Born in Canton, Ohio, Zachary Catazaro is no stranger to Northeast Ohio. He began his dance training at the School of Canton Ballet and went on to study at the School of American Ballet, the official school of New York City Ballet. He became an apprentice with New York City Ballet in October 2007, joined the Company’s corps de ballet in October 2008 and was promoted to soloist in February 2014.
He wants kids from Northeast Ohio to see that it is possible to accomplish your dreams, and he feels exposure to world class dancers from organizations like Ballet in the City can inspire them to be something they never knew they could be. Zach recently took the time to answer some questions from Ballet in the City about his career with New York City Ballet, what inspires him about ballet and what he hopes for the future of ballet.
Ballet in the City: Hi, Zach. We just want to thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule to answer our questions. Let’s start off with a pretty general question – what inspires you most about ballet?
Zachary Catazaro: From a dancer’s point of view, I would have to say I get most of my inspiration to dance purely from the music. At City Ballet we value musicality just as much as movement quality, and many of our core ballets are anchored by Tschaikovsky and Stravinsky. So, the inspiration is always there for me when there is great music. From an audience member’s perspective though, I would have to say watching a dancer give their all for that 30 minutes, or however long their role calls for, for that time that dancer is on stage to the moment they exit- you can tell they are completely free.
BIC: Describe your relationships with other New York City Ballet dancers – do rehearsals and being around each other all of the time enhance your friendships or tire you of one another?
ZC: Being around each other all day everyday, much like any other job, gives us the opportunity to develop close friendships. It’s almost like living with all of your friends because we are at the theater from 10:30am-11pm almost everyday. By the end of the season people are tired and hurting and things can get really stressful. Little quarrels can happen, that isn’t uncommon, but for the most part everyone understands that most everyone has reached their breaking point by then. It’s a tough job to do what we do and remain in a constant peaceful state. But at the end of the day, everyone is friendly for the most part.
BIC: Speaking of friendships, what was your favorite part of dancing in Lauren Lovette’s “For Clara”?
ZC: I would have to say my favorite part about dancing in Lovette’s “For Clara” was getting to dance along side one of my best friends Chase Finlay. We had a blast on stage.
BIC: What has been your favorite role to perform? What is your dream role?
ZC: Man, I’ve really had some great opportunities and have been really lucky on so many levels with the repertoire that has been given to me. It’s hard to name just one, but I’ll say that performing Apollo was incredible because of all the greats who have danced that role, from Baryshnikov to Martins to Hübbe to present day with the likes of Chase Finlay (he’s one of my closest friends). That being said, my favorite role that I’ve performed would have to be Diamonds from Jewels. The music and the grandness and elegance of that piece for me was so incredibly moving. It was truly special. My dream role would be the male lead in Manon (Macmillan).
BIC: What has been the most rewarding moment of your career, and what has been the greatest challenge you have had to overcome?
ZC: The most rewarding moment of my career thus far has been getting to work with such accomplished artists on a daily basis. I’m am so grateful to be in the New York City Ballet and getting to dance Principal roles in some of the most influential ballets of this century. The greatest challenge for me has always been injuries. I’ve had surgery on my right foot and have severely injured my left foot. The latter keeping me out of dancing one of my dream roles “Siegfried ” from Swan Lake. Injuries are always an obstacle for any dancer, and I’ve had to learn a lot about my body in the process.
The most rewarding moment of my career thus far has been getting to work with such accomplished artists on a daily basis.
BIC: How did you become connected to the NYC Dance Project? Can you describe your experience with Ken Browar and Deborah Ory?
ZC: I got connected to NYC Dance Project through another dancer from ABT. Ken and Deborah are amazingly talented and are the most gracious people. They understand dance and what looks good and what doesn’t. And most of all they have a vision and a love for dance that truly shines through in all of their work.
BIC: Do you feel as though the world of ballet and appreciation for it is growing or shrinking? How do you feel about the future of ballet?
ZC: I feel like in the last 7 years or so ballet has been moving a little more mainstream. I think social media is helping create awareness for dance, as well as films like Black Swan (though it was not the most accurate representation and was mostly overly exaggerated). Also, a lot of fashion companies have been using dancers in their ad campaigns so that is helping tremendously. We have a ways to go though, and I hope it continues to move in the right direction. I hope one day dancers can be paid the salaries they deserve. They work just as hard as any professional athlete out there, and for almost nothing compared to how well pro sports stars are taken care of. That isn’t a knock on them at all, I completely respect any professional athlete, but the professional ballet dancers deserve to be equal.
BIC: Is there anything you wish those who didn’t understand or perform ballet knew about professional ballet dancers?
ZC: I feel that in some cases people who know nothing about the dance world think that ballet is what they see on So You Think You Can Dance. Or they just don’t understand the sacrifice that is made at such a young age in order to achieve success at a very high level in this field. Also, the hard work that goes into every hour of every day in order to maintain your body as an athlete. When dancers are not dancing they are doing more exercise or treating their minor or even major injuries.
BIC: Do you believe it’s important to have organizations like Ballet in the City to cultivate the art of ballet? Why?
ZC: I think it’s absolutely important to have organizations like BIC. For example, Northeast Ohio is such a huge football oriented part of the country, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but there are no major dance companies around. It’s important for kids in that area, and in other parts of the country that are similar, to see world class dancers and choreographers because it inspires them to be something maybe they never thought they could be. And to see that it is possible to move to the big city and accomplish your dream.
BIC: We have a “Guys Dance Too” Program focused on creating programming for young male dancers. Do you have any advice specifically for the young male dancers of today?
ZC: For the male dancers I would say partnering in this day and age is so important. Yes it’s important to work on your technique and to practice the “tricks”. But what is sometimes overlooked is taking care of your Ballerina. She is the most important, and if you have a happy Ballerina then you will have a nice career. Being a good partner is so important. So I think every male dancer needs to work on strength and partnering skills.
BIC: What words of wisdom do you have for the young dancers of today? How can they be successful and stay authentic?
ZC: All I can really say to the young dancers of today is to work hard and not to feel entitled. There’s a saying in Cleveland: “Nothing is given in The Land, it’s earned.” Shout out to LeBron. To be successful in this business you have to go through some rough patches just like anything else. But always stay true to who you are and practice your art everyday. Love your body and love your self and just enjoy dance.
Always stay true to who you are and practice your art everyday. Love your body and love your self and just enjoy dance.
By Shannon Taylor Cleary
Shannon Taylor Cleary currently attends Bowling Green State University studying Public Relations and Dance. She served as the Ballet in the City PR Intern for Summer 2017, allowing her to conduct research, create marketing materials, support social media, contribute to event coordination and interview for our blog.