Garen Scribner is a Soloist with the San Francisco Ballet—one of the top companies in the world, where movement as dance fills the souls of the artists, and the audience. As a true creative professional, Garen uses dance as his art, his passion, and his career.
Garen says his passion for dance is derived from the feeling of being onstage, the work ethic he must adhere to, and the sense of accomplishment (and exhaustion) felt after performing something special. “I love to be on stage and feel the energy of the audience. It propels me.”
As early as age three, it appeared that Garen was destined for a career in the arts—taking piano lessons with his brother, and being taken to African drumming and dance class, and to endless exhibits at the Smithsonian by his parents.
By age seven, Garen was discovered, while ice skating, by a teacher from the Washington Ballet who saw him and told his mother that he had everything that it took to be a ballet dancer.
From there he was invited to audition for "The Nutcracker" and was cast as Fritz, the lead boy. “I loved being onstage - alongside a teenage Chelsea Clinton - and being around the incredible dancers,” he remembers, “It was then that I saw what an interesting life a dancer leads. I loved the lights and the music and the rigors of performing 50 shows in a row. I was hooked.”
“It's a unique life,” says Garen of a world focused around dance. “I still have to explain to people that when I go to "class" (ballet class) - which I do every single day - that I'm not in school; A professional dancer must take class everyday to perfect his or her technique, to stay in peak shape and to be seen by casting directors and choreographers for upcoming work.”
He likes the competition, and the challenge of setting out every day to create something unique and make his mark on the dance world. He describes his movement as more expressive than contained, while still working within the classic framework of ballet. “I’m very free” he says of his style of dance.
Photo by Erik Tomasson
Garen joined the San Francisco Ballet at age 17, and has toured all over the world—Europe, Asia, and Africa, working with some of the world’s best including Christopher Wheeldon, William Forsythe, Wayne McGregor, Lar Lubovitch, John Neuimier, and Yuri Possokov, and even danced with Jennifer Lopez in a television commercial for Loreal. While dancing professionally, Garen pursued his education, graduating from St. Mary’s College with honors in 2011.
Being a professional ballet dancer is a highly competitive environment. Every performance is scrutinized, with success and failure only a judgment call, or injury away. “Sometimes you miss out on opportunities that you know in your heart should have been yours. You win some you lose some.”
“I'm inspired by anyone who overcomes a challenge and comes through on the other side,” he says, “We all face hardships - it's how we deal with those challenges that make us who we are.”
Garen recalls one challenging situation where circumstance and judgment were the difference between opportunity and failure.
He was 22, and had been with San Francisco Ballet for about 5 years—“I was performing every night in what seemed like every piece, sometimes performing up to 3 different roles in each piece,” re remembers, then “ I got knocked out and had a full concussion from a punch to the head while performing the lead (Tony) in Jerome Robbins ‘West Side Story.’” Garen finished the show and was examined by the doctors who told him to take a couple of weeks off. Believing that the next few weeks were critical to his career, Garen finished the season despite his injury (and doctor’s orders). The result? Helgi Tomasson, director of SFB promoted him to Soloist—a career changing promotion. “It was a huge moment and one I'll never forget.”
Garen Scribner and Hansuke Yamamoto/Photos by Erik Tomasson
Garen, who shares his life with his boyfriend of six years and his dog Pilot, says that he is now at the end of his classical ballet career. He’s decided to leave the San Francisco Ballet after 10 years to explore new opportunities in his performing career. Although he's sad to leave such wonderful colleagues and the Bay Area audience he loves, he's excited for what's to come and knows that it's the right time. "I never wanted to have my entire career in one place. I need to experience more. I've grown up here and have so much gratitude and love for San Francisco Ballet but know that energetically it is the right thing for me."
Wherever his career takes him, Garen clearly sees his love and talent in the arts as his true creative profession and will continue to be driven by work ethic, accomplishment and exhaustion throughout his career.
You can follow @garenscribner on twitter and instagram.
Photo by Jessica Chou