Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Interview: Eva Trapp Of The Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

by Chris Steele

If you've kept up with Style & Wisdom, you may have noticed that we've worked a lot with the very talented team at the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre during 2012 so far. We brought you reviews of The Nutcracker, A Streetcar Named Desire, and most recently, Coppelia.  If you read our review of A Streetcar Named Desire, you know that it was an intense and emotional ballet.  At times, it was even hard to watch because of how serious some of the scenes were (which means that it was brilliantly depicted.) The main character, Blanche, had many mental struggles and at one point, remembers a time when she was raped.  The character was beautifully and powerfully portrayed by Eva Trapp and our theater critic, Chris Steele, recently caught up with her to chat about A Streetcar Named Desire and her role as a dancer  with PBT.  While PBT's season just ended, Eva is surely a dancer to look out for in their 2012-2013 season!

Chris Steele: I have great respect for all dance forms. Ballet takes a certain discipline that takes art to a different level. What drives you?  
Eva Trapp: Being a ballerina has given me the unique ability to actually be someone else’s  canvas. I find accomplishing new works of choreography and stepping into another character on stage is what really drives me. Over all I would say that dancing is a challenge that I absolutely adore.

CS: What age did you find that?  
ET: I started very young at the age of three. I think I fell in love with the art form after I got my first pair of pointe shoes. Which I believe I was eleven.

CS: Who supported you pushing you further?
ET: My parents have always been my behind the scenes strength. 

CS: In an average week how many pairs of pointe shoes do you go through?
ET: On average, a pair a day.

CS: What is your dream role?
I just had the honor of performing it. It is Blanche, from A Streetcar Named Desire

CS: Do you do any other styles of dance? Favorite?
ET: With this line of work I think at one point I have tried just about every style. I do love tap dancing, I have not danced that way in years and I do miss it.

CS: Ballet takes quite a physical tool on the body.  Toes, muscles, much of the most elegant form seems to not actually be intended for the human body.  At any point did you almost throw in the pointe shoes?
ET: The year I graduated high school, I lost mobility in my ankle due to an injury brought on from dancing. Being so young I did not know how to take care of my body, the way dancers must do. I took two months off to heal and I thought this could be the end. I had a wonderful teacher in Cleveland call me up and she told me to come back. So I took classes with Gladesa Guadlupe. While working with her, the director of Ohio Ballet, Jeffery Graham Hughes, came and taught class and offered me a job. Injuries are a very real and scary thing that happen to dancers all the time. I was very lucky.

CS: Since 2006 you’ve been with the PBT, first with the Corps de Ballet and are now a featured soloist. Can you tell us about that transition; what it entails, what it means to a dancer, pros and cons of either end.
ET: There is a motto that most dancers live by: “There are no small parts”. To have a job at PBT or any other company is an honor at any level.  There are so many dancers out there and comparably few jobs.  With that being said, every level creates new challenges. I remember how much I loved working in the Corp de Ballet in full length ballets. To me the corp can be the heart of a ballet. For example Swan Lake. To dance in unison and in perfect lines as a moving breathing set. It is very difficult work making sure you match everyone. As a soloist I have been given so many wonderful opportunities. I dance alone most of the time. The best part of my job now is that one on one time I get to feel with the audience.
Streetcar was critically acclaimed.  At first blush when I heard about it, the concept seemed odd to me, as the thought stewed, however, I understood why it was so remarkable.  Tennessee Williams was well known for his ability to capture the human element in compelling situations… So to consider Swan Lake, Giselle, Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet, the best ballet seems to be artistic renderings of humanity in similar themes as Williams best works. Stripped down, bare bones humanity. 

CS: What was your first step in trying to find that delicate balance that was Blanche Dubious? 
ET: Chemistry is essential in any Williams play, as it is in any ballet, so obviously for this role it was imperitive. 

CS: Can you speak on what it takes to find that chemistry and keep it?
ET: Blanche to me is the most “human” character I’ve ever worked on. She has so much depth and so many layers. I guess I really started with the fact that she is a true well-mannered southern lady. To me, anytime I said something as Blanche in my head I said it with a deep southern drawl, very slow and very oblivious. She has such a fragile mental state to begin with and any major life change or trauma is enough to send her right over the edge. But you must add in that she is always fooling herself into believing that she is and will be just fine. Therefore she projects herself in complete self denial and yet lady like and very pulled together.

When forming chemistry with another dancer I find it exceedingly important that they also understand their character. When I am on stage acting, I am the person I am playing. To me it’s the only way to convey to the audience a real experience. As rehearsals develop I believe you start seeing each other in a different light. It’s no longer a co-worker but someone you know entirely. Not as themselves but as the character, so by the time you are performing, you are in a way living your character’s experiences. 

CS: What brought you to Pittsburgh Ballet Theater?
ET: I trained in PBT’s school my last two years of high school. I have always loved the company. I was dancing with Ohio Ballet, and sadly the company went under and folded. I called Terry right after and he ask me to come back.  Pittsburgh has been my home ever since.

CS: How do you like Pittsburgh having been here nearing on seven years, one would think you might be a fan?
ET: I love this city. The arts are thriving here, unlike any other city I have been to. Great people, great food, great boyfriend, and I happen to be a Steelers fan.

CS: Favorite food spot?
ET: It’s a toss up between Tamari, Dinette, and Paris 66.

CS: Favorite night spot?
ET: OTB or New Amsterdam 

CS: I always tell out of towners they need to go to Pamela’s for breakfast before they leave. It’s a pancake like no other.  What is the one place (other than the PBT) that you would call a “need to see (or do) Pittsburgh thing”?
ET: I love Light Up Night, but that’s seasonal. The Andy Warhol Museum is a must see for me.

CS: I see on PBT’s dancer blog site “Human or Dancer” that you post playlists pretty often. Those playlists you provide have an impressive range from popular oldie but goodies to modern day nitch independent stuff to B sides of popular artists you would never hear on the radio. And the artists are such a wide variety. I appreciate a good eclectic music lover so I’m interested: if we turned on your iPod right now, what song would come on?  
ET: Gotye, I am a little bit obsessed with the song “Somebody I Use To Know”.

CS: If you had to delete every artist but one, who would you keep?
ET: Hands down Queen, with Freddie Mercury of course.

CS: Who is the one artist that no one knows and needs to?
ET: Good question, I’d say either Zeus or Morphine 

CS: What makes a great song in the heart of Eva Trapp?
ET: A great song is powerful. Whether it’s something you feel inside yourself or something that the artists emotes. One epic song is all it takes to inspire an entire day. A great song changes you.

CS: How often do you choreograph numbers in your head to the music in your headphones while you’re listening to it?
ET: Only when I am truly inspired by a piece of music.

If you missed our review of A Streetcar Named Desire, you can read it here.

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