Jessica Dandine (© Lukas G Photography)

Photo © Lukas G Photography and courtesy of Jessica Dandine. 

Dancing Gatsby with Ballet Palm Beach

An Interview with J-1 Trainee Jessica Dandine

Performing with a premier ballet company is every dancer’s dream, a dream that J-1 participant Jessica Dandine is living with Ballet Palm Beach. Jessica began training at the age of six at the Conservatoire National de Région de Toulouse and later at the Line Jenny NEEL Ballet Dance Center. She danced professionally with the Ballet Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Dusseldorf before joining the company at Ballet Palm Beach in 2015.

This season, Jessica will be dancing the role of Daisy Buchanan in Gatsby, artistic director Colleen Smith’s re-imagining of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece The Great Gatsby. We recently spoke with Jessica about her experience dancing with Ballet Palm Beach and working with dancers from around the world.

Where is your favorite place to go to in Palm Beach?

I love downtown Palm Beach, especially the trendy French restaurant called Le Rendez-Vous where I have met amazing French people. I love to go to City Place, which is a really nice area to hang out especially on the weekend. And I love having breakfast on the beach on the weekend in Jupiter, just a bit north from Palm Beach.

Gatsby 2 (© Lukas G Photography)

Photo © Lukas G Photography and courtesy of Jessica Dandine. 

What has been your favorite cultural activity?

I love spending time with my American friends. I have learned a lot about their way of thinking. I have been a couple times to Orlando where I have met wonderful people and we had really great time together there. I loved every single experience I had during my stay. It is really hard to pick one among the others.

Tell us about a funny or interesting moment you have experienced during your program.

The funniest moment I experienced in rehearsal at Ballet Palm Beach was when we rehearsed the main pas de deux for Gatsby with my partner, Tyveze Littlejohn. We tried a lift for the first time and it went wrong. I was hanging in his arms in a really weird position and I started talking to him in French asking “çà va”. He was really surprised and said “Did you just speak French?” and I realized that no matter how much I love speaking English in emergency situation I will keep talking in French!

What are some of the differences in performing the U.S. versus in France?

I would say the atmosphere is different because I am surrounded by American people. They are really more excited by things especially performing than French people are. At the beginning of each performance we had a time together holding hands and hoping the show will go for the best and this was each time a really powerful moment. I loved it and it helped me to be confident and calm during the show. Then just realizing “I am performing in the USA, in Florida,” was really exciting.