A Q&A with Marin Ballet alumnus John Lam By Elaine O’Malley Cotillard
Q: You came to Marin Ballet at such a young age, and spent a large portion of your childhood years at 100 Elm street. How has your experience at Marin Ballet affected your life?
A: I have been very fortunate to the organization called Performing Stars of Marin, led by Felicia Gaston which helps inner city kids be exposed to dance on an incredible scholarship program. Marin Ballet became a safe haven that allowed me to be develop who I am and immersing myself with what came so natural to me, dance! Being a child from a strict family didn’t help, but my experience and incredible partnership through Performing Stars and Community Action Marin allowed for me to have the opportunity to dance. I was so fortunate to be under the nurturing care of prominent teachers and directors like Margaret Swarthout, Mikko Nissinen and Cynthia Lucas that paved the way to where I am now. Without those three incredible Artistic Directors, I’m not sure what kind of dancer I would be.
Q: What is your favorite memory of Marin Ballet?
A: One of my favorite memories that I have as a child at Marin Ballet was when Margaret Swarthout was director of Marin Ballet. I so wanted to be the big goose that laid an egg, and I stood on the side pretending to be the goose that laid the egg. Margaret smiled and encouraged me to just enjoy the theatrics and magic of dance!
Q: You played so many different roles in several versions of Marin Ballet’s Nutcracker. What was your favorite role and why?
A: When Mikko Nissinen was Artistic Director at Marin Ballet he brought Pas de Trois in his version of The Nutcracker. I felt like a mini prince and felt like I was truly being challenged and utilized in a way that allowed me to realize that I really wanted to dance and that someone truly believed in me.
Q: You have worked with Mikko Nissinen as both a student at Marin Ballet and then several years later joined the Boston Ballet under his leadership. Can you speak to your working relationship and how it’s developed over more than two decades?
A: Mikko was my first male role model as a teacher. When I first met Mikko at Marin Ballet, I admired his exuberant energy and his support in promoting my talent and nurturing me in a way that gave me opportunities to dance male roles. Now as one of the principal dancers in his company after many years, the relationship has continued, allowing me to dive into roles that have challenged me technically and artistically. Thankfully Mikko has continued to believe in my talent and has continued to support me throughout my dancing career. He has allowed me to develop into the artist that I am today.
Q: What are you doing now?
A: I am currently going into my 20th season with Boston Ballet as a Principal Dancer. Married, and raising two boys aged 7 & 9. Loving the craziness and enduring moments that this dance profession offers.