Georgina Pazcoguin Gives a Candid Account of Ballet Culture in ‘Swan Dive’

The courageous half wasn’t writing the guide.

“The brave thing,” Georgina Pazcoguin stated in an interview, “is going to be walking into the rehearsal studio Aug. 3.”

Like many ballet dancers today (or so it appears), Pazcoguin has written a memoir. Hers isn’t timid. In “Swan Dive: The Making of a Rogue Ballerina,” this New York City Ballet soloist writes candidly about Peter Martins, the corporate’s former chief — she refers to him as her psychological abuser — in addition to workers members and dancers, together with Amar Ramasar, one of the male principals who misplaced his job after a photo-sharing scandal in 2018, and was later reinstated.

Some of the experiences Pazcoguin relates are disturbing, others are simply plain bizarre. She writes that for years, Ramasar would greet her in class “by sidling up close, whispering, ‘You look fine today,’ eyes locked on my chest, and then he’d zero in on the goal at hand by — surprise! — tweaking my nipples.” (In an electronic mail, Ramasar stated “I flatly deny this allegation”; Martins didn’t reply to requests for remark.)

She writes concerning the time the repertory director Jean-Pierre Frohlich, rehearsing the dancers in Jerome Robbins’s “The Concert,” advised them to think about the sweetness of spring and “women walking around in tank tops and short dresses, shorts! You know … ’” He paused, she writes, earlier than ending “with this crazy bomb: ‘It’s amazing more women aren’t raped these days.’” (Frohlich stated he hadn’t learn the guide and had no remark.)

Pazcoguin, 36, discusses her fraught relationship with Thomas A. Lemanski, the director of rehearsal administration. And the time she tore her A.C.L., and, “a greedy little principal ballerina literally whipped out her phone while I lay immobile and texted the ballet master and (the slimiest degree of opportunism) Peter Martins himself to pitch herself for the role.”

It’s true that Aug. three — the day City Ballet begins rehearsals for its fall season — is perhaps awkward for Pazcoguin. But as she sees it, the true story isn’t in the guide; it’s what occurs subsequent, each for her personally and for the artwork kind.

Pazcoguin, the corporate’s first Asian American soloist, has been outspoken about her intention to convey equality to ballet.Credit…Heather Sten for The New York Times

The firm’s first Asian American soloist — her father is Filipino and her mom is Italian — she is outspoken about her intention to convey equality to the ballet world. “Ballet is at a watershed moment,” stated Pazcoguin, who with Phil Chan fashioned Final Bow for Yellowface, which goals to rid ballet of degrading and outdated depictions of Asian folks. “We can either shift and become relevant or it’s going to fade off into the distance. That would be such a failure to me.”

When she first pitched a guide to brokers and publishers, Anthony Bourdain’s memoir “Kitchen Confidential” was on her thoughts. “I saw myself in him in a very weird way,” she stated. “How he shook up that world and did it so honestly and coming from a place of love.” That half was vital to her for her guide: “I love ballet and I love this company and I believe in it one thousand percent.”

She ended up writing two variations. The first “didn’t dive into anything,” she stated. “I read it and I was like, ‘Wow, Gina, what a cop-out,’ and started again.”

The second time, she didn’t miss the painful tales, together with the affair she had with a married principal dancer and the surgical procedure she needed to take away fats from her thighs after excessive weight-reduction plan and train didn’t work. (Sad to say, however surgical procedure was safer than hunger.)

The guide — laced with expletives — isn’t with out humor. It focuses on Pazcoguin’s time as a scholar on the City Ballet-affiliated School of American Ballet and in the corporate, which she joined in 2003. She started writing about three years in the past, whereas Martins was nonetheless in cost. In 2018, he resigned from his publish amid accusations of sexual harassment and bodily and verbal abuse. (He has denied the allegations.)

“Swan Dive” begins with Pazcoguin being summoned to satisfy Martins, in 2013. She was sure she was about to be fired. It had been two weeks since they’d had “a yelling match of epic proportions,” she writes. “It ended with me screaming as I ran down the hallway.”

She braced herself for fat-shaming (it all the time got here right down to her thighs) or being advised that she was not absolutely dedicated. But the encounter turned out in a different way: Martins promoted her to soloist, the rank she nonetheless holds.

Pazcoguin with Andrew Scordato in George Balanchine’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”Credit…Paul Kolnik

Pazcoguin, to her misery, stays the one feminine soloist who has not carried out the half of the Sugar Plum Fairy in “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker.” As for being promoted to principal dancer? “It’s their move,” she stated of the corporate’s present leaders, Jonathan Stafford (inventive director) and Wendy Whelan (affiliate inventive director). “It’s not my move. I have not given up on being promoted. I want to still think I’m in the running.”

One level Pazcoguin makes in “Swan Dive” is that she has not been thought of a classical dancer in phrases of her roles, which have a tendency towards the extra theatrical and modern. (Her portrayal of Anita in Robbins’s “West Side Story Suite,” a model of the musical that City Ballet performs, is astonishing.) She stated she would love a shot at performing lead roles in “Symphony in Three Movements” and “La Valse,” Balanchine ballets with inherent drama.

“I’m not saying I want to be White Swan,” Pazcoguin stated, referring to the position of Odette, the princess in “Swan Lake.” She burst into laughter. “I have a good handle on what I could have an interesting spin on, and it might not be who’s inhabited it before.”

In contemplating the trail her dancing profession has taken, Pazcoguin thinks again to when she was a scholar on the School of American Ballet; it coincided with the assaults of Sept. 11, which left her traumatized. She developed an consuming dysfunction. “It was just a way for me to process this grief — it had nothing to do with weight,” she stated. “That messed with my body. It really set it up for me to be a mess for the coming years.”

At the time, her poor well being led to a stress fracture, which prevented her from performing the lead in Balanchine’s “Ballo della Regina” on the college’s annual Workshop Performances. Merrill Ashley, the virtuoso ballerina for whom it was made, coached her in it. If she had carried out “Ballo,” would Martins have later solid her in extra classical, technical roles? “Or worse yet,” she stated, “would I still have the same career?”

In an interview, Ashley stated she agreed with Pazcoguin that issues might need gone in a different way had she been capable of carry out “Ballo.” “Her foot was so bad, and ‘Ballo’ is about the worst ballet you could try and dance with a bad foot,” Ashley stated.

Pazcoguin now believes that half of the explanation she was held again in the corporate needed to do with race. “A lot of feedback is presented in a correction,” she stated. “Like you should correct this. Then you get the off comment, and you’re like, what? I can’t correct my features. And that’s when you’re like, what just happened?”

If she had stated something on the time, “it would have turned out very badly for me,” she stated, although, in retrospect, she realizes she was having some of these conversations behind the scenes.

One was with Albert Evans, then a ballet grasp. Evans, simply the second Black dancer to grow to be a principal at City Ballet (he died in 2015), acknowledged that she was in ache. “He was like, ‘You just keep working,’” Pazcoguin stated. “‘I see you.’ I didn’t realize we were having a conversation about race, but we were.”

From left, Amar Ramasar, Robert Fairchild, Sara Mearns and Pazcoguin, who danced a villain position, in Peter Martins’s “Ocean’s Kingdom,” in 2011. Credit…Paul Kolnik

She recalled that after Ashley watched her carry out in Robbins’s “N.Y. Export/Opus Jazz” for the primary time, she advised her, “‘You have no idea how many people are asking me who the woman with the black hair was,’” Pazcoguin stated. “She’s like, ‘You need to get out of here. He’s never going to use you how you should be used.’”

Ashley stated that she didn’t bear in mind the “Opus Jazz” half of the remark, however that it didn’t shock her. She does bear in mind speaking to Pazcoguin, who had been in the corporate for a couple of years and wasn’t getting very a lot to bop: “She came to me and asked for my advice, and I said, ‘What’s your goal? What kind of dancing do you really want?’”

She thought that Pazcoguin might be a star on Broadway, however that classical ballet was a completely different story as a result of, “I didn’t think that she was going to be automatically given classical roles,” Ashley stated. “She would be given things that were more contemporary, more dramatic. I was trying to be upfront with her.”

There had been many issues that had been out of Pazcoguin’s management. “I look quite Asian when I have my makeup on,” she stated. “I can’t change that. I can’t change my body type, my heritage. I’m never going to be a waif-thin body type. And so that’s where the creation of ‘rogue’ came.”

“Sometimes,” she added, “you just need to embrace what makes you different.”

“I love ballet and I love this company and I believe in it one thousand percent.”Credit…Heather Sten for The New York Times

And Pazcoguin’s profession has expanded past many of her fellow dancers. She took a go away to carry out on Broadway in “Cats” and in addition appeared on the FX present “Fosse/Verdon.” In October, she’s going to dance a trio of works initially carried out by Gwen Verdon as half of the Verdon Fosse Legacy’s presentation on the Fall for Dance Festival at City Center.

Pazcoguin, who spent a lot of the pandemic in Los Angeles, hasn’t had a straightforward time over the previous couple of years; leaving New York briefly helped her deal with her psychological well being and put together herself for the publication of her guide. “I knew that this was going to be the biggest roller coaster ride of my life,” she stated. “There’s no blaming a choreographer. There’s no blaming a director. This is all me.”

And as a lot because it looks as if an examination of her office, Pazcoguin sees “Swan Dive” as a deep take a look at herself — as a individual and as an artist.

“It’s a necessary step in trusting myself and the ability that I can be front and center and own it,” she stated. “I can stand here as an Asian American woman, multicultural and be the queen. And be the rogue ballerina. And be a mess. And be completely put together. I have a narrative that’s interesting and I have something to say and what I have to say has weight. I can be the leading character.”