In January 2022, after more than ten years spent dancing with the National Ballet of Canada, Campbell left Toronto and went back to his native United States to join Houston Ballet as a principal. Now, at this point in his career, he can command new roles with a strong ethos, gained through experience. Here Skylar Campbell reveals all about his professional career, from his beginning (holding a candelabra in The Sleeping Beauty) to his biggest challenges and his relationship with pain and awards.
Interview by Alessandro Bizzotto
A year and a half ago, in the midst of a pandemic that was preventing most ballet companies from normal performance, Houston Ballet announced that California-born Skylar Campbell was about to join the company as a principal dancer. The National Ballet of Canada was losing one of its leading men, who would move to Texas to come on board with America’s fourth largest ballet company. While there was lots of anticipation in Houston, Campbell spoke of a “bittersweet goodbye” yet said he was “looking forward to this next chapter”.
When I chat with him via Google Meet for a final fine-tuning of this interview, he seems chilled, completely at ease. “With the departure of Karen Kain, our former artistic director, I felt like it was the end of a chapter for the National Ballet of Canada” he tells me. “Also considering my wife and I never got permanent residency in Canada, I thought it was a good time to make a change. I was pleasantly surprised with how much Houston has grown on me – there is a lot of room for opportunity and development in the performing arts. People wouldn’t expect how big of a cultural destination the city is”.
He trained in Orange County under Victor and Tatiana Kasatsky and David Allan, and then joined the National Ballet of Canada as an RBC apprentice in 2009. That same year he was a finalist in the Prix de Lausanne. In 2019, a year after getting promoted to principal dancer at the National Ballet of Canada, he founded the Skylar Campbell Dance Collective, a nonprofit organization that allows dancers, choreographers and collaborators to “connect and share artistic sensibilities”.
How old were you when you started taking dance lessons?
I was always moving and grooving as a young kid. But I started to take ballet seriously around 14 years old.
Can you take us through how you got from California to Canada?
After making it as a finalist at Prix de Lausanne, I was fortunate to speak to many directors of schools and companies worldwide. Lindsay Fischer, the company’s rehearsal director and the apprentice program director, expressed great interest in me at the time. I didn’t know much about the company but couldn’t let down the opportunity. Looking back, I feel fortunate because I competed, not expecting anything!
The Bronze Medal at the Youth America Grand Prix or the William Marrie Award for Dramatic Excellence – what did awards mean to you at the start of your professional path?
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