Moving for your career is a common process that many people experience. What is not all that common is moving across the globe from America to the northern European country of Estonia for your career, which is exactly what Jake Casey did. Casey is a 25-year-old professional ballet dancer from Syracuse, New York. He attended The Rock School, and has danced with Syracuse City Ballet, Ballet Idaho and, most recently before moving, the Cincinnati Ballet. Here, Casey chats with Dance Informa about his massive life transition, living in Estonia and his new video blog.
Tell us about your dance background. When did you begin your dance training?
“I began dancing when I was three years old in my hometown of Syracuse, NY, with the Syracuse City Ballet. For the majority of my childhood, I was more focused on gymnastics, but when I was 15, I decided to attend a summer intensive to train only in dance, for four weeks. That experience opened my eyes to what being a dancer really could be for me. Two years later, I decided to forgo my senior year of high school, to attend The Rock School in Philadelphia. After three amazing and formative years, I was fortunate enough to get a contract with Ballet Idaho for the 2013-14 season. I spent one season in the corps de ballet there, before joining the corps de ballet of the Cincinnati Ballet. Under the artistic direction of Victoria Morgan, I was so incredibly excited to perform soloist and principal roles by some of today’s most exciting choreographers. I danced with Cincinnati for three seasons before moving to Estonia.”
When did you make the move to Estonia to dance with Teater Vanemuine?
“I moved to Estonia on August 2nd of this year (2017)!”
What was the transition like, moving from America to Estonia?
“I am not going to sugar coat it…the transition wasn’t easy. It was an adjustment to not only a new company but also to a new culture and a foreign language. Luckily, the theatre, my director and all of my fellow dancers have been so helpful. They have helped me find an apartment, understand how to get around and a bit of the language! Fortunately, most Estonians speak English! So, conversing isn’t too big of a concern.”
What are some challenges you face daily while living and dancing in a foreign country?
“One of the biggest challenges at first was finding time to speak with my family. My family is back in the states, which is seven hours behind Estonia. It was tricky to find a time when they were awake and I wasn’t working (and vice versa). Luckily, we have worked out a great schedule now, so it is all good!”
Tell me about your vlog! Why did you start up a vlog and how much time does it take to maintain your vlog?
“Thanks for asking about my vlog! I just started some vlogging a little over a month ago, as a way to show my family where I lived. Then I started getting some comments from people asking to see more of my life. More specifically, a peak into the life of a male ballet dancer. It is such an important mission for me to educate the world on what it means to be a male ballet dancer. And, because of where my life is at now, it is also a closer look into living abroad, working abroad, traveling and a bunch of food! To film, depending on the concept for the video, I usually shoot for one or two days. Then I spend about five to seven hours editing. It can be tricky finding time to edit, but I have found that if it is something that you really want, you need to make it a priority.”
What are your favorite roles to perform? What is your dream role?
“I love most roles, but as far as styles that really excite me, I love contemporary ballet, modern and improvisational movement. So, generally any roles that feature this movement will have me excited. I also love a good character role! Acting is another big passion of mine, and I love getting to combine it with dance. My dream role is hard to pinpoint. But, if I had to choose I would love to explore a character that has a lot of depth. Maybe Nijinsky or Romeo? I surely wouldn’t complain with doing either!”
What is some advice you have for young dancers moving to a different state or country to pursue their career in dance?
“Do everything! If you are normally an introverted person, like myself, try to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Meet new people, eat new food, learn new languages, explore new movement, and immerse yourself in a new culture. All of these life experiences not only make you a better artist, but they will also help you feel like you are making a home in your new environment.”
How long do you plan to be in Estonia? Where to next? Do you have any career plans for the near future?
“I am not sure. My current contract lasts until July of 2018, so I will be in Estonia at least until then. I am a very eager person and dancer who wants to experience as much dance as possible! So, wherever the dance is, you can bet I will be there. For the near future, besides dancing in Estonia, I will be teaching masterclasses around Europe. The UK, Lithuania and hopefully Finland seem to be the next stops! And on the choreography side, I will be creating a new work for the Young Choreographer’s Evening here in Estonia! Then if all goes well, I am hoping to submit this work to Festivals in Germany and Israel for 2018/19!”
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
“In 10 years, I will be 35…whoa! It is so hard to know where I will be, but I know that wherever I am, dance will play a huge part in it. I hope to still be dancing if my body will allow it. And I really hope to be choreographing and directing more and more projects. Whether it be choreography for stage, for musicals, for tv, branding, I see myself working a lot in that field. My eventual goal is to either direct an existing dance company or to start my own company.”
To follow Jake Casey on his YouTube video blog, click here.
By Allison Gupton of Dance Informa.