Natalia Reszka hails from Manteca, CA, and is a sophomore in high school with concurrent enrollment in the Dance Academy. On a pre-professional track, Natalia looks forward to joining a company and then teaching choreographing professionally.
This interview has been edited for style, content, and clarity.
Please share some background about yourself and how dance was introduced to you?
So, my mom put me in classes when I was two years old, and I started out in a studio in the town next to ours. I started with ballet and tap classes, and then when I was six, I began competition dance and competed with groups. And then I moved to a different location for the same studio, and we commuted for years to the Bay area. At this time, I expanded my styles; I trained in jazz, contemporary ballet, tap, and hip hop. Then this past year, I decided that I wanted to have more of a pre-professional education, train with the amazing faculty, and have more focus on ballet. So, I auditioned for Colburn last February, and upon receiving my acceptance I was so excited to come [here]. Now, I’m here now, and I live in the dorms.
How did you come to know about Colburn’s Trudl Zipper Dance Institute?
I’ve attended the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s summer intensive in Seattle since I was 12. A lot of Colburn students attend there during the summer, so through them I heard about Colburn. And then I heard that some of my friends, my current roommate and another friend who dances here, were auditioning so I spoke with them about Colburn. After convincing my mom, I was later able to audition. I’m so glad I’m here.
Outside of dance, what is your academic study plan?
Since I’m a part of Dance Academy, we have classes more towards the morning, so from nine to four, and then usually after that I’m part of an online school program. I go to Oak Crest Academy that also has a campus location on-site here at Colburn. I spend some time after dance classes doing schoolwork.
What dance classes are you engaged with in the Dance Academy?
We have ballet technique classes and then we’ve been learning a lot of repertoire. We have many rehearsals for all of our shows. We also have contemporary classes on Saturdays, which I love because, as of right now, my current career path is heading towards a contemporary company. The Academy also offers several master classes, which have been nice—contemporary and others. We also train in the Cunningham modern dance technique, of which we also have a piece for this year.
Now that you’ve been at Colburn, have you found any differences from your experience at a studio?
I found that they are very different because everyone, specifically here at Colburn, is so much more dedicated. We all are reaching towards a professional career in dance, which I found my home studio to be more recreational. I feel that is the biggest difference. And then the discipline is so much greater here. And obviously, we have such amazing staff and teachers all coming from amazing dance backgrounds, and the connections too have been so incredible. Overall, I’m getting the higher end of dance education, and I have been able to learn so much more. I’m so grateful for all of my past training, but I feel like coming here was really what I needed to give me the extra boost leading to the professional world.
You are a principal dancer in the upcoming Jerome Robbins’ Antique Epigraphs. In preparing for that performance, what have you learned about dance?
For me, it’s such a special piece. I feel that for all of us, we’ve definitely enjoyed getting to work with it a lot. It’s so different from the rest of the rep we’re doing this year. For my solo, I’m almost turning into a specific character. It has been about the intention of the piece and the character I’m creating for the audience, rather than just the technical aspects of the routine. Our teacher, Katherine Cowgill, who’s been running it with us, that’s what she’s always telling me too—to dig deep to bring that presence to the stage. And that’s something I’ve been working on a lot, trying new things to see what works best.
You also worked with former Dean, Jenifer Ringer, who danced in the work under the direction of Jerome Robbins. Would you describe that process?
Jenifer, she actually did my role, which is nice and so great to learn from her. She’s such an amazing stager and teacher. It was special to get to work with her, especially one-on-one. I had to learn it [Antique Epigraphs] in a short amount of time, but she set me on the right path. She spoke to me about what the piece meant and the intention I should put towards it. This was really helpful in allowing me to become the character of the piece.
You also worked with Stephanie Saland for whom Antique Epigraphs was choreographed. What did you learn from this unique and exceptional opportunity?
Honestly that has to be one of my top experiences so far. It was incredible getting to work with her because she had so much insight on the feeling of the piece, all the transitions and steps, and the tension behind the piece. One of the things that stood out to me that both Silas and Katherine also keep bringing up, is Stephanie said the piece was almost more about the space and the air, rather than myself, and how I can control all of that. That’s something that has stuck with me a lot going into this.
What advice would you offer someone interested in joining the Dance Academy?
I know this is like a generic response, but truly, come in with an open mind. We’ve had so many guest artists and all of our teachers have had so much insight on everything and you can develop ideas that you’ve never thought about before. We’ve had Alonzo King, Stephanie [Saland] come, and so many others who’ve all had so much to say and share with us. I personally have been trying to incorporate [their teachings] within my dancing, and it’s been such an exploration. It’s also made me a better dancer; it’s allowed me to improve and work on my artistry but also my technique. I dance so much differently than I did when I first came here. And in the greatest way, having an open mind has allowed me to be able to progress immensely.
Dance has several remaining spring performances. What are you looking forward to?
At the end of April, we have a student choreography showcase, and I choreographed a piece for that. So, I’m excited to see how that turns out on stage. I’d love to work as a choreographer after my performance career.