Dance ‣ Dancer of the Month, June - Skylar Brandt, Principal at ABT
Victoria Parker, Senior Editor, Dance
Skylar Brandt, a Principal Dancer with American Ballet Theater (ABT), is our June Dancer of the Month! A star from the beginning, Brandt was born in Purchase, New York and began her ballet training at Scarsdale Ballet Studio when she was only six. As she progressed her training, she attended the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at ABT from 2005-2009, thus starting her career with ABT. During this time she was also a silver medalist at Youth American Grand Prix in 2004 and 2008.
In 2009 Brandt joined ABT II, and from there she climbed the ranks. She was promoted to an apprentice in 2010 and joined the corps de ballet in 2011. By 2015 she was a Soloist with ABT, but did not stop there. Just last year, in 2020, Brandt became a Principal dancer. As she has worked her way through the ranks, Brandt got the opportunity to perform numerous lead roles. Among her leading roles with the Company are Giselle in Giselle, Medora in Le Corsaire, Gamzatti in La Bayadere, Olga in Onegin, Young Jane in Jane Eyre, Columbine in Harlequinade, Princess Praline in Whipped Cream, the Lead Maiden in Firebird, the Golden Cockerel in The Golden Cockerel, and roles in The Green Table, Pillar of Fire, Daphnis and Chloe, The Sleeping Beauty, Bach Partita, The Brahms-Haydn Variations, Company B, Gong, In the Upper Room, Piano Concerto #1, Raymonda Divertissements, Sinfonietta, Symphonic Variations, and AFTERITE.
Throughout her career, Brandt has been picked out for unique opportunities and awards. 2013 was a big year for her, as she was both awarded a Princess Grace Foundation-USA Dance Fellowship and featured in the movie “Ballet’s Greatest Hits.” For her performances on the Russian television show “Big Ballet,” Brandt was the recipient of an unprecedented Special Jury Award.
Even during the midst of the current situation with the pandemic, Brandt says she is so fortunate to be able to be busy right now within the dance world. Most recently, she had been preparing for her debut in Swan Lake with Boca Ballet Theater as well as rehearsing for both in person and virtual upcoming performances. As this is a unique opportunity to perform in these trying times Brandt says, “It was hard to believe that I had the opportunity to make such an iconic premiere in the middle of a pandemic!” The excitement is growing amongst all those in the arts as artists return to their work and are finally able to share their gifts with audiences all over. Many companies are also able to gain a greater reach during this time. For instance, Brandt at ABT is also rehearsing for some dance films that will be available online a little later. Teaching is also a part of Brandt’s life right now, which she says has been “so fulfilling and rewarding,” as I can imagine students are thrilled to be able to take her classes whether they be in person or virtual. To say Brandt is busy, is an understatement, but after such a long break from actual studios and theaters, being busy, I can imagine, is such an exciting time!
Even during height of the pandemic, Brandt never stopped dancing. From living room classes to occasional virtual privates, she remained training consistently. When asked about her experience during this time, she responded by saying, “I think I did that in part because I was in denial that the world was shutting down, but also because I was so unsure about when we’d resume rehearsals and performances. I thought that I should stay conditioned, believing that the pandemic would be much more temporary. Little did I know that a year and a half later, we still haven’t gone back to work full-time. But, I’m glad I maintained somewhat of a routine in quarantine because the feeling of normalcy made me happy and I actually participated in several film projects that were shot remotely during that time.” Films in general have become the go-to for arts organizations around the world as a way to distribute their works to audiences everywhere. Brandt has participated in Misty Copeland’s online fundraiser video titles “Swans for Relief,” where she performed The Dying Swan from her parents’ foyer, as well as in Corey Baker’s Swan Lake Bath Ballet and Alexandre Hammoudi’s Transonata.
Brandt used this extra time to also branch out, trying styles of dance such as Hula, African, and Indian. Not only did she branch out in dance, but also her academic side when she graduated from Harvard Business School’s “Crossover into Business” program. “Once I changed my perspective on the pandemic and looked at it as an opportunity to pause and reflect on my career and continue to grow in other ways, I really enjoyed it. I was able to spend much more time with my family and I also began teaching which provided for such a different exploration of the art form as well.”
As life began to open again in New York, Brandt was quick to get back into studios and gyms, as she set up private session with her teachers, Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky. Small and outdoor performances started back last summer for Brandt, however now she is in full swing of doing regular performances but continues to take classes from home, rehearse, and teach as well.
When asked about tips for other dancers, Brandt replied by stating, “I think that Covid has really given us all the gift of time, and if used well and thoughtfully, I believe that athletes can certainly benefit from it. They can heal chronic injuries, rest their minds and bodies and reevaluate their goals, both short-term and long-term. I have enjoyed being able to reassess and reevaluate what I want for myself both personally and professionally, and I have been gearing up for the moment the world returns to normal. I want to be stronger and better than I was when we went into lockdown.” These are words to remember as dancers everywhere begin their slow transition back to normalcy.
If you would like to see and support Skylar Brandt, she will be performing The Dying Swan on June 7th on the rooftop of the Empire Hotel as a part of “We Heart Dance NYC.” After this, she also has an upcoming special film project for ABT with Herman Cornejo and a performance in Orlando Florida on June 25th. On July 21st she will perform with ABT at the Rockefeller Center and on August 13th, 14th, and 15th she will perform in the Hamptons with “Hamptons Dance Project.” Links have been provided below to check out many of these performances and support our June 2021 Dance of the Month, Skylar Brandt.