Meet Timothy Lynch. Trained at the School of American Ballet in New York from ages ten to nineteen, he transferred from apprentice to corps member at the Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB), and is now a full-time faculty member at PNB, as well as Artistic Director of the Seattle Dance Project. Mr. Lynch generously took time off from his busy schedule of being a dancer, Artistic Director, husband, and father of three children to share with CGN his artistic vision and educational journey.
How did you get started in dancing?
My start was unconventional. Neither of my parents were dancers. I grew up in New York, about 45 minutes away from Manhattan. I was a really hyper kid. I was jumping all over the couches, and my mother was looking for an energetic release for me. She actually heard about the opportunity to dance when I was about seven, in an all-boys dance class. So I went, and I liked being able to jump around as much as I wanted. It wasn’t strictly ballet as much as it was free movement.
Then, the next year, it was only one other boy and me in the class. The teacher then decided to make it ballet focused.
I wanted to continue my studies, and so my teacher took me to the School of American Ballet in New York City when I was ten. I auditioned on a Wednesday, and they wanted me to begin classes on Saturday of that week. I was at the School of American Ballet from age ten to nineteen.
Tell us about your work as a dance educator.
I teach at PNB fifteen classes a week, from five year olds all the way to the professional division. I also do an educational outreach program through PNB. We go to elementary
schools’ classes of third graders; we assess them for potential to be professional ballet dancers, and those who are chosen are invited to study. It’s a love-hate experience. I love being able to see talent have the chance to develop, but I always dislike the experience of watching the reactions of the students who don’t get chosen. And sometimes when you choose, the students might have the right body type for dance, but they just lack the passion.
What kinds of roles have you enjoyed as a dancer?
When I was a student at the School of American Ballet, I was in many productions as a child dancer. One of my most memorable ones was getting to play the Nutcracker prince in George Balanchine’s Nutcracker. While at PNB, I was a member of the corps for ten years, where I got to play Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and later a pas des deux with Patricia Barker.
I also perform in Lafayette, Louisiana, every year in their production of the Nutcracker. I play Herr Drosselmeyer (the character who gives Clara the Nutcracker).
Tell us how you became a member of PNB, and your journey through education.
While many of my dance classmates at the School of American Ballet attended Children’s Professional School, I never left public school when I was a teenager. I graduated from Mineola High School. I had a great circle of supportive friends there.
You hear so much about younger male ballet dancers quitting because of the stigma and the bullying, but it never got to be too bad for me. I had great childhood friends who stood up for me and supported me. They would say, “Yes, Tim’s a ballet dancer, but he’s also a really great soccer player, and that’s why we always pick him first.”
I auditioned for Pacific Northwest Ballet when I was nineteen, but decided to stay in New York City to attend Fordham University for a year. I took night classes there (I finished my undergraduate degree at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Washington). I never wanted to be “just a dancer.”
Education has always been very important to me. I have seen so many dancers get injured and not have any kind of backup plan, so I knew it was important to get an education.
I’m currently working on my Masters in Fine Arts at the University of Wisconsin, doing my master’s paper on cultural differences and accepting the nature of men in dance. It’s strange that there’s a stigma in America for men to dance, where in places like Mexico, it’s considered normal.
Tell us about Seattle Dance Project’s (SDP) dancers.
We have a wide range of ages, but most of the dancers at SDP are over thirty-five years old, so they have matured as artists. Our goal is to showcase the dancers’ artistry, and to give these dancers an opportunity to share their passion of the art to others.
One of our dancers, Betsy Cooper, is the Dean of Arts at the University of Washington, in addition to chairing its dance department. People ask her, “Why are you still doing SDP? You’re such a busy person!” She answers, “It’s the one thing that is for myself, where I can express myself, and dance to music, and enjoy it.”
What are the benefits of dancing?
Wow, where do I start? Well, for one thing, you feel younger. I’m turning forty this year, yet don’t feel like a typical forty year old should. Dance keeps you flexible, it keeps your mind and your body strong, it keeps you limber…
In addition to finding a fun way for kids to release energy, I’ve also found that it teaches kids discipline, how to work together as a team, as well as confidence in front of others… Many of my students will not go on to have professional careers as dancers. But they learn discipline when I teach them to show up on time, to be prepared to work as a team in rehearsals, and to work hard until the end.