Jordyn Richter (Corps de Ballet) was born in Chandler, Arizona, but raised in Spokane, Washington where she trained at the Academy of Dance under the direction of Kristen Potts. She has attended various summer programs including Exploring Ballet with Suzanne Farrell, American Ballet Theatre in New York City, and Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle. Jordyn danced professionally with BalletMet in Columbus, Ohio, and has been a guest artist with academies and companies including Ballet Spokane, Ballet Fantastique, and Backer Ballet. Jordyn joined The Suzanne Farrell Ballet in 2007 and has performed many Balanchine roles including Five Pieces from Episodes, the Purple pas de Trois from Danses Concertantes, and the second and fourth movements of Brahms Schoenberg Quartet, to name a few.
A Conversation with Jordyn Richter
What is your favorite role to dance and why?
I recently found a favorite role to dance, last season with the company, and that was the girl in the "Five Pieces" pas de deux from Episodes. The role was a brand new challenge in many ways for me, the largest being the fact that this was my first soloist part! It was a very artistic, and in some ways comical, piece where I really got to step outside the realm of straight forward classical ballet. It was choreography that I could really have fun and play with, but was also so challenging that it really gave me a thrill to be able to perform it.
What do you like to do when you are not dancing?
I like to keep a fairly well balanced life with dancing and everything else, so I have quite a few things to keep my time occupied when I'm not taking class or stretching on the living room floor. My fiancé and I have four dogs that keep us very entertained, and we love to explore the outdoors and find new adventures to go on. I hang out with my family as much as possible as well, and my three little brothers give me a run for my money! Getting other exercise is great too, so I'll hit the gym or take a hot yoga class when I can.
How do you prepare yourself for the physical challenges of rehearsing, performing, touring?
I am definitely a creature of habit when it comes to this! I like to arrive to the studio the same time every morning, which is usually about an hour early. I do the same set of stretches and exercises to get my body ready to go for the long day, and take about 20 minutes to tape my feet and find the right pairs of shoes that I'm going to need for that day's rehearsals. I like taking time to breathe and relax in the mornings before the most important part of the day starts!!
What is it like to work with Ms. Farrell? Any fun and memorable stories or anecdotes about working with her?
It is an incredible experience to work with Ms. Farrell and sometimes I still can't believe that I get the opportunity to dance for her! After six seasons and three summer programs, I still find myself hanging on her every word; I literally learn something new every single day. She has a way of making you dig deeper than you thought possible and producing things you didn't know were there. There are many fond memories that I have with her, it's hard to pick just one! This isn't dancing related necessarily, but I remember my first year with the company I was 17 years old and we performed during Thanksgiving week, meaning it would be my first year away from my family for the holiday. We were all sitting in the hotel conference room eating a beautiful meal that they had provided us, and Ms. Farrell came over to me and very quietly said, "Do you miss your family?" Of course timid me responded with a quiet "Yes." I will never forget her response of, "Well, we are your family now" with her comforting smile. That could not be truer, as all of us have grown so close throughout the years, and there have been many people I have looked up to. I very warmly refer to them all as my Farrell family, and I am so happy when I am with them.
What music do you like to listen to when you warm-up?
I actually never listen to music warming up, which doesn't happen often in the ballet world. I like to be connected and aware of everything around me, especially when warming up for a show. I personally need to feel the energy of the theatre and get my mind and body all on the same page. For some reason music distracts me from doing that.
What do you think is the most common myth about being a ballet dancer? What do you wish people knew about what it's really like to be a ballet dancer?
I think there are quite a bit of myths about being a ballerina, but I would say the biggest is that people have absolutely no idea what it takes to be a professional dancer at the level that we are at. I have never met people who are so driven and ambitious before than in pro dancers. Not only have most of us been doing this since single digits every day after school, but the amount of time we spend in the studios or stretching at home seems to blow people's minds. There are so many tears and blisters that you never see when that curtain opens to all of the gorgeous tutus. That is exactly how it's supposed to be though, and I think that is what makes it so magical.
Do you feel an affinity for any particular choreographer?
This may seem like a fairly obvious answer, but Mr. George Balanchine makes my heart sing. I wasn't trained in Balanchine growing up, and when I attended Ms. Farrell's summer program, my eyes were opened to a whole new world. Certain things were challenging of course, but my body has never felt more at home. The way he creates stories, and fits movements together like puzzle pieces creates a mood and energy that you just can't take your eyes off of. All of the movements feel natural, but they all leave room for that extra push and challenge that we as dancers yearn for. The fact that we work under a woman who so closely understood what he desired is an amazing experience.
What is the biggest reward in your career?
The biggest reward in my career is absolutely getting the honor to step out on that stage and bring people into our world. We train so hard every day, and we have all performed so many times, but I've never met a Farrell Ballet dancer who ever said they don't feel that rush anymore. It is a feeling that is and always will be unparalleled. I also really enjoy when I have family that gets to come see me perform. My parents sacrificed so much so I could follow this dream and the fact that I made it, and they get to see that makes me so, so happy.