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Ballerina makes history as first AAPI soloist to play Polyhymnia in New York City Ballet’s ‘Apollo’

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    Filipino American ballerina Georgina Pazcoguin made history last weekend by becoming the first AAPI soloist to portray Polyhymnia in the New York City Ballet’s latest production of “Apollo.”

    Speaking with Jezebel on Monday, Pazcoguin said she was grateful for being given the chance to perform at the New York City Ballet’s Spring 2022 Stravinsky Festival last weekend.

    The fact that history was made this weekend… I still have not even processed that,” Pazcoguin said. “I think we’re just grateful to be able to keep the show going, and during APA Heritage Month in May no less.”

    Choreographed by George Balanchine and composed by Igor Stravinsky in 1928, “Apollo” is the first ballet of the Balanchine-Stravinsky Greek Trilogy, with the other two being “Orpheus” (1948) and “Agon” (1957). “Apollo” premiered in Paris in 1928 and was first performed by the New York City Ballet in 1951.

    The ballet follows the story of the Greek god Apollo as he is ushered into adulthood by Polyhymnia, Calliope and Terpsichore, the muses of mime, poetry and dance and song, respectively.

    Before her historic performance, Pazcoguin previously portrayed Polyhymnia for other small gig companies, and she last played the character in 2018. Despite her past experiences, however, she revealed that she was not the first choice for the role. She was notified at the last minute to become an understudy after one dancer became sick and another got injured.

    It’s immensely humbling knowing you are not first, second, third or even fourth choice to dance a role and suddenly find yourself thrown into a final complete [rehearsal] with no stage lights or costume with a cast who is so wonderful and your directors crossing their fingers that you can do them this solid, earning their trust one literal step at a time,” Pazcoguin told Jezebel.

    The ballerina also noted that she attended an emergency rehearsal on Saturday and took to the stage later that day.

    It just happened, and thank God it happened so fast because there was no time to doubt oneself,” she was quoted as saying. “I just remember I was backstage in the wings about to go on, and I was watching my friend Sara [Adams] dance onstage, and I said to myself, ‘You were built for this,’ and something just aligned.”

    Pazcoguin became an apprentice in 2001. Since then, she has taken on roles in various productions, from Anita in the New York City Ballet’s version of “West Side Story” to Ivy in a 2014 Broadway revival of “On the Town.” She is also known for originating the role of Victoria in the first Broadway revival of “Cats” back in 2016. She became the New York City Ballet’s first Asian American soloist in February 2013.

    Pazcoguin was selected as one of the Kennedy Center’s Next 50 in January for her efforts to promote AAPI representation in ballet through Final Bow for Yellowface, an organization she co-founded with dancer Phil Chan in 2017.

    Through their work, Pazcoguin and Chan aim to revise ballet culture and make it more inclusive for AAPI talents, such as by having ballet companies employ more choreographers of Asian descent to avoid Asian caricatures and inauthentic interpretations in ballets such as “La Bayadère” and “Bugaku.”

    Despite all the obstacles and what I may feel in my moments of deepest frustration with the monarchal environment of ballet companies in the macro sense, I’ve earned my seat at the table,” she told Jezebel. “I have always been a ballerina and I hope that I’ve expanded others’ idea of what a Muse in Apollo can look like.” 


    Featured Image via FOX 5 New York

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