Altoona native dances his way to the top, keeps striving

As a child, Altoona native and New York City Ballet principal dancer Jared Angle, 32, saw the Allegheny Ballet Company perform “The Nutcracker” at The Mishler Theatre.

About a month later, the boy who would go on to reach the highest-rank of professional dance at one of the most well-known companies in the world started lessons at the local company’s school.

In third- or fourth-grade on a trip with classmates to the Kennedy Center, Angle watched San Francisco Ballet dancers take the stage. That is where he realized ballet was in his future.

“I think I didn’t really quite realize that it was something you could do for a job,” he said. “I really just enjoyed the lessons and dancing. … Our school took a trip to see them because one of our former students was in that company and I think that’s when I finally put it together that it was like a job and I decided then that’s what I wanted to do.”

Angle attended two summer sessions at the School of American Ballet in New York before moving to the city at age 16, he said. With the city summer school under his belt, moving to New York as a teenager was not particularly intimidating, he said.

“But it was also just a necessity like it was time to take my training to the next level so it was necessary to go so I was ready,” he said.

Angle said Allegheny Ballet was a foundation for where he ended up.

“It basically has everything to do with where I am now,” he said. “Ballet is one of those careers that you have to start very early because you can only dance until you’re 40 or something so if you don’t have really good rigorous training in the beginning. … I don’t want to say a lost cause, but it’s really hard to catch up.”

Angle said he and others were fortunate to have Deborah Anthony, founding director, to guide them. He said she is “a wonderful teacher,” especially for the younger students. As students progressed, Anthony brought in teachers, who were former professionals or taught elsewhere, to supplement their learning, he said.

The training was “really well rounded” and contained performance experience, he said.

Angle has since experienced major milestones as a male dancer, but said he never went into his career thinking he would become a star.

He “liked the work” and “loved dancing,” he said.

He recalled landing his first principal part when he was about 18 years old after someone got injured. Angle performed a pas de deux with one of the major ballerinas of the company, Dorothy Kissler, who also just happened to be the wife of Angle’s boss.

“It was scary but exciting and it went well. That was the first milestone and then getting promoted to soloist was again surprising and totally thrilling,” he said.

In 2005, Angle got promoted to principal dancer. The milestone was exciting like the others, “but also at the same time it’s a lot of pressure because you have to live up to the title, you know what I mean?” he said. “I felt like now you’re promoted, now you have to prove it even more in a way.”

Angle’s aunt, Jean Geist of Altoona, said her nephew has worked hard for his achievements.

“I’m just ultimately very proud of how humble he has been in his success and how amazingly successful he has become,” she said.

Angle’s musicality was evident from a young age, she said.

“He just was very comfortable and could move beautifully with the tempo of almost any kind of music,” she said. “So he had it. He has a gift.”

His dedication was also there at a young age.

“From the time he walked into the studio in kindergarten he was just comfortable there. It was just his thing. He’s very very musical. Plays the piano beautifully,” his mom, Barb Angle of Altoona, said. “It’s just been fun to watch him grow into it. And like I said he’s really educated himself and us about his craft… he’s the one that would sort of say to us in sixth grade, ‘Well, you know I want to go to this summer program. This is what I have to do if I want to get better. You go away and you study in the summer.’ And you know that was completely new, we didn’t know anything about this world so he really kind of did the research, and even as far as setting his sights on New York City Ballet.”

Jared is “extremely humble,” she said. “He’s just very sort of low key about it all.”

He isn’t the only son to have reached such success either. His brother, Tyler, 27, is also a principal dancer with the New York company.

Barb and her husband, Clay, are proud of their four sons, she said.

“I think its incredible. I think [Jared] certainly deserves it. I think he’s extremely talented. He takes it very seriously. He feels that it’s an important art form and it’s been good to him,” she said. “Naturally we couldn’t be any more proud.”

Angle enjoys the performances where he loses the sense of himself in the piece.

“I like those ballets where you sort of disappear into the mood,” he said. “The best is when you forget about yourself and you’re just involved in this thing and then you have to come to at the end. Those are my personal favorite ballets to do.”

Angle sees the bigger picture to his dancing.

“Because you’re dancing to an orchestra playing with you and then you’re on stage dancing steps that someone else has made so it’s about this whole puzzle that comes together ….[that is] greater than the individual performers,” he said. “That’s what I like.”

Although Angle has reached the top rank for a ballet dancer, he is not done.

“I mean definitely getting to this rank is amazing and I am very much happy that I have gotten there, but at the same time there’s always something to work on. It’s never over,” he said. “We start every day with a ballet class where you look at yourself in the mirror and basically try to work on what’s wrong. So every day it starts with zeroing in on something that you don’t like or that could be improved upon so there’s always that quest to either technically make something better or to just artistically explore things deeper, so it’s never over and I think that I would maybe lose interest if it was just like, ‘I’m there I reached it.’ If I just clocked in and clocked out every day it would interest me much less than always searching for something better.”

Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030.