Zack is a guest artist for Savannah Ballet Theatre, and Jillian is a company member. They both just closed out performances in SBT’s production of “Sleepy Hollow” at the Tybee Post Theater. They plan on appearing in SBT’s annual production of “The Nutcracker” coming up at Tybee Post Theater for the holiday season.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got here to Savannah Ballet Theatre?
I’m originally from Connecticut. I started ballet when I was four. I went to a pre-professional ballet company up there, and when I graduated high school I went to Florida State University, and I was in the dance program. When I graduated there, I moved to Jacksonville, where my parents are currently living, and I was in a little Christian ballet company there, but it went under and I came here.
I actually come from more of an athletic and sports background.
I played pretty much any sport you can thing of—baseball hockey, football mainly—and then, in my freshman year in high school, I started taking tap dance with a musical called ‘Anything goes.’
Tried it in the offseason; fell in love with it; started competing at a studio in Denver called Extreme Dance Force; then kind of fell away from the sports a little bit. I started doing techniqe when I was about 16 or 17 years old; started doing ballet more seriously, and then ended up going to the Univ. of Nevada, Las Vegas for dance. I got a B.F.A. in dance performance choreography.
I did some time out in Seoul South Korea with Korean National Sport University and the Seoul National Ballet when I was in college. And I kind of started to hone in on the ballet training. I kept on through college.
I started working with the Vegas Golden Knights (NHL) and so I got to perform with them, and then it was a cross of the performance in ballet and then the sports...I kind of made one path with that, and that’s what brought me here to Savannah—with the Savannah Bananas as director of entertainment.
I was the dancing first base coach there for an inning. We took a video of that, and it ended up going viral. A little over 5 million views or something like that. And someone at Savannah Ballet saw that and reached out. That’s how they found me...that viral video. Obviously I had a little bit of time as the Bananas are in the offseason right now, and I figured it was a no-brainer.
How do you get to where you are, dancing in a production like this?
Practicing every day. Going to class every day. When I was in high school we had class for 6 days-a-week for four hours per day.
Tell us more about The Nutcracker and the local production. Have you danced in The Nutcracker before?
I have not. So this will be new for me.
Yes. Usually the concept is the same for productions, but the choreography is different and there are usually different stories. So here, it’s set in the 1940s in Savannah. When I was back in school, we did a New England version from the 1700s that was based on the whaling industry. It had kind of a nautical theme. It was cool.
Do you have any advice for any young people out there who may or may not be considering getting into dance as a hobby or a profession?
There’s no reason to say no to things when you’re young. If you’re afraid of being bad at something you have to look at where you started at anything you do. And that leads into adult life too.
In the dance world, there’s so many cool things you can learn that will make you better in life. I suggest that everyone take a dance class or two and learn to like it or love it. Because once you start, some magical things happen.
Go to class and listen to your teachers. You may feel your teachers are tough on you, but they always want the best for you. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get the part you want or if you don’t get into the school you want. There’s always other chances to get where you want if you try hard enough.
For more information on Savannah Ballet Theatre and its productions, visit savannahballettheatre.org. And make sure to look for Zack and Jillian in The Nutcracker, with performances at the Tybee Post Theater.