San Jose, CA
Karen Denise Gabay was born in San Diego, California and began her ballet training at the age of eight at the California Ballet School, and later studied at the School of American Ballet in New York City. A principal dancer with Ballet San Jose, Miss Gabay’s diverse repertoire includes Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, the title role in Giselle, Swanhilda in Coppelia, the pupil in Fleming Flindt’s The Lesson, the title role in Roland Petit’s Carmen, the principal female in George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations, Tarantella, and Serenade, the Cowgirl in Agnes DeMille’s Rodeo, and is most recognized for the ballets created for her by choreographer, Dennis Nahat. Always an audience favorite, Miss Gabay has been a guest artist with North Carolina Dance Theater, Ballet Tucson, Ballet Nuevo Mundo, The Eglevsky Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, and Los Angeles Classical Ballet and has toured with Cynthia Gregory’s Dance Galaxy throughout South America. She has performed at various galas and festivals that include the Vail International Dance Festival, the Career Transitions for Dancers Gala in New York City, and the Spoleto and Edinburgh Festivals with Rudolph Nureyev. In 2006, she assisted the late Fleming Flindt in rehearsing The Lesson, for the Kings of the Dance with Angel Corella, Johann Kobberg, and Nikolay Tsiskaridze, and later that year performed in the Hungarian Festival of Freedom Tribute with members of the Cleveland Orchestra. In 2011, Miss Gabay was honored by the Arts Council Silicon Valley and was given the Artist Fellowship Award for Choreography. She has created over forty ballets, twenty of those for Pointe of Departure. Miss Gabay has created world premieres for Ballet San Jose,the International Ballet Competition and Gala in Jackson, Mississippi, the Cleveland Orchestra, Minnesota Ballet, Chautauqua Dance Company, Cuyahoga Youth Ballet, Dancing Wheels, and the Cleveland Composer’s Guild. Miss Gabay enjoys her role as rehearsal assistant for Ballet San Jose, staging and rehearsing the repertoire of the company and teaches company class. She is frequently invited as a guest teacher for many ballet schools across the nation, and is brought in as a guest instructor for master classes in the Bay Area and in the nation. Miss Gabay has worked for the Ford Model Agency branch in Cleveland, Ohio and her film and television credits include the feature film, RENT, The Drew Carey Show, the PBS Emmy-nominated Blue Suede Shoes, the independent film, “Twisted”, the Queen of Denmark’s silver anniversary gala for Scandinavian television and the KTEH show, This is US! , that profiles her career of thirty years as a Prima Ballerina. The summer of 2012 brings delight to Miss Gabay as Pointe of Departure embarks on their annual tour to Northeast Ohio and their presence in the Bay Area.
What did the Fellowship or Laureate mean to you at the time you received it?
When I was awarded the Artist Fellowship, I was so honored and proud. San Jose and its audiences have played such an important role in my development as a dancer, performer and choreographer. I felt so fortunate to have this recognition bestowed upon me. The fellowship signified validation for my craft. It was humbling to be joining the list of other choreographers who had received the award before me, whom I worked with and respected as a young dancer.
What do you do now? Has your art evolved or changed?
I am the founding Artistic Director & choreographer of Pointe of Departure. I am also Artistic Associate of Ballet San Jose. My choreography of the Nutcracker is in the repertoire of Ballet San Jose which has reached a broader audience. I feel my development as a choreographer continues to blossom and many choreographic ideas continue to stir in my brain. I cherish opportunities to continue creating dances and am excited sharing my choreography with new audiences. My thinking process as a choreographer has changed since the financial picture of the arts is dwindling. Now my focus is not only to be creative artistically, but I must be creative in enticing those who may not have seen a live dance performance. I feel it is important to sustain an audience these days who can appreciate the physical work of dance and the expansiveness of dancers moving through space.
What is one piece of advice you would give to an emerging artist?
Keep your focus and always believe in what you do. Let your passion guide you and give you breath.
Briefly, how would you describe the state of the arts locally, as well as national and beyond?
The arts are in crisis.