Valinkat: Kelly, you have a featured role in Donald Byrd’s section of Infamous Love Songs, and also dance in Missy Zimmer and Andrew Hubbard’s section, correct?
Kelly Yankle: Yes, I am in Donald Byrd’s piece, “Missing,” dancing to Over the Rhine’s song “The King of How.”
He explained the whole piece to us. “Missing” has a double meaning. In the beginning, the cast waltzes around in different, looking for something that may not be there.
In the beginning of my section I walk on in silence. I am insecure: Donald told me to think of all the things I could feel insecure about – maybe I have acne, my eyes are wrinkly, I was coached to dive down into that . . . silence, that imaginary mirror.
I kind of slump over, and all these guys start rushing around me . . . and love me. That’s my drug, that’s what I think I need to make myself feel better. At a certain point, they are all over me, kind of like vultures. I ask myself “What did I just do?” I consider one night stands, and ask myself “Why did I do that?”
Valinkat: Sounds like themes of intimacy and insecurity.
Kelly: Yes. I have found something [sex] I think is love, almost like a substitute for love. When the problem is I don’t love myself. At the conclusion, we all run on again, the same way the piece started. We break into partnering sections, like whirlwind stuff. Again, one girl is left standing on stage. Maybe she is going to be the next person with the microscope on her.
Valinkat: You’ve said you really enjoyed the preview you performed in with Missy and Andrew’s choreography that was presented in New Works.
Kelly: Yes. Originally the little preview was just 3 girls and 3 guys, but they decided for the Aronoff show because the stage is so big they wanted more couples. They also added two or three more songs.
Anybody who knows them or sees their work – wow, they are just the most fabulous—I mean the best people to work with. I’ve never met people like them. They are so inspirational and genuine. Everybody is just dying to work with them. Every day during rehearsals we are just so excited to be in the room with them. They have something so positive to offer. Working with them has been by far one of the best experiences in my career.
I feel super fortunate. Even though they are so fun and original, they are humble. I almost feel like they don’t know how good they are! In this business we come across a lot of dancers and choreographers who think they are in a superior place. They can put you down, there are a lot of negative sides to this business, unfortunately.
And they just have no part of that—they are people I can really look up to, they are so real. Couldn’t ask for a better set of people to work with.
I think this work is more a challenge for us. I think it is awesome. They are contemporary and Broadway stylists. They definitely have a different style from classical ballet, which is what we are used to.
Yet their style is still very specific. For a lot of dancers, since it’s not classical, you know, they tend to think “Okay, I can do a little bit of whatever I want.” But, it’s so cool, it does have that flavor, that kind of laid back feeling, but still they want you on it. They’ll make you do stuff over and over because it’s not a natural process for us as it is for jazz dancers.
But there is never an ounce of negativity if you don’t get it right the first time. It’s just such a collaborative effort. It’s so refreshing. I feel like all of us are just little sponges, and we just want them to give us more and more.
Valinkat: What does the future hold? Is there time for romance in the life of a dancer?
Kelly: Well, I am moving to BalletMet. I’ve been here for five years. It’s been a great experience. But dance is not a very long career, it’s always interesting to see what different eyes see in you.
It is another challenge for me. BalletMet does a lot of contemporary work. Also, they don’t have ranks.
I love to travel, food, cultures . . . all sorts of things.
Missy and Andrew saw another side of me – they were talking to me about dancing on Broadway. I’m kind of considering it. But I consider myself a classical ballet dancer. I still have that soft spot for The Nutcracker. But that’s the hardest on your body.
I do have a serious boyfriend. He is also with BalletMet. It wasn’t the only reason for the change, but it is a nice perk. He’s just wonderful!