Matt, our playbill editor from Skies America, interviewed one new dancer that will be featured in each of the holiday ballets. Meet A Holiday Revue‘s Michael Linsmeier!
Photo: Renata Kosina
By Matt Williams, Playbill Editor
Michael Linsmeier has silver rings in both ears and one in his nose. His black Misfits T-shirt is cut off at the shoulders, giving ample room to display least three tattoos along his muscular arms. He’s a drummer in a punk band. And when asked what he most loves about Portland, he says, “The beer is fantastic.”
This guy’s a ballet dancer?
“Sometimes I’ll be out and people will say, ‘You ain’t a ballet dancer,’ and I’ll be like, really? Then I’ll lift my leg over my head,” he says with a laugh. “You can’t judge people just by appearances. I kind of like that.”
Linsmeier joined OBT this season as a company artist, which marks the latest adventure in a lifetime filled with them. He grew up on a dairy farm in Cato, Wisconsin, a hamlet so tiny it doesn’t even have a sign proclaiming its population. “It’s more of an unincorporated area,” he says. Linsmeier’s mom, who danced as a child, put all five of her children in lessons as youngsters, but only Michael stuck with it. In middle school he was discovered by the director of the Virginia School of the Arts, who asked him to move away from home and enroll. But Linsmeier remembers not being totally sure why. “At this point I still didn’t know you could dance professionally,” he says. “I had no idea what I was getting myself into. But I was kind of like, alright, I guess I’ll try to do this thing.”
Not only did he try, he excelled. But not without a little punk rock angst mixed in. Linsmeier fondly recalls a class in which the teacher would give students 20 minutes to choreograph a routine, but instead of creating steps, “I just took it as a way to take out my teenage anger,” he says. “I would throw myself around and writhe on the floor and be really grotesque, and almost hurt myself all the time. It almost scared the teacher, but it was a huge release for me.”
After graduation, Linsmeier caught on with Milwaukee Ballet Company, spending seven years honing his abilities. But to this day, his craft has yet to reverberate back to the farm. “I go back home, and my uncles and aunts are still like, ‘How’s school going?’ I’m like, I’m 26! I’ve been doing this [professionally] since I was 18! I never went to college!”
Linsmeier knew he needed to see more than Wisconsin, so about a year ago he began pursuing other opportunities. Once he secured a contract with OBT, he sold all his belongings, packed four suitcases and took a train to Portland, sight unseen. And while he has obviously fallen deeply for the Rose City’s microbrew and music scenes, his introduction to OBT was just as harmonious. “Everybody was so friendly from the start,” he says. “I walked in, and people were like, ‘Hey, who are you? You’re new here. Welcome.’ Something I can’t express enough is how much people enjoy their jobs here. It makes you hungry.”
Linsmeier will be dancing in both The Nutcracker and A Holiday Revue (look for him doing a duet with Julia Rowe in “Lime Jello Marshmallow Cottage Cheese Surprise”), but the Keller Auditorium stage isn’t the only place he wants to be. While he feels extremely lucky to be in his position, Linsmeier fully admits he needs a wide range of activities in his life to stay focused. “I wish I could be one of those people who live, eat and breathe dance, but I can’t,” he says. “I need to have other things going on. I need to have inspiration from my personal life to bring into the studio.”
So if you see a scraggly, athletically built 26-year-old drummer doing toe raises at the bars, you’ll know Linsmeier’s doing his part to bring a different kind of culture to Portland’s punk scene. And he hopes the opposite phenomenon might happen inside OBT’s walls. “I don’t think there’s any other punk rockers in here,” he says with a grin. “If there are, they should say hi!”
Get your tickets to A Holiday Revue today!