Stephenie Meyer owns all TWILIGHT characters. The names "American Ballet Theatre" and "ABT" are registered trademarks of Ballet Theatre Foundation, Inc.
The chapters to this story will tend to gravitate toward the shorter length. I've done as much research as possible regarding the ballet world but please know that I have also taken some liberties for the purpose of entertainment.
For an enhanced version of this chapter as an actual magazine article, please visit my blog - www. ficarious. com
"Success is not the result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire."
~ Fred Sero ~
THE NEW CHOREOGRAPHY OF EDWARD CULLEN
By Vincent Aronelle
When he was six years old, Edward Cullen put on a pair of black pants and a white shirt, and walked into his first ballet class. An hour later, he asked his mother if he could play soccer instead, but she asked him to "stick with it" for a few more weeks. A few weeks turned into months and by the time he was seven, Cullen had fallen in love with the art of dance. His family moved from their hometown of Chicago to Washington, DC, where he began training at the Kirov Academy of Ballet.
The rest, as they say, is history.
"I don't actually remember a time before I loved dancing," Cullen says during a lunch at The Peninsula. "My mother loves telling that story about my first ballet class but I honestly don't remember it. My first real memories of dancing come from Kirov. I learned so much there and it just cemented the fact that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life."
After only two years in the nation's capital, the Cullen family moved to Pennsylvania, and less than two years after that, found themselves in France. It was in France that Cullen was able to truly grow as a dancer. According to Cullen, "Max [Bozzoni] is the reason I'm as confident as I am today. He's the reason I never gave up, no matter how hard or tedious the days were. I won't lie and say I was always 100% into my craft. I was a teenager in Paris, surrounded by pretty girls and other distractions, but Max helped me focus on what was important." When speaking on the death of his mentor (Bozzoni died of a heart attack in 2003), the usual spark in Cullen's eyes fades a bit. "It's a terrible loss to the dance world but that's the way the world works. I was lucky enough to speak to him shortly before his death. He had called to congratulate me on becoming a principal at ABT. I'm extremely thankful for that conversation."
Cullen moved to New York City on his own in 1996 while his parents opted to stay in Europe. He moved in with an uncle and aunt, the latter being Esme Cullen, the current Artistic Director of American Ballet Theatre. "I was thrilled when Edward came to New York," she says. "I may be with ABT, but I was so happy when he received the scholarship to [The School of] American Ballet. It was an incredible opportunity for him." It was an incredible opportunity and within a year, Cullen found his place in New York City Ballet's corps.
"NYC Ballet was great," Cullen says with a smile. "But it would be terrible of me to lie and say I wasn't overjoyed when I received the call about ABT. Even as a child, ABT was a dream, a goal I wanted to reach. I would never have gotten there without NYC Ballet, though."
Within five years of professional dancing, Cullen became a principal dancer for American Ballet Theatre at the age of 21 – not quite the youngest to manage the feat but one of few. For three years, he's graced the stage in roles he once only dreamt about – his favorite being Romeo in Romeo & Juliet. "It's a cliché," he admits while laughing. "Romeo is an iconic role to play, especially in ballet, and it will always be one of my favorite roles. It's part romantic, part horrific, when you think about it. There's the tragic story of two lovers but they're young and unknowing of the world. It's a very difficult process to find the correct line to straddle in playing a young man such as Romeo."
Romeo, however, has one thing that Cullen does not, and that's a leading lady. He laughs when asked about it. "I'm not against having a relationship, especially one in the public eye. I've done that already and I'll be the first to admit that I was too young and too in love with the idea of love to worry about much else. It's different now. Ballet is a big part of my life; it's not just a job or a hobby. Anyone who is in a relationship with me needs to know that, needs to realize she may not always come first. It's stressful. I run workshops, I fly around the world for tours and special performances, I'm required to attend galas and dinners. For all I know, I could be a terrible boyfriend."
Despite what he says, Cullen admits that there may be someone new in his life, someone who may be just what he needs. "There's a little something right now though, as I've said, I don't often like to deal with relationships in the media, but she's a great girl and we're just seeing where things lead. She's just as much of a perfectionist as I am and she understands this life."
So she's a dancer, then? Cullen's smile is brief but bright. "Yes, she's a dancer. Things are slow, mostly because my schedule is insane right now."
Insane is putting it mildly. Right now, Cullen is in the eye of a storm, with a schedule that might make any other professional cringe. In addition to his rehearsals and select performances with ABT, he's also taking part of ABT's New Choreography Workshop. Jasper Whitlock, the director of ABT II, speaks highly of Cullen and believes he is the perfect addition to the choreographers and instructors that prepare the small company of 12 for a professional turn. "Edward is extremely well-rounded in the industry. He may be known as a dancer but he has the qualifications to really help the new generation of dancers. He also has a mind that is always turning, always creating. I look forward to seeing his choreography."
"That's what I'm most looking forward to – helping shape the new dancers," Cullen says of ABT II. "I've always loved helping the younger students in various schools. I always jump at the chance to run a workshop with children, but with ABT II, it's a bit more competitive, which means the students work harder. They care just that much more because they know that this is the moment in their lives when everything could change."
Only one piece of Cullen's has been seen and that was the dance performed by a trio of male dancers during ABT II's brief fall tour. Though the majority of the choreography consisted of classical movements, there were brief moments of the performance that were a bit more contemporary, a bit different than what ABT is used to performing. The blending of old and new movements is what Cullen believes will be the future of the dance industry. "I'm a firm believer that a dancer needs to know the classical pieces perfectly in order to become a better dancer. I want my dancers to understand the importance of Ballanchine, Coralli and Perrot, Sir MacMillan. From those creative geniuses, I bring in new motions, new ideas, new themes. That's what my goal is for ABT II this season. I've been working on a piece that will be part of the year-end showcase. It's not quite finished but it will definitely be something different and it's already something I'm very proud of."
Is that all that's in store for him? According to Cullen, the answer is a resounding no. "There's so much more I want to accomplish in my career. I love dancing but I know this won't last forever. I wish it could," he says with a grin, "but it won't and I want to be prepared for that time. Choreographing may be what I end up ultimately loving when my performance days are over, but it may also just be the tip of the iceberg for me. I look forward to figuring it out."
The world of ballet looks forward to it, as well, Mr. Cullen.
From top: at age 13; photoshoot for Romeo & Juliet with Rosalie Hale; attending the 2004 ABT Spring Gala; performing in Giselle with Maria Monterro
Thank you to oOza for the beta work and shpwhitney for pre-reading.
An even bigger thank you than normal to oOza this time around for the gorgeous magazine cover she created for this chapter. Feel free to give her props as well. Don't know what I'm talking about? Seriously - go to the website. www. ficarious. com