Taking Their Final Bow

Classic Arts Features   Taking Their Final Bow
 
A special chat with principal dancers Yvonne Borree, Albert Evans and Philip Neal. All three have each performed with New York City Ballet for more than 20 years and this spring will give their farewell performances.


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Playbill recently sat down with these friends and colleagues at the School of American Ballet, NYCB's official school, where each of their careers began.

What are some of your earliest memories of the Company?

Evans: That was a long time ago. Twenty-one years? For me, my first class with the company just blew me away: getting to see the dancers I had grown up watching on stage. I was always sneaking into performances when I was at the School and the ushers would try and throw me out, but I would just sneak back in.

Neal: A lot of the principal dancers took class with us at SAB, so we were seeing them on stage after having been with them in class that afternoon. Now it's great because students don't have to sneak in like we did.

Borree: I remember how exciting it was if you got tickets for the show that night and watching the performance thinking, "I want to be there." I think it was all of our dreams.

Neal: We've all known each other since way before SAB though. I've known Yvonne since she was in pigtails and dancing on pointe at nine years old. (Yvonne laughs). And Albert and I have known each other from summer courses at SAB. So it goes beyond getting into the Company together. We've really grown up together.

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Albert Evans
photo by Paul Kolnik

What is it about NYCB that appealed to you most?

Evans: All the opportunities that you get. At most dance companies you don't get the opportunity to perform the way we do or rehearse the way we do. Sometimes you may only have one day of rehearsal, but it's still up to you to go out their and perform. And you start to get a sense of the faith the Company has in you: that you're capable of taking on that challenge. I always loved that: learning something new. It's fresh, it never gets old.

Borree: One of my influences was my mom having been a dancer with NYCB. Seeing all those pictures and hearing her stories about how beautiful it was: that was a big part of why I wanted to be here too.

Music is such an important part of NYCB. Do you feel that being a dancer has changed your appreciation for music?

Borree: Well, the number of composers out there that Balanchine and Robbins worked with, that's a big influence for us.

Neal: And live music 24/7. You rehearse with live music and then perform to live music. It's such a luxury that we take for granted but it's really invigorating. And Peter [Martins] has carried on the tradition of finding new composers to work with and commissioning scores.

Evans: It's a different performance quality: a different level that you get.

Neal: You're in tune to the music in a different way when you're hearing it live every day. It's something that attracted me to NYCB. I hadn't seen people address music in that way. Nothing to me is more interesting than just a man and a woman on stage and expressing themselves through great choreography: a simple blue background, simple costumes: to me that is still the most fascinating thing. You're this heightened version of your best self.

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Philip Neal

What is it like to work with a choreographer on a new ballet?

Borree: As a young dancer it's so important to have that experience. It's also important for our Company to continue to embrace new choreography and new ways of thinking.

Evans: It's a great way to teach a choreographer who you are as a dancer.

Neal: When a choreographer sees something in you that no one else sees and pulls it out of you: it's a fantastic experience. And you can carry that to other roles you are doing. For me, the biggest part of my career has been dancing the Balanchine and Robbins rep for over 20 years and figuring out how to keep that fresh. That's been a big part of the last five years of my career, thinking about what the resounding image is that the audience is left with at the end, the big picture, and participating in the whole package. You really have to be a team player at NYCB.

Borree: We want to enjoy each other. I was watching your last Nutcracker, Philip, and I was so touched because I could see all your love, after all those years of performing that ballet. It's a special thing to see.

What are you looking forward to most after your final performance?

Evans: I'm excited about turning this page and seeing what happens. I'm owning this stage of my life and if I can give myself new adventure through that: that's what I'm excited about.

Borree: It's a scary thing because we've been doing it for so long. It was my dream and we've lived it, breathed it. You name it, we've done it. (All laugh) It's going to be hard leaving it but we'll see each other and we'll move on to the next part of our lives. There's that connection with all of us.

Neal: Nothing makes me happier than bringing my knowledge and love for what I've done over the years to someone else. For me, teaching is as fulfilling as performing, so there's no sadness in stopping dancing because I'll always dance through the people that I help.

Borree: I've also been teaching at SAB and it feels amazing to walk into this building and teach some of the finest students in the world.

Neal: It just continues, but in a different way.

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Farewell performances: Yvonne Borree: Sunday, June 6 at 3 p.m. Philip Neal: Sunday, June 13 at 3 p.m. Albert Evans: Sunday, June 20 at 3 p.m.

In addition to their farewell performances, each of these dancers will be on stage throughout the spring season. Visit nycballet.com for complete program and casting updates.

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