Andrew Erickson was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He received his training in Chicago at Hubbard Street Dance and Ballet Chicago under teachers including Birute Barodicaite, Claire Bataille, and Daniel Duell. Over the past five seasons Mr. Erickson has danced with Madison Ballet and Minnesota Ballet. He has danced solo roles in Cinderella, Nutcracker, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Grand Pas Classique, Dracula, Swan Lake, Coppelia, and Don Quixote. During his time with Minnesota Ballet, he originated roles in two ballets created for the New York Choreographic Institute of New York City Ballet. Additionally, he has performed works by George Balanchine including Divertimento 15, The Four Temperaments, Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, and Who Cares? In 2016, Mr. Erickson joined the cast of Chamber Opera Chicago’s Persuasion and has since been featured on two tours of the United Kingdom. Erickson has toured throughout the United States and in Canada, Italy, Scotland, and England.
What is the story of how you first came to love dance?
I remember taking my first ballet class and being terrified and excited. I had no idea what was happening but I became addicted. I loved working technically and loved dancing to beautiful music. What I love most about ballet is waking up and taking class every morning. It’s a powerful ritual and a great way to start the day.
What was your first exposure to opera?
I was raised by a family of opera lovers. My grandmother always had recordings playing throughout the day – most memorably Rigoletto and Cavalleria Rusticana. The first opera I ever saw was Salome when I was 14.
If you have danced in an opera before, how is it different from performing in a dance concert?
In an opera the dancer is rarely the focus of a scene. Sometimes dancers are hired in shows just to enhance the overall movement quality on stage. The famous director John Copley often used dancers in this way. It’s a delicate balance of pulling focus and then giving it up.
How is baroque dance different from the other styles that you perform?
I have danced in ballet companies for the last five years. Baroque movement is new for me. Ballet is a relatively new form in the context of history but its roots are in baroque movement. There are similar lines and positions of the body but ballet has become very athletic in the last 150 years. The extension of legs, height of jumps, and ability to execute multiple pirouettes are all skills valued in ballet today. Baroque movement is much more rhetorical than ballet. A lot of movements have very specific meanings rather than positions or lines that are solely aesthetically pleasing.
What is the biggest challenge you face as an artist?
This is a tough question. I think those challenges change daily. Ballet is a very personal for every dancer. It is very difficult when your body is your instrument. As a dancer you have to have very thick skin – if you don’t, you won’t last. In ballet you are rarely told “good.” Most of the feedback you will hear in your life as a dancer will be negative – either a criticism, or a note on something you need to work on. I think the main struggle for every dancer is to not take things personally. It’s hard to keep perspective and be honest with what you need to work on without being self-flagellating. It’s something every dancer keeps in mind for their whole career.
Do you have a favorite performer?
I have a few performers that I really enjoy watching. My current favorite is a principal dancer with the Royal Ballet, Stephen McRae. I also enjoy Cynthia Gregory, Ethan Stiefel, Maya Plisetskaya, and Roberto Bolle.
Do you have a favorite role? Or a favorite Ballet or Modern Dance?
My favorite ballet would have to be Rudolf Nureyev’s “La Bayadère.”
Do you have any favorite books about dance?
The book “Apollo’s Angels” is a good read on the history of ballet.
What else are you reading?
I just finished Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five.” I’m currently reading “The Russia House” by John Le Carré.
Who are your favorite choreographers?
I love Jerome Robbins. I would love to perform his ballets, “Dances at a gathering” and “In the night.” Another favorite would have to be George Balanchine. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to perform some of his ballets in my career.
If you were stranded on a desert island, is there one piece of music you would like to have with you?
I don’t think I could limit myself to just one piece of music, but if forced I would bring a recording of the Chopin Nocturnes.
What do you love about HOC?
I love the authenticity of HOC. Although I am new to the company I can already see the company is made-up of incredibly passionate individuals. HOC is not a “factory” for productions of operas. There is a lot of attention to curation and craftsmanship in what they perform. I really respect that.
Do you have a favorite memory from a past HOC event?
I have never seen a staged opera by HOC but I am very much looking forward to making some memories!
What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not dancing?
I love to cook. I think cooking is very therapeutic – especially after long rehearsals!
What is the first thing you think about in the morning?
I am not a morning person at all. I must have coffee.
Do you have any heroes/heroines?
I don’t think I have a hero per se, but I am constantly inspired by my colleagues. I am very lucky to be surrounded by talented mentors and dancers and I don’t think would have been successful without their support.
What kind of music do you listen to most often?
I most often listen to opera or other “classical” music. Some of my favorite composers are Tchaikovsky, Puccini, and Chopin.
If you had not entered into your current career what do you think you would have done instead?
I think I might have ended up as an art historian of some sort.