Friday, February 26, 2016

Jason Gomez Retires from the Stage

Gomez and Luksik in Madison Ballet's Nutcracker 2014  © Natalie Armstrong

CulturalOyster: How old are you now, at retirement?
I am 32 years old.

Gomez: How old were you when you started, and where did you start?

I took my first dance class ever at age 15 with a performance group that did musical
Gomez in his first Nutcracker
revues called The Rising Stars of Texas, in San Antonio .  I got my first taste of "real" ballet at age 19 with a pre-professional company in Tallahassee, Florida called Pas de Vie ballet.  Charles Hagan and Natalia Botha, both former dancers with Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, started this company and it was under them that I learned the ropes of ballet life and saw and performed in my first Nutcracker -- and it's through them that I received my first job.

CulturalOyster: What, or who, or both, inspired you to fall in love with ballet, to stick it out and make a career out if it?

Gomez: My love and passion for ballet was fostered with Pas de Vie ballet, though I was still in school at Florida State University completing my Music degree and following a pre-med curriculum.  After college, I got a job with a psychiatrist back in my hometown, San Antonio. My mom worked for Dr. Escamilla, and he was the one who had guided me on my pre-med track in high school.  While I was working for him, I got news that a local ballet company was in need of men and I should send a video.  Dr. Escamila met with me and encouraged me to pursue dance if it was a passion.  He's a musician as well as a doctor, and he's in a band, so he understood.  He told me not fully pursuing music was something he regretted, and that if I worked hard enough medicine would always be there for me to enter into at any age. That gave me the push to send my video and take my first professional job.

CulturalOyster: Where has your career in ballet taken you – where have you danced, as a student and as a professional? 

Gomez: I love that I had the opportunity to travel with ballet.  Through Pas de Vie ballet in Florida, I made connections and got training at Nutmeg Conservatory in Connecticut.  I also spent some summers with The Joffrey Workshop in San Antonio.  I danced professionally with Ballet San Antonio before they became a full-time company, and then with Ballet Quad Cities in Iowa, where I danced six seasons.  After leaving BQC I joined Missouri Ballet Theatre in St. Louis, under Adam Sage.  I spent two seasons there.  Then I auditioned here in Madison and joined Madison Ballet in 2014.

CulturalOyster: Tell me a little about a few of your very favorite career highlights.  They don’t all have to be “favorite roles!” 

Gomez: I have so many memories.  One of my favorite roles was Oberon, in Adam Sage's A Midsummer Night's Dream.  Also, getting to dance Madison Ballet's principal male Nutcracker role with Molly Luksik at Overture Hall, with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra – because that was largest venue I've danced in, I didn't often have
Gomez soaring at Ballet Quad Cities
live music in the
Nutcrackers of my career, and I enjoyed the partnership I had with Molly.  Offstage, I will always remember all the laughs.  At Ballet Quad Cities I had to rehearse the Arabian pas [in Nutcracker] with one of my good friends (we were like brother and sister) and we could not look at each with the passion that’s needed for Arabian.  We spent the first few weeks of rehearsal just giggling uncontrollably, much to the frustration of our director.  Also, I'll never forget laughing every year in Iowa when we'd learn Russian for Nutcracker and we’d all have to watch a video of me tripping in those abominable puffy trepak pants.  

CulturalOyster: Retirement from the stage is a big step.  How do you feel about it?

Gomez: There a mixed emotions with retiring from full-time dance.  I feel fulfilled with a lot of the experiences and opportunities I've had over the years, and I've known for a few years that this transition was coming because I have another career that I've wanted to pursue since the age of five, that I've put on hold.  Of course, the dancer in me can't
Gomez dancing with Shannon Quirk at Madison Ballet
© SKepecs
imagine not taking class everyday, and the same dread that comes over me in the summe
rs – that question of “how will I stay in shape?” – is creeping into my head now.  Dance is physically demanding and truly does encompass all aspects of your life. With age you grow as an artist, but the physical demands become steeper, and I am wanting more than the "dancer lifestyle" that's easy to accommodate in your younger years.  I'm ready to let that go and follow another dream. 

CulturalOyster: What’s next for you?

Gomez: Though I thought I'd want to pursue medicine in a medical school, over the years I've gained a huge appreciation for and love of nursing.  I plan to go to nursing school and hopefully to continue on to become a nurse practitioner.  I'm already signed up for prerequisites I need for a masters program at Ohio State.  It’s a good school for nursing with a perfect program for someone like me who has no previous nursing degree or experience but already has a bachelors’ degree.  It just so happens too that we want to move closer to my husband's family, who also live in Ohio.  I have an new flame burning, a drive, that excites me and I feel blessed to know it and have opportunity to pursue it.
At Madison Ballet 2016  © SKepecs

                                                                                                       ------ interview by SK

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