Jason Fowler – FromDallas Days to International Stage O

n a beautiful sunny Thursday, I had the honor and privilege of sitting downwith famed ballet dancer, Jason Fowler; he’s a former soloist forNewYorkCityBalletwho nowworks as

repetiteur for superstar choreographerChristopherWheeldon. WhileMr. Fowler hasmade a distinguished name for himself on an international level, his rise to the heights of the balletworld all started right here in theDallas area.

Born and raised inDallas,Mr. Fowler began his training as a 9-year- oldwith Judy andBrentKlopfenstein at theDallasBalletAcademy and then theDallasBalletConservatory.Mr. Fowler speaks fondly of the studioswhere he got his start and says, “I have always been loyal to theDallasBalletAcademy” and he continues to teach class- eswhen he’s not on the road staging ballets forMr.Wheeldon. ThomClower, formerBalletMaster atDallasBalletConservatory continues to be a “great friend andmentor” toMr. Fowler.

Displaying a true natural talent for dance andmovement,Mr. Fowler rose through the ranks of the localDallas ballet scene,while attracting attention fromballet companies around the nation.At the age of 16, his skills and artistry landed himin the envious posi- tion ofmoving toNewYorkCity to join the School ofAmerican Ballet (SAB) on a full-time basis.Mr. Fowler had spent the previous three summers participating in SAB’s summer courses, all-the- while focused on one day dancingwith theNewYorkCityBallet. As is the casewith somany exceptional dancers,NewYorkwas the company he dreamed of dancingwith, and being a student at SAB was the first step towardsmaking that dreamcome true.Mr. Fowler, to this day, recounts his resolve at landing himself inNew York, “Iwas going to dance forNewYorkCityBallet; itwas just going to happen.” Fortunately, his family could not have beenmore supportive of his career choice.Even though itwas hard for his par- ents towatch himleave forNewYork, they “knewitwas coming” because he had spent all those summers training at SAB.

And happen it did, as his dreams came true in 1995,when he debuted as an apprenticewithNewYorkCityBallet. 1996 sawMr. Fowler promoted to the corps de ballet,while 2006 brought the cov- eted role of soloist. Itwaswhile dancing in the company that he met his longtime friendsBenjaminMillepied andChristopher Wheeldon.Mr.Millepied has gone on to choreographmajorworks around theworld; achieving fame fromhis involvement in the film “Black Swan.”Wheeldon has evolved into aworld renowned cho- reographer, creating numerous groundbreaking and critically

acclaimed ballets and being granted theOrder of theBritishEmpire byQueenElizabeth in 2016.Mr.Wheeldon’s Polyphonia debuted in 2001with theNewYorkCityBallet and, of course,withMr. Fowler in one of the eight starring roles as an original castmember. Perhaps his ability to remember the choreography for every role to this very day, is a good indicator ofMr. Fowler’s inherent talent.As such,when he retired fromtheNYCB, itwas a natural transition for himto go fromdancer to repetiteur. Fowler remembers, “Christopher asked ‘do youwant to start settingmy ballets?’ I absolutely did!”Almost immediately,Mr. Fowlerwent towork as BalletMaster forWheeldon’s London andNewYork based compa- ny,Morphosis.Afewyears later,Wheeldon partedwayswith the company and sentMr. Fowler around theworld to stage his ballets for a variety of prestigious ballet companies. Fowlerwas initially responsible for stagingWheeldon’s one-act ballets, but graduated three years ago toworking on his full-length, three-act classical ballets. Fowler is unique, in that he didn’t growup dancing the full- length classics like Swan Lake or Alice inWonderland but is “really starting to love it” because “you get to be every character.”When askedwhich he prefers to stage, the one-act versus the classical pieces, Jason says he “really doesn’t prefer one over the other.” The biggest difference, he says, is that it takes “somuch longer to stage and prepare for a full-length classic.”As an example,Mr. Fowler says that staging Alice inWonderland took “198 hours just to stage the stepswith the dancers.” That doesn’t even include setting the rest of the ballet, detailing the set pieces and themusic. There’s also the process of notating the ballet.Mr. Fowler eschews the usual notation styles, such as Labanotation orBenesh.Rather, he has adopted his own style, one he refers to as “FowlerNotation,”which serves as his own, unique brand of notation.

When he’s not traveling theworldworkingwith dance companies, Jason can be found right here inDallas teaching at various studios and schools such asDallasBalletAcademy,BruceWood and SMU. When asked if he sawany differences between dance inDallas today versuswhen he grewup Jason replied, “There’s a lotmore diversity in the dance scene,more styles are being taught and explored.” I couldn’t agreemore.With companies such asBruce WoodDance andDarkCirclesDanceCompanywho push the boundaries ofwhatmodern dance is toDanielleGeorgiouDance Groupwho explores theways that dance and theatre can connect toDallasNeo-ClassicalBalletwho stages forgotten ballets and often teams up the local and historic Texas Theater formovie accompani- ment,Dallas ismaking a name for itself as an incubator of quality dance.Dallas builds on the rich dance history that exists here. Jason fondly looks back on a timewhen he gotRudolphNureyev’s auto- graph in a parking lot. “I remember it beingmy 10th birthday and my parents and Iwent to seeNureyev perform. Iwaited out back, at the rear stage exit door and suddenly, a limo pulls up and inside isRudolphNureyev!He calledme over and gaveme an autograph. Iwas the only person around!” This is one ofmy favorite stories of dance inDallas and it speaks to the level of talent that has per- formed here. “Dallas has brought somuch talent in, because they knowit’s important.” In another Fowler flashbackmoment, he asks “do you knowwhy there is a shower atMcFarlin theater at SMU?”Admittedly, I did not. Jason explained that the showerwas put in becauseMikhailBaryshnikov,while on a tour of theUnited States, demanded that every theater he performed in should have a shower located backstage for his personal use. So, SMU, notwant-

Pictured:Maria Kowroski and Jason Fowler dancing atNYCB. page 16

May-July 2018 DANCE!NORTHTEXAS a publicationof the dance council ofnorthtexas vol. 21 •no. 2

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