Princess Grace Foundation-USA
American Ballet Theatre (ABT) soloist Skylar Brandt knew she would have the opportunity to perform the iconic titular role in the classic ballet, “Giselle” during ABT’s season at the Kennedy Center this February. But what she didn’t know was that she would go on even sooner than planned, filling in for injured Principal Dancer, Misty Copeland. PGF-USA caught up with Skylar before her debut to learn more about her exciting debut and why she loves ballet.
PGF-USA: How do you feel about your debut as Giselle?
Skylar Brandt: I’m very excited about it! It’s funny – as much as I love the ballet, I never thought I would be suitable for the role. It’s amazing to have been given this opportunity and it’s a bit of a challenge because it’s a departure from the roles I’ve experienced before.
PGF-USA: What roles did you do before this opportunity?
Skylar Brandt: I’m usually cast in spritely, joyful, uplifting, technical, fast-moving roles. Giselle is a little different because the 2nd act has an adagio quality and the character experiences a huge range of emotion throughout the ballet. But I’m starting to feel very comfortable in the role and the elements that I thought would be the most challenging to me, I’m finding the most enjoyable. The opportunity to perform this iconic role is a really big privilege and honor and I hope to do it justice.
PGF-USA: Tell us a little about the casting process – is there an official audition process?
Skylar Brandt: There are no formal auditions, but with each class and performance it’s like an audition. I have wonderful relationship with Kevin [McKenzie, ABT’s Artistic Director]. At the end of each season I have a meeting with him and ask him what I should work on. At my meeting last summer he gave a hint that I should work on Giselle, but it was still so unexpected and thrilling to be cast as Giselle.
PGF-USA: Is this your first full-length principal role?
Skylar Brandt: It’s not actually. A couple of years ago I filled in for an injury. Someone got hurt and I had 3 day notice to learn all three acts of Le Corsaire. That was my first fill-in principal role but this opportunity is a really big one because it was scheduled ahead of time.
PGF-USA: Why do you love being a dancer?
Skylar Brandt: As a kid I loved dressing up and performing, and I was drawn to the story, costumes and music of ballet. But once I discovered that ballet is not easy – I truly fell in love with the challenge of it.
PGF-USA: Tell us about your life outside of ballet?
Skylar Brandt: Well as you can see from my Instagram account – my family is a huge part of my life. My sisters danced as well; my older sister was a NY Knicks dancer and my mom is a big influence in my life. She used to be a fitness trainer. She trained a lot of celebrities like Cyndi Lauper and John McEnroe. She’s very cool and inspiring. Even my dad has gotten in on the dance action and loves to take hip-hop classes!
PGF-USA: How did you feel when you when you were found out that you won a Princess Grace Award?
Skylar Brandt: You know I was actually nominated when I was a student at JKO [ABT’s training school] but I didn’t receive the Award. While I was sad, the letter from PGF-USA essentially said we really hope you reapply and that they appreciated my work. When I was in the corps de ballet at ABT, Kevin nominated me and this time I won – it was truly amazing!
Follow Skylar on IG @skylarbrandt
American Ballet Theatre has an impressive roster of Princess Grace Award winners. Principals: Isabella Boylston (2009), David Hallberg (2002), Sarah Lane (2007), Gillian Murphy (1998) and Christine Shevchenko (2003); Soloists: Skylar Brandt (2013), Joseph Gorak (2011) Blaine Hoven (2008), Catherine Hurlin (2018) and Cassandra Trenary (2015). The company will have their annual Spring season at the Metropolitan Opera House in NYC May-July and tours the U.S. and internationally – check their calendar to find a performance near you!