I met Philip Ingrassia earlier this year when I was shooting the Peter Pan Ballet that was performed by the Columbia City Ballet. Him and his wife, Autumn Ingrassia are professional dancers for the ballet. The first time I photographed them, they were portraying Peter Pan and Tinkerbell. They were truly dynamic to watch together and I came away with some of my favorite shots to date that night.
I asked the two if they were willing to do some shots for us at London and Lace. They agreed, and came to the shop. It was there that I got to start talking with Philip. He is an incredibly charming young man that has a wonderful sense of poise. He generally seems happy and content in his walk of life. We could all learn a lot from that. I couldn’t help notice how strong Phillip is, and how easily he can lift his wife into the air and hold her there with one arm. Strength is one of those things that is purely subjective. You take someone like Philip and put him next to a bodybuilder, and people would say that the bodybuilder is clearly stronger. But, ask that bodybuilder to hold his leg in the air for 60 seconds and you will see what I mean. Strength is not always about the weight you can lift. Sometimes it is about what and how you are lifting it.
Ever since then, Philip is one of the guys that I talk to when I am doing photography for the ballet. He always gives me insight into what is going on and helps me figure out what it is I am looking for in a shot. Being a photographer for the ballet isn’t as easy as you think it might be. What most people think is a beautiful shot can actually be unpleasing to a dancer because of foot position. Basically, if you don’t catch the “It” moment, the photograph will do nothing for the promotion of the ballet. Watching Phillip has helped me find those it moments because he is so consistent with how he dances.
How long have you been doing ballet?
I have studied dance in many disciplines since the age of two. Tap, jazz, acrobatics, classical Spanish, Bharatanatyam (a division of classical Indian), clogging, improvisation, Limon, Graham…I’ve done a variety of taste tests. My father recommended I add ballet to the list at the age of 10, which I did. So I guess that makes it….20 years now.
Where did you start?
I started ballet at the former San Jose Cleveland Ballet School under such directors as Dennis Nahat (company director), Donna Delseni, and the late Lise La Cour, former Principle of the Royal Danish Ballet.
What is it about the ballet that draws you to it?
I have always been intrigued with ballet. It did not come easy to me and certainly does not now. I don’t have the ideal ballet body by any stretch of the imagination. So I thought of it as a challenge, not a stopping point. My love for the stage and respect for the legacy of ballet helped me to overcome my challenges. Plus there’s nothing better than the applause of a grateful and responsive audience. The legacy, though, is probably my favorite part. I know I will be forgotten, but the children and lives I can affect positively if I do things the right way…that’s what it’s all about.
Did you go to school for anything else? Is this what you wanted to do?
I graduated Magna Cum Laude from the Boston Conservatory of Music and Dance. I’ve always wanted to be a dancer since before I was a preteen. Many told me I couldn’t, instructors included. I thank them for trying to protect me from a vision life of rejection, which many of us professionals experience. Few get to make it. But their warnings only made my fire to succeed burn harder. Without them I probably wouldn’t have made it.
Do you have any advice for any of the younger ones, (like my daughter) that want to pursue this as a career?
My advice for the young ones is to do what you want to do no matter what. Ballet is hard. It’s hard work. If you want a career, you will cry, you will bleed, sweat, and sacrifice. When you are in the dance studio, though, no one can take that away from you. Remember why you love ballet and let that lift you back up. Be prepared for hardship, but if you truly love it, nothing and no one can stand in your way. Every clap is a thank you from a touched soul. Think about that every time you get your thunderous applause. It’s worth it
Also go to school still. No one likes working with a dumb dancer.
Blood, Sweat and Tears
Many find the ballet inspirational to watch, but how many of you have realized how inspiring the stories of these dancers could be? I look at Philip and am amazed at how powerful and graceful he is to watch. And yet, he had to overcome the negatives that included hearing he couldn’t make it from his instructors. Aren’t instructors supposed to push us and teach us? They aren’t there to take away our dreams, but help make them possible. To hear that Phillip had to put up with that, and still overcame, is inspiring.
People like Philip are around us everyday. They are successful in the things that they love and most of us are unaware of how difficult it was for them to achieve it. Our society is so caught up in the right now, that we don’t thing about how we are going win the long game. And on top of that, we decide that we can’t achieve it, so others can’t either. Hearing Philip talk about living his dreams makes me want to push even harder to achieve my dreams. His hard work gives legitimacy to the concept of following your dreams. And for this reason, Philip Ingrassia is Good People.
Support the Columbia City Ballet
The Columbia City Ballet is a non-profit organization that survives off of your donations. The Ballet is an art form that needs to be supported so that it can flourish. That is exactly what the CCB has set out to do. #supportthearts #supporttheballet #supportcolumbiacityballet