Barre Boys ~ NYCB Principal, Jon Stafford, talks Carlisle, sisters and the big apple!!!

1) You come from a sort of dancing family with 2 sisters in the biz, tell me about that.

My younger sister started dancing first and I slowly became more and more interested in ballet as I saw some classes and performances. My other sister and I soon started and, that was that, we were all hooked.

2) What inspired you to start ballet?

I really liked the athleticism of it. I remember watching the older guys and thinking that what they were doing was so cool. I wanted to be able to fly around the stage.

3) What age?

I was 8 when I started.

4) What was ballet like in Carlisle, with having one of the most prominent instructional institutions there?

Well, at the time, we didn’t know how prominent CPYB was. We only started to realize, as we got older and started attending summer programs, that CPYB was a very good school with top-notch training. CPYB has a very intensive training program that is very tough. But if you love ballet and are committed to learning as much as you can in your time there, it is a great place to study.

5) You left cpyb and went into SAB then saw some rapid growth in the ranks of NYCB, talk to me about the transition from Carlisle then dancing with Balanchine’s co.

There was definitely a transition from small town to big city and from small school to big school, but I had a lot of friends up here that made it as smooth as possible. I also had to get used to performing on a much bigger stage with a lot of pressure and learning dozens of ballets at the same time. But the intense schedule and the high standards we were held to at CPYB certainly set me in the right direction. At any level as a dancer, you have to be committed to working hard and constantly trying to improve if you want to succeed.

6) I understand you have been named dancers’ chair for the CPYB stars gala in July. How amazing that must be for you… your hometown & your alma mater. How excited were you?

I am excited about the event and honored to be a part of it. It is always good to help raise money for my old school and get a chance to see my family.

7) What’s next for you? What are your goals? Any plans to choreograph?

I am very excited to say that I have been on the faculty of the School of American Ballet for a few years now. I love teaching and do see myself continuing with that in the future. I am also taking classes part-time at Fordham University, which is also something I am excited about. I would like to stay in the dance world in some capacity after I am done dancing so we’ll see where it all takes me. I have choreographed one ballet and enjoyed doing it, though I don’t see choreography as one of my main goals for the future.

8 ) What are your pre-show rituals?

I will pretty much always eat a sandwich and a banana so that I have energy for the show and I always take a good amount of time to get myself warm and ready. Other than that I don’t really have anything that I feel like I have to do before a show.

9) Is there a particular style of music you like to listen to as you are warming up?

I like to warm up backstage and I always just listen to whatever ballet is on the program before me. We have such amazing music in our rep and it always helps me get going. If I am in the first ballet, I just chat with the other dancers who are also getting ready.

10) When you were coming up through the ranks, which dancer inspired you in dance?

I have been inspired by all of my colleagues at NYCB. We have such a demanding schedule and all of the dancers really work their butts off night in and night out. I love watching and being around such amazing artists and am constantly inspired by all of my colleagues.

11) Who are some of the dancers that were at CPYB at the same time as you, that we may know?

There were so many talented dancers during my time at CPYB and many have gone on to companies. A person just needs to read the bios of any major dance company’s roster to find some CPYB alumni.

12) What do you like to do for fun or to release and unwind in between programs?

I love watching sports and reading books. I also love watching movies and I like to get out and play some golf when it’s nice out.

13) During a program or leading into one, give us an idea of your day. When does it start, what’s it like? How long?

We always have a rehearsal period before each season where we learn most of the ballets that we have coming up. We will rehearse the rest of the ballets during the season since they are long seasons. The day runs from class at 10:30 AM until 7 PM. Each day is different and I could have 6 hours of rehearsal or none. If I don’t have a really hard day, I will go to the gym and work out.

14) What is a day like for you during a performance season, both show days and the days leading up?

Since NYCB has such a huge rep and we do a different show every night, we are constantly rehearsing. Even if I have a hard show that night, I like to have a rehearsal or two to really get my body going after company class in the morning. Those rehearsals could be spread throughout the day so every performance day is different. I do try to make sure that I eat enough so that I have energy throughout the day and I try to get off my feet at least a little. We always start at 10:30 AM with class and the performances are either at 7:30 or 8 PM every night.

15) You have been with NYCB for 12 years now. Obviously, there are some pieces you have done countless times. After all that time, how do you still “get up” for a piece, to keep the energy level up and not show a “gosh, I have been doing this piece for 12 years now…”

As you progress through the company, you get to do so many different parts at every different level. The parts I am doing now as a principal are mostly new for me and I’ve only been doing them for a few years. The way that I approach the few that I have done for a long time is that every time I do a part, it will be a different experience than the last show. That’s the beauty of dance, we can always find something new in a part that we have done for many years.

16) Are there any pieces that you have done countless times that you still love or get excited to do?

The only part that I would say I have done countless times is the Sugar Plum Pas de Deux from the Nutcracker and I actually do love performing it. I might get sick of rehearsing it, but it is always fun to dance.

17) What’s been your favorite role?

I really love the waltz boy in Serenade and the male principal in Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2. I also really enjoy doing many parts, but those are probably my two favorites.

18) If there is one role or ballet you haven’t done yet but would love to before you hang up the tights, what is it and why?

I would love to do Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake because it is such an amazing part both dramatically and technically. The music is amazing and it would be so fulfilling to dance a full length like that.

19) How often does your family get up to see your performances?

They come pretty often, since Carlisle is not too far away. They do try to coordinate it so that they will see both Abi and I, but they will come up anytime either one of us is doing a big part for the first time. They have been incredibly supportive of us over the years and it means so much to me when they are in the audience.

20) If you weren’t a dancer, what occupation would you see yourself in?

Dance has been such a huge part of my life and my development as an adult that it is hard to see myself doing anything else. I love golf, but don’t know that I would have been good enough to make it in that field. I love to teach so maybe I would have been a teacher or instructor of some kind. Who knows….

For more images from my shoot with Jonathan, please visit:

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One Response to Barre Boys ~ NYCB Principal, Jon Stafford, talks Carlisle, sisters and the big apple!!!

  1. theoperaboys says:

    nice to know your thoughts and feelings

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