Teresa Reichlen

Blouse by Bibliotheque Nationale. Skirt by Dries Van Noten.

Live From New York: Teresa Reichlen

In October, Teresa Reichlen celebrated her twentieth anniversary as a dancer with New York City Ballet. In those two decades, she rarely had more than a few weeks off at a time until the company's Covid-19–induced pause, which lasted from March 2020 until last September, when the curtain rose at Lincoln Center on seventeen ballerinas arrayed across the stage bathed in soft blue light for Balanchine's "Serenade." Reichlen, who has been a principal at City Ballet since 2009 and will be retiring next month, did not perform on opening night, a situation for which she was grateful. "I felt a little bit of relief when I found out I wasn't dancing that night, honestly," she recalls. "I'd rather dance the second or third night, when it's not every single person's first time back on stage, just so I won't be overwhelmed by everyone's emotions around me so I can feel what I want to feel."

For Reichlen, City Ballet's return to its home theater last fall was particularly complicated. She was part of a slim contingent of fifteen dancers who performed a program of excerpts in Saratoga Springs in July in lieu of the company's traditional upstate summer season, but after giving birth to her first child in February, she had spent the ensuing months learning to move in her body again after such a significant time away from the barre. For a dancer with decades of experience who is often celebrated for her precision, finding other ways to keep in tune with her movements presented a unique challenge. "I didn't dance all that much during the pandemic just because dancing in my living room, that really, really wasn't working for me and was just making me extraordinarily frustrated," she explains. "I knew that I was having a baby, so I knew it was going to be a long road back no matter what, so I gave myself permission to take a break from dancing."

Alongside revisiting some of the leading roles that are already a part of her repertoire, Reichlen's fall season also included "Suspended Animation" by Sidra Bell—the first Black female choreographer to be commissioned by City Ballet—which premiered during the company's Fall Fashion Gala. Getting used to Bell's more intuitive and organic creative process was initially a "shock," Reichlen says, but, as with every performance since, also served as a reminder of how essential dancing is to her identity. "I'm feeling very motivated and happy to be moving again," she explains. "I was worried about that part but it's actually feeling easier than I thought it would be. I did take a lot of time off, so it feels refreshing to be back."

New York City Ballet's Winter season runs tonight through February 27. Reichlen's farewell performance will be February 19. Read this story and many more in print by preordering our third issue here. See the full Live in New York series here.

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