Danielle Diniz | Photo: Bernardo Nogueira
I read on your bio that you minored in Dance and majored in English/Theater. Was there any specific reason why you chose these and did your family influence that decision at all?
I majored in English and Theater because I had a particular passion for Shakespeare. At the time, I was fully invested in pursuing academia and knew Cornell offered many classes that melded my theatrical and literary interests; these were also cross-listed, which meant it was an effective way to earn a double major in a timely manner. I minored in Dance because my love for the craft never dwindled, despite focusing on schoolwork. The minor allowed me to dabble in choreography via accredited classes, which was my first taste of enjoying the process. My parents? They allowed me to go anywhere I wanted to go, study whatever I deemed fit and follow every dream. They have whole-heartedly supported me authoring my own path for school and beyond.
Can you tell me about your experience dancing in Stars in American Ballet? What has been the most challenging part of this? The most rewarding part?
It is SUCH an honor to be a part of Stars of American Ballet. While most of the group dances Balanchine and Robbins rep, I’m allowed to put my technical roots to use with a theatrical lens in new works. This ballet/theater hybrid couldn’t be more fun with my AMAZING partner, Daniel Ulbricht [Principal Dancer, New York City Ballet]. The most challenging part? Trying to parallel the impeccable technique and artistry the rest of the cast executes. The most rewarding? Finally employing the technique I’ve tried to maintain throughout my life… And certainly traveling, sharing what we do with audiences all over the globe. Most enjoyable, however, is having an unbridled blast on stage! I get to dance with the best partner anyone could ask for. I’m one lucky lady!
Since you have done both, do you have a preference between concert dance and musical theater as a performer?
That’s a great question! I have ample appreciation for both, therefore, although I slightly prefer musical theater, I’m an avid advocate that it should highlight the technique of concert dance. Just as MT dancers are asked to sing at an expert level, I believe singers should dance on par. It’s a hope of mine that the industry can integrate more technical dancing, bridging the current disparity and increasing the excellence of “triple threat” shows.
What dance styles did you begin training in and at what age? Do have a favorite style? If so, why?
I started training in ballet, tap and jazz at the age of three. Jazz is my favorite! Imbuing movement with style and your own personality—there’s nothing like it!
What drew you to create a piece for the JCE Jazz Dance Project, and how do you feel it fits into this particular show?
I’m honored to be presenting at JCE! I heard about your awesome platform through word of mouth and further researched the wonderful outreach/educational opportunities you offer as well. I simply had to get in touch! An enterprise dedicated to both preserving the exceptional art that is jazz and cultivating new, interesting visions of it is very special. Although I’m familiar with a few other choreographers on the program, I don’t know their pieces’ vibes yet; very excited to see!
What are your thoughts and feelings about jazz dance and how it differs from other dance styles?
The amazing thing about jazz is that choreographic and artistic choices are unlimited. Choreography can belong to any time period, tempo, or vocabulary. When performing, it’s asked of you to commit to the style of the piece, but always with a sense of ownership and your own personality. Being an individual is celebrated, embodying a character, necessary. Jazz makes sure to do the music justice with energy, creativity and clear execution.
What inspires you as a choreographer?
My first inspiration is always music. Once I fall in love with a melody and its intricacies, and listen to the track on repeat countless times, I establish a theme and very specific storyline. For me, each step must have an intention and the music leads to all conclusions.
What is your piece for the Jazz Project about? Do you have a specific connection to the story, the music or the dancers that you cast?
The piece I’m presenting, “Six Gals, for Themselves,” is one of the few I’ve made that isn’t based on a strict narrative. Instead, it’s a showcase and celebration of these many girls fiercely dancing at high energy and technical levels. We rarely get to jump and turn with such vigor, so I wanted to give us a chance to have fun and do so! I LOVE classical musical theater, so the chance to reimagine the Barn Dance number from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (originally highlighting men’s abilities) seemed perfect. The girls I chose not only exhibit an incredible aptitude for the facets of dance I find important, but are genuinely kind, wonderful people! I can’t speak higher of these lovely ladies and will always appreciate their patience and participation!