Thursday, July 28, 2011

Curve to Curve Interview: Julie Petrusak

This week The Curvealicious Chronicles had the pleasure of chatting with Julie Petrusak. Julie is an amazing young woman whose passion in life is dance, she is strong, fit, healthy, curvy, and has the most amazing legs! Enjoy her interview!


When did you 'love affair' with dancing begin?
My mother took me to see The Colorado Ballet perform the Nutcracker and during the car ride home I announced that I wanted to take ballet lessons. I quickly became a “bunhead”, that’s what you call a really hard-core ballet dancer. By the time I was in high school I was dancing with a pre-professional youth company that had us dancing seven days a week and performing 16-20 times a year. As much as I loved ballet, my teachers always encouraged to branch out into modern dance. First of all, I do not have the slinky limbs and stick-like silhouette that most classical ballet companies look for. Instead I was blessed with thick, muscular legs that you expect to find on a sprinter, not a ballerina. Secondly, my strengths as a dancer are jumping, turning, and covering huge amounts of space in very few counts, (thanks mostly to my powerful legs!) and it is in modern and contemporary styles where I am really able to let these strengths shine. I am glad that I was steered in that direction. Not only does modern dance better suit my technical strengths, as a performer I find that the female roles available in modern dance are more complex and more interesting to interpret than the female roles in ballet.

How long have you been dancing?

Almost 20 years.

Where did you study?

During high school I completed a pre-professional program with the Maryland Youth Ballet and the moved on to earn my degree from the Alvin Ailey/ Fordham University B.F.A in Dance program.

What has been your career high-light to date?

That is a tricky question because I enjoy every part of my career. However, during my last year at Ailey we were required to ask a professional choreographer to set a solo on us. I asked Karen Arceneaux, director of Genesis Dance Company, because I knew that she would want to create a brand new solo for me rather than set a solo that she had in her repertory. It is such a gift to perform a solo that was created for your body and which speaks about your own experiences. I have performed the solo three times since graduating and each time I get to reinterpret its meaning. Any new experiences or insights I have affect how I interpret he movements and perform it. Later the solo was turned into a full length piece which GDC premiered last summer. I will be performing the solo again September 24th as part of the Long Island Fringe Festival.

What are your goals and aspirations?

Short term goal: to perform more. I am just beginning my dance career and I am still networking and figuring out exactly what direction I am going. I take any opportunity that comes my way. Long term goal: I would eventually like to own and operate a performance space.

How do you stay in such amazing shape?

I love to be active. I swim, take boxing classes, walk, ride my bike, and of course, dance! I do something everyday, but I change it up. When it comes to exercise, I believe that it needs to be enjoyable in order for anyone to stay motivated and stick with their routine. I hate running, you will never see me jogging in the park If you don’t like a certain activity, don’t do it!. My advice for anyone is to find a form of exercise that they love and find friends to do it with. When you make the gym or a fitness class your social destination you are ten times more likely to go.

How often do you dance?

All the time. I dance around my apartment while I am cooking and cleaning. Sometimes I don’t even realize I am doing it until I elbow a wall and I have to remind myself to tone it down because I am in my 200 sq foot studio apartment, not on stage. When I have a performance coming up I rehearse anywhere from 4 to 10 hours a week per project. Sometimes I will have more than one project that I am working on, which means more rehearsals. On top of that I take class.

How often do you take dance classes?

Not as much as I would like! I only take about 2 formal technique classes a week now versus the 12-15classes a week I took while I was studying at Ailey. Classes are expensive and I am still paying for the ones I took in college! I am also working full time which makes scheduling time for class very difficult. However, I make sure that I do something every day to stay in condition for dancing whether it is some form of cross-training at the gym or doing a modified ballet class in my apartment (The furniture gets pushed back to the walls and I hold on to my fridge as my ballet barre). When I do have the opportunity to take class I really appreciate every minute of it!

Where are some places that curvy's on any budget can check out dance in nyc?

Check out Liberated Movement they have by donation dance classes 7 days a week and offer all different styles. The city parks also often offer free class series at various locations. For example, Jose Limon Company is teaching a free class series in Bryant Park this summer. If you want to go see dance, go to the Joyce Theater on 19th and 8th Avenue. It is a theater entirely dedicated to presenting dance and offers cheap seats for$10- $20.

Where are some cool places to go dancing in the city? Ie. Salsa, etc.?

To be honest, I don’t go clubbing enough to fully answer that question. Very rarely do I go out with friends with the intention of going dancing. With that said, whatever bar, lounge or party we happen to be at that night, if the music is good, we will end up dancing.

Tell us about the company you dance with?

This year is the tenth anniversary of Genesis Dance Company and will be my fourth season performing with them. We are a modern dance company that is dedicated to uplifting the human spirit through dance. We do a lot of community outreach and perform all over the tri-state area. What sets us apart from other dance companies is our diversity. We are all different shapes and sizes, and dance different styles and we are able come together as one cohesive unit. Check us out at I am also currently working with choreographer Sarah Skaggs on a site-specific piece that will be performed downtown on 9/11 and I am filming a commercial video that will be distributed in South America.

What is the most important thing dancing has taught you?

Dancing has taught me how to be true to myself under all circumstances. Your job as a dancer is to accurately reproduce the movement that the choreographer gives to you and to convey his or her idea to the audience. Simultaneously you need to interpret the movement and ideas for yourself. What do you have to say about the subject of the piece? How can you approach the steps so that movement looks good on your body? In dance and in life you are not always going to like the things that you have to do. But no matter what you are asked to do, you need to figure out how to be yourself and let your strengths shine through while you complete the task.

To contact Julie:

Photo By:

Eduardo Patino

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