreography.
NYCB soloist Georgina Pazcoguin, who is part Filipino, was one of the voices fighting for that change. This year, as companies and schools worldwide are gearing up for Nutcracker season, Pazcoguin, along with former dancer and arts administrator Phil Chan, is back with a new campaign. Final Bow For Yellowface is an online platform dedicated to educating companies and schools on how to veer away from offensive Asian stereotypes (yellowface) and providing resources on how to make those changes. The site also lets readers join dance world luminaries including Virginia Johnson, Julie Kent, Adam Sklute, Troy Schumacher and Christopher Wheeldon in signing a pledge to end the practice of yellowface onstage. We touched base with Pazcoguin to hear about how this initiative came to be, and what she and Chan have in the works for the future.
Georgina Pazcoguin as Hippolyta in Balanchine's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.
In January, when news broke that Peter Martins had retired from New York City Ballet amid allegations of sexual harassment and physical and verbal abuse, I was sitting with my mother, a former dancer and teacher. We stared at the headline in shock, wondering what this meant for the future of ballet as a whole: In the wake of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, cultural shifts were stirring, and conversations about feminism and workplace equality plunged into ballet. Some of my favorite dancers started sharing their statements and stances on Instagram, and their comments sections were bursting with dancers and ballet fans all struggling to define what feminism and equality in our art form would look like—or if it is even possible. Especially since female dancers have historically been considered muses to be seen and not heard, to perform but not lead.
Feminism isn't just possible in ballet—it's necessary, and the biggest part of that is an artistic advantage, too: empowering dancers to have and use their own voices.
Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope in An American in Paris. Photo Courtesy Broadway World.
If you haven't seen Christopher Wheeldon's Tony Award winning musical An American in Paris yet, you better hop to it. The hugely successful Broadway production closes on January 1, 2017 after a nearly two-year long run. Don't panic if you can't drop everything and buy a plane ticket to New York, though: The show will commence its national tour in October 2016.
The U.S. tour will star former San Francisco Ballet soloist Garen Scribner as Jerry Mulligan (who has been performing the role on Broadway) and former Miami City Ballet soloist Sara Esty as Lise Dassin. At the show's London opening in March 2017, New York City Ballet principal Robert Fairchild and The Royal Ballet's Leanne Cope will reprise their originating roles.
Sock walk: As soon as she wakes up, Pazcoguin pulls on compression socks and takes her dog for an hour walk in Central Park. Their heavy elasticity alleviates recurring toe and joint pain in her right foot. “They help increase circulation at the start of the day,” she says.
Creative cooking: Pazcoguin wouldn’t dare skip breakfast. “I would be an absolute grouch and pass out.” She makes her own “breakfast rice” by blending raw cauliflower in her Vitamix and sautéing it. “I’ll add salt, pepper and healthy spices, like turmeric—it’s great for reducing inflammation—and poppy seeds, which also have antioxidants. Then I’ll put an egg on top.”
Therapy on the go: Whether she’s at work, on the road or even out to dinner, Pazcoguin always has her favorite massage tools in her bag. The Thumbby—“basically a silicone mini-cone that mimics a therapist’s thumb”—releases tension in her calves, shins and piriformis (one of the external rotators). Her Stress Buster Massage Ball targets her lower back and thighs.
Pazcoguin in Justin Peck's New Blood (photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy NYCB)
Favorite workout: She swears by her Gyrotonic sessions with master teacher Emily Smith. “Not only is she great for building strength in my weak spots, but she fixes a lot of the issues in my body before a PT is needed.” Pazcoguin says Gyrotonic is “super for core strength.”
Always on her mind: Pazcoguin had a Lisfranc injury as a teenager that damaged the joints in her arch and still haunts her. “My entire right midfoot will shift over my big toe, so it’s a constant effort to get it to shift back so there’s support around my fourth and fifth metatarsals.” Aside from therapy and Thera-Band exercises, she also practices engaging her hamstring and turnout muscles, using her leg’s strength to maintain skeletal alignment when her foot gives her trouble.
How she gets through tough ballets: Breathing can be a challenge, says Pazcoguin, “especially when you’re trying to move as fast as these Balanchine roles require.” She applies techniques from singing—she’s appeared in Broadway’s On the Town and with musical theater troupe American Dance Machine for the 21st Century—like slowly compressing, then releasing and reactivating her abdominals. “It’s helping me engage my core in a much different way.”
Georgina Pazcoguin in Jerome Robbins' West Side Story Suite. Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.
New York City Ballet's fall season launches next Tuesday, September 23, with not one but three world premieres by Liam Scarlett, NYCB resident choreographer and soloist Justin Peck and NYCB corps member Troy Schumacher. For Pointe's bi-weekly newsletter, we spoke with soloist Georgina Pazcoguin about dancing in Schumacher's first work for the company's main stage, and the season ahead.
What's it been like having Schumacher, your fellow company member, as your choreographer?
Of course, there's a level of "I'm the dancer, you're the choreographer." That mutual respect is always there. But Troy and I go back a long time--I met him one of my first summers at the School of American Ballet. I hate to sound hokey, but it really is quite flattering to be one of his inaugural dancers for such a momentous occasion.
Megan Fairchild and the cast of On the Town. Photo by Joan Marcus, Courtesy On the Town.
New York City Ballet soloist Georgina Pazcoguin will step into the role of Ivy Smith, aka Miss Turnstiles, from August 11–23 in the Broadway musical On the Town. She'll be filling in for New York City Ballet principal Megan Fairchild who will take her last Broadway bow (for now!) on August 9.
Pazcoguin will be followed by American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland, who will perform the role August 25 to September 6. While we love the run of ballet dancers on Broadway, we're excited to have Fairchild back onstage with NYCB for the company's fall season.