Bidding Adieu: PABallet's Ian Hussey Talks About Retirement

by Lewis Whittington

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday May 9, 2019

For two years, Pennsylvania Ballet principal dancer Ian Hussey and his then-fiancé Adam Scher adjusted to having demanding jobs, Adam in New York, where he runs his own company; and Ian in Philly, immersed in the rigors of a ballet dancer's life of classes, rehearsals, teaching and performing. After the couple got married last June they planned to cope with a semi-long distance relationship. But the prospect gave Hussey pause after Angel Corella, PAB's artistic director, announced the 2018-19 line-up of ballets. It was then that Hussey decided that it might be the right time for him to dance in a different direction and retire, at age 33.

Ian's final performances will be in the Academy of Music May 9-12 and he will dance in undisputed modern classics Christopher Wheeldon's "DGV: Danse à Grande Vitesse," set to music by Michael Nyman, and by Jerome Robbins' "Glass Pieces," scored to music by Philip Glass. Dancers know the pressures of performing, but Hussey is enjoying his final year at PAB in stride. "I almost feel less pressure," he said with a broad smile, his hair dancer tousled from the morning workout, and looking younger than ever.

An audience favorite

His decision surprised Corella, who has cast him prominently since becoming director five years ago. It is common for a principal dancer in classical ballet companies with Hussey's training and experience to continue dancing into his 40s. At 33, Hussey, an audience favorite for many years, is at the height of his career, his technical prowess and interpretive artistry widely admired.

"Yes, Angel was surprised, I don't think he saw it coming when I told him. But he's been wonderful and immediately supportive," Hussey said between rehearsals last week at PAB studios on Broad St. Hussey exits PABallet after performing an impressive repertory of roles in both classical and contemporary, which include a gallery of parts in classical repertory (such as principal roles in many of George Balanchine's greatest ballets), and a slate of roles in contemporary ballets by Matthew Neenan, Nicolo Fonte, Andrea Miller, just to name a few. Hussey was admired for his partnering skills with current and former PAB ballerinas and admits it's impossible to say which are his favorites, but the short list included former and current PAB stars Arantxa Ochoa, Lauren Fadeley, Lillian Di Piazza, and Alexandra Hughes. At press time, Ian and Di Piazza are scheduled to dance the central duet in "Glass Pieces," before he takes his final bow.

After years of training and performing, Hussey joined PBII, the apprentice company in 2006/7, and was quickly advanced to the corps de ballet, then the soloist and, since 2012, a principal dancer. Hussey explained his decision to leave wasn't easy. Hussey began to pursue a dance career at the age of 8 when he appeared in a production of "The Nutcracker." He has been a full-time dancer for 15 years. "I've danced everything ballet I've ever dreamed of dancing. And now... there are other things that I want to accomplish that I want to get a head start at," he said.

Some issues

"There were two main considerations," Hussey said in discussing his choice. "One was my desire to live with my husband and build a family. I'll be 34 next month, and I want to live with Adam a few years before we have kids," he said. Scher, a former dancer himself, is the owner CMYK, a Brooklyn based media technologies design company. "Adam also was a modern dancer, he went to NYU Tisch School, and was a freelance dancer for a couple of years, then got a masters in design and eventually co-founded his company."

Although Hussey has been dancing in top form, he intimated that some physical issues have cropped up. "Over the last couple years, my Achilles' tendons are just not very good anymore. It's really hard for me to jump every day and I deal with a lot of pain on a daily basis. It can sap your ability to dance as well as you want to, which can be mentally and emotionally jarring when you get to a place when you realize that your body can't respond in the way you are used to. Ballet's hard enough."

Whatever pain Hussey was dealing with it didn't seem to affect his artistry once he was onstage. "I did envision myself dancing a little longer, but last summer it seemed like it might be the time for me. I would be dancing again in ballets that I loved, and I thought, 'what a lovely way to go out.' It feels like the right time. I want to go out on my own terms and feel good about the work," he explained.

"I'm definitely going to stay in the performing arts world. And right now I'm not completely cutting out the possibility of dancing again or teaching, coaching, ballet-master or staging. Some sort of role in dance." To that end, he is getting his BA in dance through the Leap Program, designed for professional dancers to pursue their degree while they meet their obligations of the daily rigors of being in a ballet company.

But, for now, as Hussey dances off into the sunset, he says blissfully "I don't really have immediate plans. I'm so lucky to be able to do that right now. I'll be teaching this summer as usual and moving to New York in August, then spending a month in Europe. Adam, meeting me in Spain and that will be our honeymoon. Adam will have to get back to work, but then I'll be in Paris by myself for a week because I can."

Ian Hussey performs with the PABallet on May 9 - 12 at the Academy of Music, 240 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA. For more information, visit the PABallet website.

Lewis Whittington writes about the performing arts and gay politics for several publications.

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