Enjoying a Shot at Gotham

After Ballet NY, John-Mark Owen has plans back home in Georgia

Sink or swim. That was the attitude John-Mark Owen said he brought with him when, at age 14, a teacher “threw” him into dance class in his hometown of Macon, Georgia.

“That’s the kind of person I am,” he offered, and his short career is rife with evidence of that the approach has served him well. Four years into his dance training, the affable young Owen was invited to join Nashville Ballet as a trainee in 1998. While there, he performed in numerous ballets including “Aliss in Wonderland” by star choreographer Trey McIntyre.

“He was considerate of the dancers,” Owen of McIntyre. “He had a nice method of getting his point across, not to mention he’s absolutely gorgeous!”

After three years with Nashville, it was time to graduate, and there was no position available there, so, somewhat reluctantly, he auditioned for Ohio Ballet.

“I was still in the Nashville mode,” he recalled “I was not ready to move to Ohio. I was very young. The director and I had drastic artistic differences.”

Still, he said he learned a lot, and got to tour America, performing ballets by the likes of Laura Dean, Alonzo King and Donald Byrd. He left Ohio Ballet and joined American Repertory Ballet under the direction of Graham Lustig, another inspiring figure in his dance life.

“I learned musicality and stagecraft from Graham,” said Owen. “He had high expectations for the dancers, and gave them a great deal of responsibility as well.”

Now Owen splits his time between New York and Georgia where he is beginning his own resident repertory ballet company.

“Macon doesn’t need a full time company,” said Owen, “but it needs some type of exposure. Ballet is a non-concept down there and the local dance recital is the current vision. My mission is to bring the highest standard of classical ballet in a small repertory company to Middle Georgia.”

Owen will be auditioning dancers in New York City for his venture.

New York dance lovers will get to see Owen perform when Fugate/Bahiri Ballet NY, a repertory company made up of leading dancers from American ballet companies, performs at the Joyce Theater, July 5 – 9.

“Judy [Fugate] and Medhi [Bahiri] took a chance on me,” said Owen who, like so many male dancers, seems to have his share of good fortune.

“I was recommended by a friend. They needed a man to come to town,” he explained. “It was the holidays and I was very busy and didn’t even send them a tape or reel. They had never seen me perform.”

In Ballet NY, Owen seems to have found a good match.

“They’re nice,” he said in a charming way that a New Yorker never would without some hint of sarcasm or a roll of the eyes. “They respect their dancers. The directors are in it for the dancers, the performances, the quality of the art, not some dictatorship. Under their direction, the people mesh. It’s a nice cohesion of dancers and artists.”

This year’s season of Ballet NY features four world premiere works. Owen will play Lord Montague in Davis Robertson’s “Romeo and Juliet,” set to a commissioned score by David Homan that will be performed live by Pauline Kim and members of the Mendelssohn Quartet and Flux String Quartet.

He also performs in Alan Hineline’s “Quartet 2,” to a commissioned score by Jerome Begin, and in Ballet Frankfurt principal dancer Jodie Gates’ “now and again,” set to Bach and an original sound score by Frankfurt composer Dietrich K

Helen Heineman’s duet “Hook-Up” completes the Ballet NY progra

Owen looks forward to dancing in New York City where he said audiences know what they are seeing. “They’ve been seeing stars for years,” he said. “If you can be appreciated here, you’ve really made it.”

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