Roberta on the Arts
Interview with David LaMarche, Conductor, American Ballet Theatre
Contact Roberta
Jazz and Cabaret Corner
On Location with Roberta
In the Galleries: Artists and Photographers
Backstage with the Playwrights and Filmmakers
Classical and Cultural Connections
New CDs
Arts and Education
Onstage with the Dancers
Offstage with the Dancers
Upcoming Events
Special Events
Memorable Misadventures
Our Sponsors

Interview with David LaMarche, Conductor, American Ballet Theatre

- Offstage with the Dancers

Interview with David LaMarche
Conductor, American Ballet Theatre

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 4, 2007

(Read reviews of ABT ballets.)

This is a conversation with David LaMarche, Conductor of American Ballet Theatre, which will have its Fall Season at City Center, October 22, 2007 to November 4, 2007. David LaMarche has been favorably reviewed in his capacity as ABT Conductor in these pages on numerous occasions in recent years. I chatted with Maestro LaMarche over a grilled fish dinner and wines at NorthWest restaurant on Columbus Avenue at 79th Street, New York City.

REZ – Thanks so much for joining me tonight. I’m really looking forward to the Fall Season. Tell me about your earliest interest in ballet music.

D LM – I started playing piano at age ten, where I grew up, in Westerly, RI. My teacher was Florence Soloveitzik. Later, at Boston University, where I got a degree in music and piano, I also studied French and German. At Boston University, I met Ralph Gomberg, who played the oboe for the Boston Symphony, and his brother, Harold Gomberg played the oboe for the New York Philharmonic. After some time in San Francisco, I moved back to New York in 1983 and worked as a solo pianist and then, for fifteen years, as pianist and Conductor for the Dance Theatre of Harlem (1983-1996). I free-lanced under Gerald Arpino for the Joffrey Ballet, when they were in New York, and I also worked in cabaret, like the Club, “Don’t Tell Mama”. In 1998, American Ballet Theatre needed a rehearsal pianist, and soon I was appointed Conductor.

REZ – So how do you see your role as one of ABT’s Conductors? (The other ABT Conductors are Charles Barker and Ormsby Wilkins.)

D LM – I’m the connection between the audience and the stage. I hope the ballet critics want to really understand the music and see how it affects them personally, as they watch the ballets.

REZ – Which dances do you especially love to conduct? How do you adjust the music to fit the various dancers’ tempos and styles to make the moment special?

D LM – During the rehearsals the Principals tell me particular instructions, and I write the notes into my music. I have worked closely with Susan Jaffe (retired), Nina Ananiashvili (her rapid, triple fouettés), Paloma Herrera (so strong, technically resilient), Julie Kent (dramatic, vulnerable), and Gillian Murphy. We rehearse with the piano, and then the dress rehearsal is with the orchestra. I work with the men, who are leading, as, in many cases, the women will follow their tempo. Balanchine used to say the men should know the music in the dramatic pas de deux. I can read Paloma’s body, for example, and follow her with my baton.

REZ – Tell me what it was like to conduct for Julio Bocca.

D LM – Bocca was tough on Conductors, very engaged with the audience, and superb through to the end of his career. When Nina and Julio danced Don Quixote, they created the connection in rehearsal and gave me cues. Nina would say, “Faster here”. Julio hated to rehearse. He liked the spontaneity. But, we would go over variations again and again.

REZ – There has been much talk about the need for presence of African-American ballerinas in the major companies. What do you see as the future, with Misty Copeland recently promoted as soloist at ABT?

D LM – Misty is extremely talented, and the support system will grow. There is much talk about the lack of Black Swans. I discussed this with a friend just recently.

REZ – Let’s talk about the Fall Season at City Center, coming up.

D LM – Benjamin’s (Millepied) new ballet (“From Here On Out”) is especially mesmerizing, and I’ll be conducting it. The music was commissioned from Nico Muhly. It sounds like film scores. “Ballo della Regina” is one of Balanchine’s great choreographies of the 20th Century, with music by Verdi. I’ll also be conducting “Fall River Legend” (music by Morton Gould), and Gillian Murphy, Julie Kent, and Michele Wiles will be dancing, plus “The Leaves are Fading” (music by Dvorák) and “Meadow” (music by Schubert and others). Also, “Baker’s Dozen”, an early Jazz work, with solo piano by Barbara Bilach.

REZ – Do you ever dance?

D LM – I studied ballet in Cambridge, took some classes, while I was at Boston University.

REZ – Were you good?

D LM - I think I was good. I didn’t get that far.

Arugula Salad with Poached Pears
Photo Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

David LaMarche,, ABT Conductor
Photo Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

David LaMarche and Roberta
Photo Courtesy of NorthWest Wait Staff

Fillet of Sole with Steamed Mussels and Shrimp on Risotto
Photo Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Grilled Salmon on Steamed Spinach
Photo Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Jason, NorthWest Waiter
Photo Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at