Charles Askegard has spent his career perfecting the work of George Balanchine – first as a dancer with NYCB and now as the Philadelphia Ballet’s rehearsal director. The company will be presenting Bold Brilliant Balanchine as part of its commitment to honoring and celebrating its rich Balanchine roots. Askegard spoke about the upcoming program and his time with the Philadelphia Ballet.
Debra Danese: What part of the rehearsal process do you enjoy most?
Charles Askegard: I really love it when, after the dancers have learned everything, we are able to work together on all the details to perfect it and make it shine. After making it all come together, the outcome is so great.
DD: What were some of the challenges in preparing for Bold Brilliant Balanchine?
CA: The biggest challenge has been timing – for both the dancers and the artistic staff staging it. The company learned Symphony in C in 2020. Last fall, we re-learned it along with Divertimento No. 15 and Stars and Stripes, and we have been rehearsing since December. We’ve had to hold onto the knowledge of these ballets for a long time while also learning and preparing for other productions like The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, and New Works for a New World. It has been difficult with scheduling but it is all coming together so beautifully. These ballets are so incredible and to be able to do all three is amazing.
DD: What was your favorite Balanchine role to perform?
CA: When I first joined New York City Ballet, I didn’t always know which roles I was going to perform until I would be called in for a costume fitting. One of the first fittings I was called into was at Capezio to be fitted for a pair of boots for Stars and Stripes. This meant that I would be performing the role of El Capitan, which was one of my first roles with the company. Also in my first year, I performed the 2nd movement of Symphony in C and continued to dance both of these roles throughout my career at the NYCB. Because of that, those are my two favorite roles.
DD: Why do you think Balanchine’s work is so timeless?
CA: George Balanchine was really tapped into this idea of America, but he was also rooted in classical ballet. So, a lot of the ballets that we do are very classically oriented but are new, or neoclassical. They last a long time because they are rooted in that, even when doing some of his more contemporary works. And of course, the choreography. The choreography when you teach it, observe it, and understand its patterns, is genius. It is such a joy to dance, to watch, and to coach.
DD: What has been the highlight of your time with Philadelphia Ballet since joining in 2015?
CA: It is difficult to point to one specific thing! Overall, the highlight of my time here has been working with each and every one of the dancers that come through and seeing them rise to new occasions and do wonderful performances. I just love them and am so pleased to work with them – to be able to pass down my knowledge and see them flourish. It has been a wonderful experience to see everyone grow and expand as artists.
Bold Brilliant Balanchine will be will be playing at the Academy of Music on the Kimmel Cultural Campus March 17-20, 2022. https://philadelphiaballet.org/