Life has a funny way of working out sometimes. When our cover girl, Jahna Frantziskonis, took company class on a lark at San Francisco Ballet during a trip to California, she had no idea she’d wind up with a job offer. She soon faced a dilemma—to stay in her current company, where she had a secure and promising future, or risk the unknown by joining the much larger SFB. She chose the latter, and it turned out to be a smart career move. With her go-for-broke technique and onstage charm, this rising corps dancer has been racking up roles since her arrival.
As Frantziskonis proves, taking chances can come with major benefits. Of course, most of us don’t have our dream job fall into our lap—we have to audition. But that’s where a fearless attitude can help you the most. Take it from BalletMet dancer Grace-Anne Powers. Throughout her career, she’s auditioned countless times and secured contracts with four widely different companies. Needless to say, she’s figured out a few things along the way. Read her essay, “Finding Your ‘Yes,’ ” for her insights on how to increase your chances of success. Then, turn to our Auditions Guide for more information on companies looking for dancers like you.
Audition season is also a time to consider expanding your horizons, especially with the recent boom of ballet dancers on Broadway. (Since 2014, five New York City Ballet dancers alone have made debuts in musicals!) But the audition process for musical theater is vastly different. Read “From Ballet Company to Broadway” for tips on how to prepare. As you steel yourself for the job hunt, remind yourself that you have nothing to lose. Approach your auditions with confidence and an open mind, and you may just find your dream job.
Injuries always come at the most inconvenient time. Our cover guy, Derek Dunn, was on the fast track towards a promotion when he faced a double whammy: two back-to-back foot injuries that kept him out of commission for six months. Being unable to dance made him question everything, and forced him to explore life outside the ballet world. Find out more about this prodigious Houston Ballet demi-soloist in our cover story.
For me, a stress fracture sparked my motivation to start college part-time. For one thing, I had a lot of time to kill during my recovery. But being off my feet also made me realize how brief and delicate our dance careers are—and like many of today’s working dancers, I wanted to be prepared. Now, it’s easier than ever to balance college and career. In “Juggling Two Worlds,” we look at how three professionals are making it work, whether through night classes, online courses or an accelerated degree program created especially for dancers.
Of course, more and more dancers are opting to go to college first, before pursuing their performance careers. If you’re a year or two away from applying to schools, turn to “Summer on Campus” to learn about how going to a college summer intensive may help give you an edge. Not only do they give prospective students a chance to check out the dance department and dorms, they may give them a leg up when it’s time to audition. And be sure to read “Beyond the BFA” if you’re interested in learning more about nonperformance dance degrees. In it, we look at the different academic options dancers have, such as dance science or pedagogy, and how to keep up your performance chops when choosing this route.
If you’re not sure where to start, check out our annual “Higher Ed Guide” in the back of this issue. It’s specially curated just for bunheads, and includes important scholarship information, too. And if you need more in-depth coverage, the Dance Magazine College Guide (available at dancemagazine.com/collegeguide) is an excellent resource. It’s never too soon to start thinking ahead!
Amy Brandt, Editor in Chief
I think most of us would agree that a mix of strength, integrity and grace make up a large part of the equation. A good one also understands the inspirational effect they have on younger generations. At our cover shoot, American Ballet Theatre principal Stella Abrera was nothing less than a class act. When our fitness model stopped by to get ready for her own shoot, Abrera made a special effort to start a conversation and take a picture with her wide-eyed young fan. Read more about this gracious star’s journey to the top in our cover story.
For many of my generation, Julie Kent was the epitome of what a ballerina should be. Now artistic director of The Washington Ballet, she continues to be a beacon of wisdom. Be sure to turn to her essay, “In Defense of Patience.” In today’s high-pressure world driven by instant gratification, it’s easy to lose perspective on the lengthy process necessary to become an artist. Kent offers invaluable food for thought, based on years of experience.
Whether you’re thinking about exploring an unfamiliar style or need some reassurance about summer intensive auditions, you’ll find inspiring advice throughout this issue. And, as always, our summer study guide is your best resource for information on hundreds of programs. As you plan ahead, look to those you admire for motivation. You’re on your way to becoming a role model yourself.
Recently we shared the good news about a change in ownership of DanceMedia. We thought you might like to hear from our new owner, Frederic M. Seegal, on why he bought Pointe magazine.
“I’m excited with the opportunity to help the DanceMedia team because this is an exciting time for dance. Never before has dance (and dancers) been in the public and media eye the way it is today and, as a result, the needs of both dancers and dance companies is changing dramatically. The need for a trusted voice is more important than ever. We plan to continue to be at the center of it all and over time to extend our extraordinary magazines into the same position in the digital world.
A little about me: Vice Chairman of Peter J. Solomon Company, I have made my career advising major media, telecom and internet clients. I have a passion for the performing arts and have committed my time accordingly. I have served as President of American Ballet Theatre’s Board of Trustees, and as trustee for New York City Center, San Francisco Symphony and San Francisco Opera.
The one thing I’ve learned from my experience is that people come to dance because of the dancers. Our mission is to make sure dancers are recognized, educated and rewarded. Without you there would be no dance.”
At our cover shoot, American Ballet Theatre soloist Cassandra Trenary was so easygoing that it was hard to believe she was just a few weeks away from her big debut as Princess Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty. It’s also hard to believe that in just a few short years, she’s gone from only taking ballet three times a week to being one of ABT’s most prominent rising stars. What’s her secret? Read our cover story to find out.
Of course, Trenary’s swift rise is unusual for such a young dancer. For those of you who are breaking into the professional world, leading roles may still be a few years away. But that doesn’t mean you should fly under the radar until then. Today’s technology makes it easy to share your talent with the world, whether through blogging, a YouTube channel or your social media pages. In “Building Brand ‘You,’ ” we look at how today’s dancers are creating their own personal “brands” to gain more visibility and connect with audiences. And you don’t have to pretend you’re a superstar to do so—the more authentic your voice, the better.
Many dancers have rewarding careers without rising to superstar level. Company life offers opportunities to grow both inside and outside the studio. I was in the corps de ballet my entire career, but I found ways to get involved as a union representative and pointe shoe manager. In “Taking the Lead,” writer Julie Diana talks to three dancers whose leadership roles give their careers greater meaning. Often it’s as simple as setting a good example for others.
As you read through our Career Issue, be sure to check out our “Professional Resource Guide.” Whether you’re looking for open classes near you or custom pointe shoes, this listing will give you the tools you need to start your career off right. In the professional world, you are your own best advocate, so get ready to take the reins!
A dancer’s road will never be easy. That’s why it’s helpful to look to someone like Mayara Pineiro, whose success is steeped in gutsiness and perseverance. Although the Pennsylvania Ballet soloist had received some of the best training in the world at the Cuban National Ballet School, at age 17 she fled her country to pursue the career path she didn’t believe was possible at home. She was taking a huge risk, and almost had to stop dancing altogether. Pineiro tells us how it turned out in this issue’s cover story.
If you’re thinking about pursuing a dance career, get used to making tough choices, especially if you want to take your training to the next level: Which school is right for me? Should I move away from home? Which path will lead to professional opportunities? It’s hard to predict the future, which is what makes this period so stressful. But you’ll find inspiration from some of today’s top professionals in “ ‘The Best Training Decision I Ever Made.’ ” They share their fears and turning points as students, and show that it’s okay to follow your instincts and take risks.
Of course, the decisions don’t stop there. For those transitioning into professional life through trainee programs and second companies, opportunities for promotions are scarce. It’s now quite common to spend three to four years in unpaid or low-wage entry-level positions. In “Semi-Pro Limbo,” we take an honest look at this reality, and offer advice for those debating whether or not to stick it out.
While being a dancer is challenging, it comes with tremendous rewards—and not just onstage. In this issue, we spotlight two of today’s biggest stars, American Ballet Theatre’s Misty Copeland and English National Ballet’s Isaac Hernández, who are using their talent to give back. Their charity work not only gives them greater career satisfaction—it’s concrete proof that dance has the power to transform lives. —Amy Brandt, Editor in Chief
What makes someone a standout?
Onstage, it’s a dancer’s consummate artistry, as well as strong technique to back it up. But in the studio, other qualities come into play. Take our cover girl, Royal Ballet first soloist Francesca Hayward, for example. Though innately talented, her working style and ease under pressure accelerated her path to success. As a young student at The Royal Ballet’s Upper School, Hayward was frequently thrown onstage during company productions to cover for injured dancers. While her performances were no doubt beautiful, her reliability and intelligence in the rehearsal studio earned her a company contract before she even graduated. And while she’s creating major buzz onstage as an instinctive dance-actress, her calm, confident demeanor has allowed her to readily take on major principal roles.
As Hayward demonstrates, being a standout in the studio can make a major impression on a director. And when you’re auditioning for companies, you want to show directors that you not only have technical and artistic chops, but that you’re hard-working, dependable and self-assured. Trust me, they’ll notice. If you’re looking for examples of how to present your best self, turn to "Mastering the Audition Circuit." Here, three pros open up about what they learned after years of auditioning, and how they process the nerves and rejection that come with it.
With audition season around the corner, we’ve made sure to pack this issue with advice. Our annual “Auditions Guide” lists essential job-search information for companies and training programs large and small (and for current opportunities throughout the year, don’t forget to check out our Auditions page on pointemagazine.com). In “Put Your Best Audition Photo Forward,” former dancer and professional photographer Kyle Froman offers his tips for capturing the perfect shot (including which angle is best for first arabesque). If you’re entertaining thoughts about leaving your company, be sure to read “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” for telltale signs that you should start polishing your resumé. As you get ready for the big day, take note of your strengths, whether it’s your tenacious determination or lightning-fast memory, and let them shine. In a room full of talented dancers, they may be what make you stand out.
Even though the air is chilly, many of you have summer on your minds—and with good reason. Come January, ballet schools across the country will be holding their summer intensive auditions, and there are hundreds. It may feel overwhelming, but choosing the right program is good practice for making critical career decisions. And our cover girl, Mariinsky Ballet first soloist Kristina Shapran, understands the importance of introspection. After graduating at the top of her class at the Vaganova Ballet Academy, she turned down a soloist position at the Mariinsky to join a smaller company in Moscow. It was a move that shocked many, but Shapran knew she wasn’t ready yet. But after gaining some professional experience and growing more confident, she joined the Mariinsky last year—and she’s been wowing audiences ever since.
Shapran shows that no matter what others may want for your career, you have to be self-aware enough to understand what path will best allow you to thrive. For those of you with professional aspirations, the right summer program can lead to important career-launching opportunities, such as a traineeship or a second-company contract. That can make auditioning for and choosing an intensive a stressful experience. At 17, I grappled with this dilemma myself when I had to decide between a highly competitive dream school and one affiliated with a regional company. In “Decisions, Decisions,” you may be surprised to learn that you have more control in the decision-making process than you think. We look at how to approach auditions, what questions to ask (yes, you can ask questions!) and how to identify early signs that you’re being considered for a position.
If you’re looking to get started on audition planning, you’ve come to the right place. Our annual “Summer Study Guide”—our biggest ever—provides all the essential information such as dates, classes, tuition, housing, scholarships and more to help you identify programs to suit your needs. And throughout this issue, you’ll find valuable advice on how to address those needs, whether you’re concerned about program size or battling audition anxiety. As you prepare for summer study auditions, think about your goals—and which intensives can best help you reach them. You may find success in unexpected places!
“I had people tell me that I was a fool, a failure, that I would never amount to anything, that my career was over—and here I am.”
—Kathryn Morgan on her battle with hypothyroidism.
Dance Theatre of Harlem member Lindsey Croop (photo by Nathan Sayers)
When it feels like the world is against you, it’s easy to consider giving up. But successful dancers know how to persevere and weigh their options when life doesn’t go their way. Our cover star Sarah Hay demonstrates these skills perfectly. Her training and early career were full of rejection, poor body image and the frustrating feeling that she was being held back. It took guts for her to leave her company before she had a contract somewhere else, but eventually she found a home—and a promotion—in Dresden. Now, she’s about to be famous, as the star of the Starz network’s new ballet drama “Flesh and Bone.” (Check out our behind-the-scenes photo essay on page 32.)
Another inspirational example is Jennie Somogyi. Though she was told she would never dance again on three separate occasions, she wasn’t about to give up so easily. In “True Grit,” the New York City Ballet principal opens up to Dance Magazine editor at large Wendy Perron about how a deep inner strength kept her going during long months of recovery.
The same perseverance and open mind can be useful throughout your training, as well. Take it from Nashville Ballet apprentice Kristin Young. She had her heart set on getting into Indiana University’s highly competitive ballet program. But when she didn’t, she quickly switched gears and enrolled at the University of Oklahoma—and is thriving because of it. If you’re about to apply to schools, be sure to read “Planning Plan B” for advice on making an audition strategy that covers all your bases. Then, turn to our “Higher Ed Guide” to learn more about 100 ballet-focused dance programs.
Dancers are remarkably tenacious. If you’re feeling discouraged, follow Hay, Somogyi and Young’s lead—you never know what opportunities are around the corner.
“I always imagined using my degree after dancing, but I’m learning I can grow both my interests. After I started sharing my ideas for DTH’s social media, they asked me to do some public relations for the company.”—Dance theatre of Harlem’s Lindsey Croop on her dual degree from Butler University