After a stint at NYC’s School of American Ballet and a 17-year career with the Cincinnati Ballet (including six as senior soloist), Jay Goodlett “retired” to The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati to build and run Learning The Craft, the theatre’s after-school program. The danseur discusses stage jitters and his fear of dropping coworkers.
“I’m a total Cincinnati arts native son. Even before I went to the School For Creative and Performing Arts, I was a page in The Nutcracker as a 7-year-old. And I married a ballerina, Jennifer Leinberger Goodlett. We met at Cincinnati Ballet.
I remember being so scared on my first day on the job. I walk in and there’s Deirdre Carberry—she danced with Mikhail Baryshnikov; we all knew who she was. The artistic director, Nigel Burgoine, said “OK, you’re going to do a lift, and then run that way with her!” And I was thinking, I’m going to drop this woman! But that’s the ballet world. The faith you have to have in the people who are on stage with you—it’s a little bit different than an office.
I retired from the ballet in 2008 and spent a year looking around. Part of me was thinking, I need to get out of the arts. Am I doing something that changes anything? For a performer, the arts can be a really self-serving thing. And it’s long hours. Literally, I was about to take an insurance job. I picked up the phone and it rang in my hands, and it was the Children’s Theatre.
As a fifth-grader, I saw a ballet set to contemporary music and thought to myself, That’s ballet? That’s not the tutu ballet that I think of. Children’s Theatre does the same thing. We take the show to them.
I get butterflies even now. I performed in Chicago at The Carnegie in Covington a few years ago. I was scared to death, because that’s performing. That visceral reaction—you’ll always have that.”
Originally published in the April 2015 issue.
Photograph by Annette Navarro.