This month’s In the Arts talks with prominent dancer about The Nutcracker, his training regimen and future plans with City Ballet.
Boys in ballet have never had it easy. They’re teased, bullied and made to feel less masculine. Just this summer, Good Morning America co-anchor Lara Spencer mocked 6-year-old Prince George for liking ballet — a comment that sparked international outcry, complete with a hashtag: #boysdancetoo.
San Diego’s Geoff Gonzalez, 34, grew up as a boy in ballet, training since age 15. Now he’s a dancer and resident choreographer at City Ballet of San Diego. For the last two seasons, he’s staged the company’s extravagant and popular Carmina Burana ballet.
Gonzalez shares his experience growing up in the dance world and transitioning to choreography. And because it’s Nutcracker season, he reveals which roles he loves (and hates).
Can you share your own experiences growing up as a dancer?
It was tough to be a male dancer through high school. It takes a lot of mental strength to handle a dance life. You really have to love it. I stood my ground and never blinked when anyone would try to put me down. I knew what I wanted and nobody was going to stop me. I think it’s cool that it’s now a cool thing for boys to dance. The support out there now is really wonderful.
What advice do you have for boys who want to dance?
Learn everything equally without bias or opinions. Involve yourself in different styles, methods and techniques, and keep an open mind. You will always have more attention being a boy in dance and that can be a positive or negative thing. Be humble, strive to always be a great person first. Work really (really, really) hard.
What was your own dance training like?
I trained in diverse styles and methods. Ballet, modern, jazz, hip hop, contemporary and some tap.
What is your training regimen now that you’re a professional?
I try to stay in shape year-round. During work days, I’m at the Pacific Beach 24 Hour Fitness three to four days a week. I work with wonderful personal trainers at SKfit in North Park. Plus, there’s all the dancing a dancer does, and I teach at six different studios around San Diego every week.
It’s Nutcracker season, tell us how many times you’ve been in that ballet …
This will be my 11th with City Ballet.
What are the different roles you’ve danced?
I have performed every role there is to perform for a male dancer in our version with the exception of Drosselmeyer: Nutcracker Prince, Rat King, Spanish, Russian, Arabian, Grand pas Cavalier, to name a few.
What’s your favorite role?
My favorite is the Nutcracker Prince. You really feel like the show revolves around you. You can have a great impact on the magic of the show.
My least favorite is Party Scene as the Father of Clara. I have to wear a wig and a lot of makeup to disguise myself and the quick change out of it is rough.
You’re also City’s resident choreographer; how did you transition into choreography?
I started with choreography very soon after starting dance. I took any opportunity to make movement for dancers and design concepts for shows. I wanted to build big things in dance.
How do you come up with ideas?
I try to let them come naturally as if a daydream. The hard part is filtering to the ideas that will actually work in reality.
What are your plans for the future of City Ballet?
To continue the excellence and wonder that City Ballet has been for the past 27 seasons. I have a wonderful opportunity to sit very close to my mentors and parents-in-law (Gonzalez is married to Ariana Gonzalez, daughter of City Ballet founders Steven and Elizabeth Wistrich) and learn in real time what it takes to run the company. I think the future of City Ballet is a bright one and I see this being a renowned place for dance in the world.
Who is your favorite dancer/choreographer of all time?
Dancer would have to be Richard Cragun, an American principal dancer from the Stuttgart Ballet. He was just so powerful, physically and dramatically. Choreography is a small list: George Balanchine, Jiri Kylian and Jerome Robbins.
Where can people follow you on social media?
@geoffgonzalezdance on Instagram