Ballet: Gregory B. Smith

1999

Q. You started college as a pre-med student. How did you make the leap to dance?
Is that a pun? (Laughs.) Growing up, I never imagined myself going into the arts. When I was in high school, I took the Kuder (career assessment) test and scored in the 98th percentile for science, 92 in math and 1 percent in the arts. But as I went through college, I became intrigued with music, art and theater and began folk dancing as a recreation. I initially started ballet class to strengthen my folk dancing.

Q. How did your parents react to your radical change in career plans?
I think it went from “my son the doctor” to “my son the dancer?” It was definitely a shock to them.

Q. Do you think today’s dancers have more demands than when you were dancing?
One thing that is clear is that dancers today have to be enormously versatile. You very seldom can make a career simply by doing the classical works. You have to be able to adapt to contemporary choreography in all of its shapes and forms.

Q. In your 25-plus-year career in arts manage-ment, what stands out as the most exciting time?

One of the things I’m proudest of was starting a ballet company in Portland, Ore. (Pacific Ballet Theater) and building it up from scratch.

Q. What attracted you to the Sacramento Ballet?

The marvelous way in which everyone met the economic challenges of the past year. That’s not typical in the arts world, where sometimes you find people more willing to give up than to struggle to make something happen. . . . At this point in my career, I tell people there’s probably not a challenge I haven’t faced.