Julie Benirschke began her classical ballet training at the age of ten in Seattle at the Washington Academy of Performing Arts under the direction of Deborah Hadley and Vera Altunina. She continued her studies as a scholarship student at San Francisco Ballet School, performing and rehearsing with the company in ballets such as Balanchine’s Symphony in Three Movements, La Bayadère, Giselle, and the Nutcracker. Julie studied under Violette Verdy at Indiana University’s School of Music and graduated with highest distinction with a B.S.O.F. in Ballet Performance and Biology. She danced professionally with Louisville Ballet and Los Angeles Dance Theater, and toured to China with John Clifford and Warner Brothers Studio’s collaborative musical-dance production of “Casablanca, the Dance”. Currently Julie is a freelance dancer in Chicago and dances professionally with Noumenon Dance Ensemble. Her first time performing in the baroque style was in Haymarket’s production of Amadigi di Gaula and she is very excited to be returning to dance in Ariane et Bachus!
What is the story of how you first came to love dance?
I started my dance training a lot later than most- at age 10. But even before that I remember always enjoying dancing around the house and talking about wanting to take ballet. I think my love for it was ingrained in me from the very beginning.
What was your first exposure to opera?
A lot of well known opera melodies are played by pianists for ballet class, so I’ve been familiar with the music for a long time. I think my first time seeing actual operas was in college when I got to dance in a few.
If you have danced in an opera before, how is it different from performing in a dance concert?
Well first of all, it’s guaranteed live music to dance to which is wonderful for a dancer! I love the energy and unpredictability that comes with live music. I also love the aspect of having a story to tell and a character to portray when dancing in an opera.
How is baroque dance different from the other styles that you perform?
Baroque dance and ballet may share terminology and have some similar movements, but they feel completely different in my body! The majority of the steps and weight changes in baroque dance are so small and intricate. I also find the carriage of the arms and the coordination in which they move to be an exciting challenge.
What is the biggest challenge you face as an artist?
Finding more opportunities to perform! Unfortunately, lack of support for the arts limits the amount of jobs that are out there for dancers.
Do you have a favorite performer?
There’s a lot of amazing dancers that I could name. In my opinion no one, even today, can top Baryshnikov's artistry, stage presence and spirit. As for ballerinas: Julie Kent, Darcey Bussell and Sylvie Guillem to name a few.
Do you have a favorite role? Or a favorite Ballet or Modern Dance?
I don’t think I can pick a favorite. I do love classical ballets as well as lot of works by Balanchine. I find Balanchine’s Serenade particularly mesmerizing.
Do you have any favorite books about dance?
When I was younger I remember being very fascinated by the autobiographies of dancers like Suzanne Farrell and Gelsey Kirkland.
What else are you reading?
I love a variety of fiction. I recently finished “The Book Thief” and now I’m working on “The Martian”.
Who are your favorite choreographers?
I’m a big fan of Balanchine’s work.
If you were stranded on a desert island, is there one piece of music you would like to have with you?
Something fun and upbeat- maybe something by ABBA or the Eurythmics. Although playing anything on repeat so many times I’m sure I’d get sick of it quickly!
What do you love about HOC?
The people! I had such a great experience the last time I performed with HOC and it’s all due to the wonderful staff and artists involved.
Do you have a favorite memory from a past HOC event?
During Amadigi di Gaula there was a section of singing that to my non-Italian speaking ears sounded like the singer was placing an order for a bunch of different types of pasta. It always made me giggle, which was a bit of a problem since it was a serious part of the story. Good thing I got to wear a mask as part of my costume!
What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not dancing?
Eat! I love a large variety of different cuisines.
What is the first thing you think about in the morning?
How many times can I hit snooze?
What kind of music do you listen to most often?
I listen to a variety of music, but my favorite is probably popular music from the 70’s and 80’s.
If you had not entered into your current career what do you think you would have done instead?
In college I studied biology in addition to ballet, and I took a lot of the prerequisites for PT school. If I hadn’t started dancing right out of college I probably would have pursued that and gotten into physical therapy and dance medicine.