A Conversation with Myles Thatcher

Thatcher (left) rehearsing his world premiere with SFB

Move over, Justin Peck. This month, 24-year-old Myles Thatcher, corps member of San Francisco Ballet, joins the ever-growing ranks of ballet choreographer wunderkinds like New York City Ballet’s Peck, 27, and The Royal Ballet’s Liam Scarlett, 28. Thatcher presents his new ballet, Manifesto, for SFB, and expectations are high: After winning a coveted spot in the 2014 Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, he has had American Ballet Theatre artist in residence Alexei Ratmansky as his mentor for the past year.

Choreographic beginnings “I remember seeing The Nutcracker just after I’d started ballet. I was making connections: ‘Oh, the oboe does this, so a step could be this, while the other instrument does this.’ I clearly remember being really fascinated by the layers of music and how they can connect to dance. I’m a pattern-oriented person and have a more mathematical brain, and that’s alluring to me, too, how that correlates to music and composition and setting a stage.”

His process “I’ll prepare a few phrases with definitive motifs and shapes and themes. It’s nice to have something to set on the dancers when I come in, just to see how they move. And I’ll hopefully come in with the ballet structured in my head: ‘These eight counts of eight are dedicated for this.’ I’ll know what I want the shapes in my head to look like—I’ll say, ‘I want this step to be big and have a lift that carries over here.’ That’s when the most innovative and exciting things happen, when it’s all of us working together on the same task, and the dancers understand what I’m getting at.”

On working with his peers “When I first started working with professional dancers, I was hyperaware of what they were willing to do and what they were thinking. But I think I’m at a point now where I’m comfortable with my role up front. Of course I’m going to be nervous with a new group of dancers, but then you just have to forget about it, once you get in the groove. You’ll never do your best work if you’re worried what other people are thinking.”

Role models “I feel like I really understand Christopher Wheeldon’s movement and appreciate the craft of his work. I love dancing in any [William] Forsythe piece, because it’s such a physical challenge. It’s so classical but somehow still so fresh. We do a lot of Balanchine’s work [at SFB], and the girls are rehearsing Serenade right now. My mind is just blown. It’s one of the most perfect ballets—just the music and the decisions and the simplicity and the vocabulary and the corps work.” DT

Training: The HARID Conservatory, Ellison Ballet and San Francisco Ballet School

Performance: corps de ballet member, San Francisco Ballet, since 2010

Choreography: has created works for the SFB School Showcase; premieres his ballet Manifesto for SFB this month

Photo by Erik Tomasson, courtesy of SFB

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