On the Side: Miranda Bailey

The Columbia City Ballet soloist unwinds in jazz class.
Published in the October/November 2011 issue.

Photo by Claire Kallimanis

"Nobody ever tells you to be sexy or tough in ballet class, but in contemporary ballets that’s often what they expect—and jazz class is where you learn how to do it.” —Miranda Bailey

Like many bunheads, Columbia City Ballet soloist Miranda Bailey wasn’t sure about jazz when she was required to take it as a student. “I used to skip class all the time,” she admits. It wasn’t until Bailey was in her teens that she really gave jazz a chance. “Suddenly, I discovered that it was this class where I had so much freedom,” she says. “I wasn’t thinking, ‘Oh, my turnout isn’t good enough, my extensions aren’t high enough.’ It was about dancing, not about doing the 32 fouettés.”

Now Bailey takes and teaches jazz frequently. “It’s my little reward for getting through ballet class,” she says. It’s also good preparation for CCB’s repertoire, which is full of jazz-inflected contemporary ballets. “We only go into super-classical mode when we do something like Sleeping Beauty once every few years,” she says. “For the rest of our shows, we need to be able to do the hip isolations and the body rolls and the other good stuff you learn in jazz class.”

But Bailey thinks even dancers who dream only of performing Petipa ballets can benefit from jazz. “It’s fantastic cross-training, because you use totally different muscles,” she says. “Often that helps you fix your ballet technique problems. For years, my ballet teachers yelled at me to turn out my supporting leg, but I could never activate the right muscles—until I discovered them during a jazz combination.”