The Secret Lives of Dancers

A peek at some top performers' passions beyond the stage.
Published in the Dec 2009/Jan 2010 issue.

We tend to think of professional dancers as tuning into an all-ballet channel. Not so, according to these five, who read, movie-binge, ace Final Fantasy, design headbands, tweet, go to college, raise cats and more. Their offstage adventures are as varied as the talents that make them so compelling onstage.

 

Connor Walsh
Company: Houston Ballet
Rank:
Principal since 2007
Age: 23
Dance Stats:
Known for his long-limbed line, technical polish and princely good looks, Walsh made a smashing debut as Des Grieux in Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon.
European Soccer Fan: As a kid, Walsh may have given up soccer to dance, but don't ever expect him to give up his devotion to England’s Chelsea Football Club. “OK, I have several jerseys, but I really do take them off after the game,” admits Walsh, who never misses his team in action thanks to the miracle of DVR.
Music Lover: A devoted indie music follower, Walsh can be found at Houston’s best dives for local live music on his nights off. “Houston buzzes with great bands,” Walsh says. “Plus, I’m single, so it’s great to get out.” He swears by Bob Boilen’s picks on NPR’s All Songs Considered, which he uses to keep his iPod fully loaded.
Restaurant Hound: If it’s new, Walsh has to try it. “Restaurants are in my blood; my father and brother are in the biz,” he says. “Houston has the best Tex-Mex food anywhere. I never run out of places to try.” That said, after the show Walsh heads to Little Bigs—he loves their mini-burgers.

 

 

Heather Ogden
Company:
The National Ballet of Canada
Rank: Principal since 2005
Age: 28
Dance Stats: Ogden, a die-hard lover of the classics and dramatic contemporary roles, found the best of both worlds in this season’s The Sleeping Beauty and a new work by Aszure Barton.
Kitchen Queen: On her nights off you can find Ogden concocting new recipes for Guillaume Côté, her fiancé (and her very first partner in Romeo and Juliet). “Cooking relaxes me,” she says. “I’m no expert chef, but I do like to experiment, especially with fish.”
Freshly Loaded iPod: Ogden likes to change it up music-wise. She just added some Kings of Leon and Adele, along with some warm-up favorites by Rachmaninoff and Mahler.
Wedding Planner: This is a temporary job, but with a summer wedding planned, much of Ogden’s off time is spent arranging her big day. “So far I’ve tackled the guest list, menu, photographer, florist and DJ,” she says. “I’m still shopping for my dress, though.”
Lost Fan: Ogden never misses an episode of ABC’s mythic epic, Lost. “I really get into the characters,” she says. “It’s a such a huge mystery.”

 

 

Tricia Albertson
Company: Miami City Ballet
Age: 30
Rank: Principal since 2006
Dance Stats: With her long limbs, unconventional elegance and a body made for Balanchine, Albertson made a big impact during recent performances of Allegro Brillante and Symphony in Three Movements.
Exotic Locales: Albertson is a travel connoisseur. “I avoid tourist traps at all costs. If the guidebooks say this is the place to be, I go in the opposite direction,” she says. She prefers offbeat places like Thailand and Prague. Last summer she enjoyed a peaceful week meditating at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in California. She says, “Three hours of tai chi a day really slowed me down.”
Feline Power: With nine cats, it’s no longer a hobby. “I am truly a crazy cat lady. They seem to migrate to me, and the nine are just my and my boyfriend Adam Bierman’s indoor ones,” she says. “When I’m not dancing, I spend a lot of time cleaning up after my cats.”
College On The Side: Albertson takes classes online at Miami Dade Community College. This semester, it’s oceanography and a math class. “I still don’t know my major yet, but soon,” she says. “I have homework all the time, but it’s worth it. It keeps me open to other possibilities.”

 

 

Daniil Simkin
Company: American Ballet Theatre
Rank: Soloist since 2008
Age: 22
Dance Stats: After a summer of gala globe-trotting, Simkin applied his high leaps and classical aplomb to new ABT works by Aszure Barton and Benjamin Millepied this fall season.
Gadget Geek: Name the device and chances are Simkin has it. “I was born into a techie family,” he says. “If I wasn’t dancing, I was behind a computer and have always been drawn to gadgets. Oh, and I am a PC—a Sony Ultra-Portable to be exact.”
Gamer: Nintendo Wii, Playstation 3, he’s not particular. “I play anything and everything. For a while, I was addicted to World of Warcraft,” he admits, “but thankfully, I stopped.” Simkin would like it to be known that he’s not the only gamer at ABT. “Lots of the men play,” he dishes.
Deep Reader: Simkin never travels without a book and prefers nonfiction. “Anything on science, the economy, psychology or spirituality will do,” he says. He just finished Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now.
Connector: Simkin tweets and stays in touch with his over 4,000 Facebook friends by updating his page often. “It’s great to connect to people, but you shouldn’t open yourself completely. A little distance is good here,” Simkin advises. He has his own website where he blogs—www.daniilsimkin.com—and he tweets at twitter.com/daniil.

 

 

Lia Cirio
Company: Boston Ballet
Rank: First soloist since 2007
Age: 23
Dance Stats: The unpredictable dynamics of Jorma Elo’s choreography, which she performed this season, fit Cirio’s athletic strengths. “Being off-center feels natural to me,” she says.
Movie Buff: If it’s funny, Cirio wants to be watching it—usually with her brother Jeffrey Cirio, who is also her roommate and a Boston Ballet dancer. Classic chick flicks like You’ve Got Mail, or the more recent The Proposal, top her list.
Vampire Lit: Cirio has read every one of the books in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, which chronicle the life of Bella Swan and her beloved teen vampire, Edward Cullen. “Sorry to say,” says Cirio, “the movie did not live up to the book.”
Artisan: After looking at the steep price tag of a headband, Cirio thought, “I could make these,” and now she does. Cirio’s whimsical headbands feature fun buttons, colorful fabrics and delicate ribbons. She sells her vintage-feel handiwork on etsy.com, a crafter’s website.
Shoehound: If you check out Cirio’s closet you will find a sea of shoes. “Dresses and shoes are my weaknesses,” she says. “I love to shop.”

Nancy Wozny writes about the arts and health from Houston.