The Saratoga Six: Jason Ohlberg
Six inquisitive questions with Saratoga’s most interesting people.
We’re excited to introduce to you today one of Saratoga’s newest creatives. After dancing professionally for years, Jason Ohlberg transitioned to teaching and in 2016 was appointed Assistant Professor in the Dance Department at Skidmore College. A keen observer, he offers a fresh take on our sweet little city.
1. Tell us about your earliest Saratoga memory.
My first memory about Saratoga Springs is actually more of a thought. I’d come to interview from Seattle and was highly skeptical about the prospect of living in a smaller town. After the first day of walking around Broadway and meeting the dance faculty and deans of Skidmore, I clearly remember asking myself, “What’s going on? Why do I love it here?”
2. The Saratoga Social was created to highlight the work of our local nonprofits. Which organization is most important to you?
With so many phenomenal organizations in the area, it’s impossible to pick just one. I’m excited by the plans for the Universal Preservation Hall renovation, I’ve become involved with Saratoga Arts Festival, and I was recently awarded part of a Teagle grant to collaborate with the Tang Teaching Museum in pairing choreographic development with students and the current Sixfold Symmetry exhibition — a complex and richly rewarding collaboration. In the short time I’ve been here, I’m encouraged by the depth of engagement, the willingness to create art, and the prospects of using local talent and passion to keep improving the arts in the community. In addition, being surrounded by incredible institutions such as EMPAC in Troy, The Hyde Collection in Glens Falls, and MASS MoCA, this region offers outstanding exposure to world-class arts and culture.
Outside of the arts, I’m personally thrilled to see the deep love and support of animals in Saratoga. A long-time supporter of animal rights programs, I’m happy to see a community where animals are vital to daily life and there is a passion for rescuing, supporting, and enriching the lives of animals. In my experience, you can tell a lot about a community by how animals are treated.
3. Which spot in town serves your favorite drink or dish?
My favorite cocktail is easy. Hamlet and Ghost makes a fantastic black Manhattan, which is made with bourbon and amaro instead of sweet vermouth. (I personally prefer Averna from Sicily.) Food is not as easy — there are too many options! In the summer Lake Local’s chopped ahi burger is fantastic, however Druthers Brewing Company’s burger with pickled green tomato and shallots is also a favorite. I also love the octopus dish at Hamlet and Ghost and I’m really looking forward to their kitchen re-opening! Cantina has a great happy hour, the gluten-free pizzas at Wheatfields and Max London’s are wonderful… I could talk about food all day!
4. What was it about Saratoga’s dance history and current culture that drew you from across the country?
First and foremost, the obvious reason for relocating was the opportunity to serve on faculty at Skidmore College. Being a nationally recognized conservatory style program within a liberal arts framework, there is such a unique and vibrant spirit of exploration on campus. Indeed, it’s what drew me here. While many institutions tout the ideal of interdisciplinary collaboration, the students and faculty at Skidmore are actually doing it.
What’s more, the culture within the arts community in Saratoga seems to embrace this same spirit of collaboration and inclusivity. Since re-locating, I have never heard anyone say, “no” or dismiss an idea for engagement across art forms or disciplines. Each and every foray I’ve made into the arts community has been met with curiosity and a genuine interest for bringing ideas to fruition. In my experience, Saratoga’s history, culture, and regional riches make a unique and thriving environment where I personally feel very inspired to create.
5. What's the first app/website you open in the morning?
The New York Times daily morning briefing. Then I immediately have to jump to Facebook to find a video of a puppy or a kitten to take the edge off.
6. "I consider Saratoga's greatest hidden gem to be..."
Honestly, it’s the people. I know that sounds cheesy, but it took my partner Scott and me several months to adapt to how incredibly friendly the people are here. When moving from the West coast to New York, we didn’t expect such generosity and good will. Every time we left the house for the first few weeks, Scott would say, “Why is everyone so nice?” I mean, you expect a certain level of personal attention at a restaurant, but the post office? The DMV? It’s just such a lovely place to call home.