The (Sort Of) Glamorous Life

Touring has a number of fun perks­—and a few pitfalls.
Published in the October/November 2012 issue.

As difficult as it is to plan for a trip to a new city, there’s a whole additional set of details for a dancer on tour to worry about. What should I pack in my carry-on? Will there be someplace open for dinner once the show’s over? What if the stage is raked? But dancers can become adept at pretty much anything—from conquering jet lag to learning the necessary foreign-language phrases. Five dancers gave us a peek inside their touring lives.

STERLING HYLTIN
Company: New York City Ballet
Rank: Principal
Favorite theaters: “It’s a tie between the Mariinsky in St. Petersburg and the Tivoli Concert Hall in Copenhagen. There’s such history in the Mariinsky, and in Tivoli, there’s a roller coaster next to our dressing room that flies by every few minutes!”
Antidote for jet lag: Melatonin. “It’s my secret weapon. I take a pill right before bed to help me sleep through the whole first night.”
Suitcase must-have: A neck fulcrum. “It looks sort of like a pillow. I lay on my back with it for 15 minutes and it aligns my neck, which can go out very easily, especially when I’m on a flight and sleeping in a horrible position.”
Staying in touch: “I use the Viber app on my iPhone. It’s basically an internet telephone, so as long as you have Wi-Fi, you can use it to make calls or send texts.”

PASCAL MOLAT
Company: San Francisco Ballet

Rank: Principal
Go-to travel snack: ThinkThin energy bars from Trader Joe’s, which he munches on if he’s stuck in a theater all day and can’t grab a real meal. His favorite flavor is peanut butter. “I usually bring a dozen with me!”
Best audience reaction: “When I was training as a teenager with the Paris Opéra Ballet, we toured to Tokyo and the people there went crazy for us. We must have had 20 cars of people following our tour bus. We all felt as if we were Michael Jackson.”
On having a roomie: “At SFB, whoever wants a single room puts his or her name in, and then we draw to see who gets one. I prefer to be alone, but we’re all good friends. If I do room with somebody, I try not to choose anyone very young—because they are very ready to party!”
Staying in touch: Molat, who has a wife and 3-year-old son, is a huge fan of Skype. “Depending on where we are in the world, I use it to wish my family good morning or good night.”

TRICIA ALBERTSON
Company: Miami City Ballet

Rank: Principal
Best audience reaction: Paris, in the summer of 2011. “We did 17 performances, and every one had standing ovations—for every ballet.”
Essential carry-ons: Thinksound headphones (eco- and acoustic-friendly) and a feather pillow.
Best hotel amenity: A refrigerator. “Late-night dining options are often just a Denny’s, so I like to have my own food.”
Worst disaster story: “When traveling to Cedar Rapids, we had a layover, and several of us decided to hang out away from our crowded gate. We didn’t keep an eye on the time, and the plane ended up closing the doors before we could board. We had to rent a minivan—I was the only one old enough to drive a rental car—and drive six hours to the hotel!”

RACHEL FOSTER
Company: Pacific Northwest Ballet

Rank:
Principal
Theater pick: The Joyce in New York. “I like its small, intimate feeling.”
Overcoming travel troubles: “I need to have my compression socks so my feet don’t swell. And when I get to the hotel, I have to take a bath. I’m a bath-taker.”
Go-to travel snacks: Carrots, raw almonds and fruit-and-nut trail mix.
Essential carry-ons: All of the dancewear necessary for the shows—shoes, tights, a leotard and warm-ups. “Just in case my luggage doesn’t make it.”

BENJAMIN BEHRENDS
Company: Trey McIntyre Project

Harshest performing conditions: “I have a really hard time adjusting to higher altitudes, and when we performed in Vail, Colorado, we were dancing on an outdoor stage. It was beautiful, but they had to have oxygen tanks waiting for us offstage. We would run off, throw ourselves on the ground and someone would put an oxygen mask over our mouths.”
Essential carry-on: A long, thick scarf. “It can be used as a blanket, a pillow, or a divider between you and the person who has his arm on your chair.”
First foreign phrase to memorize: “I always try to learn how to count, since it comes in handy when asking for prices and when we teach master classes.”
Favorite souvenir: A helmet from Vietnam. “They’re all motorcyclists there, and everybody wears a certain kind of helmet. So we went to a vendor, and a bunch of us got one to use with our bicycles back home. But then one of our translators explained that it’s not actually for protection—it’s just a fashion statement!”