Hindsight is 20/20. For a ballerina, having a daughter who wants a ballet career can be both elating and scary. A professional knows all the hardships—injury, pain, competitiveness, disappointment. And she can spot every mistake her daughter makes. It’s a mixed blessing for daughters, as well. While a mother who knows exactly what it takes can help, the fact that she probably has her own opinions about every phase of training comes at a cost. “Now that I’m a professional, it’s great,” says Gabriella Yudenich, a soloist with Pennsylvania Ballet whose mother, Barbara Sandonato, danced with the company. “But when I was 15, my mom and I had some nasty fights about ballet.” When a dance career passes from mother to daughter, what does that mean for their relationship? Here are several who have found different ways to cope.

Irina Dvorovenko and Olga Dvorovenko
Olga Dvorovenko explains that her daughter, American Ballet Theatre principal Irina Dvorovenko, was always independent and driven. She remembers when a 10-year-old Irina marched into her Kiev Ballet School audition, told the pianist what music she wanted and performed a self-choreographed solo—and was accepted to the academy. Then at 16, Irina traveled alone to the USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi, and returned with a silver medal, prize money and a new TV, VCR and video camera for the family. Then there was the car: “Irina had a used car shipped home from one of her first professional tours in Japan,” Olga says. “We never had a car before.”

Talk to Irina, though, and you’ll hear about a mother and father who worked diligently to provide for their daughter and guide her through the inevitable tears and hard work of a dance career. Olga and Vladimir Dvorovenko both trained as ballet dancers and became principals with the Ukrainian State Academic Dance Ensemble. Despite the couple’s relative success, life was bleak in Ukraine during the Soviet era. They didn’t have an abundance of anything at home. “Dance was our light,” Olga says.

From Irina’s earliest days, she loved being in the theater. “The dancer’s lifestyle excited me,” she says, “to sparkle and dazzle onstage and to be exceptional.” She dreamed of a career that would take her to the top. Her parents taught her how to work, how to look at and correct herself. When Irina was a teenager, her father filmed all her performances. “He would sit next to the orchestra pit and tape me, then we’d go home and work,” Irina says.

“As dancers and teachers, Vladimir and I would see every error,” Olga says. “We’d say, ‘If you do this, it will be better.’ ‘Look at this finger, here, it has to be up.’ It takes hard work—a lot of work—to be number one.”

Irina never rebelled. “I’d rather hear corrections, even if they sound painful or uncomfortable, from my family than hear that someone doesn’t like something, but doesn’t tell me why or explain how to fix it,” she says. Today Irina still looks to her mother for input. “My mom’s my mentor and advisor, friend and supporter,” she says. “I don’t hide anything from her.”

Gabriella Yudenich and Barbara Sandonato

Barbara Sandonato, founder of the Barbara Sandonato Ballet School in Philadelphia, was a trailblazer. An elegant and sophisticated Balanchine-trained dancer, she was Pennsylvania Ballet’s first company member and first principal in the 1960s. Back then, she had no idea that her daughter, Gabriella Yudenich, would one day be the first member of Pennsylvania Ballet II and, now, at 28 years old, a soloist with the main company.

Early loss drew mother and daughter together and helped dispel some of the natural tension that arose during Yudenich’s teenage years. Alexei Yudenich, Sandonato’s husband and Yudenich’s father, who was also a principal dancer with Pennsylvania Ballet, died when his daughter was only 6.

After her husband’s death, Sandonato turned to teaching, traveling up and down the East Coast to make ends meet. Since she had no extra money for childcare, she took Yudenich with her. When she was 11, Yudenich had an epiphany after seeing a documentary, Backstage at the Kirov. “It struck a chord within me,” Yudenich says. “It showed a girl in the corps de ballet being singled out for solo parts and her rise to dancing Odette in Swan Lake. I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to do this.’ ”

Sandonato remembers the night, during a commute in their car, when her daughter told her from the backseat that she wanted to dance. “I said ‘Gabby, you’re 11, you have to do such a crash course,’ ” she remembers. “If by 13 you’re not accepted to a major school, it’s not going to happen.”

But Yudenich’s desire was sincere, so Sandonato began training her at home. “We got up every morning, put the kitchen timer on and stretched,” Sandonato says. Yudenich also began taking Sandonato’s classes, and enrolled in summer courses at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, where her mother was on staff.

At 14, Yudenich entered the School of American Ballet’s year-round program on full scholarship. During the audition, Sandonato remained in the lobby. She had been in the school on full scholarship herself under George Balanchine. Yudenich has long dealt with people thinking her opportunities came through her mother. “This is a very competitive profession,” she says. “And people are going to say what they’re going to say, period. It’s been almost harder at Pennsylvania Ballet because people know who my parents are.” But ending up there almost seemed like a coincidence. The year she left SAB, PA Ballet needed girls for their Nutcracker. Yudenich auditioned and got hired. After, she stayed on as the first member of PA Ballet II.

Now a soloist, Yudenich and her mother know that their successes have come from perseverance. “In our business you’re always striving,” Sandonato says. “Telling someone they’re the best is not going to help. You have to be strong enough of mind and body to improve yourself to the capacity that you can.”

Hannah Marshall and Cheryl Yeager
A quintessential soubrette with an effervescent stage presence, Cheryl Yeager proved a popular principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre in the 1980s. She danced leads with Julio Bocca and Mikhail Baryshnikov in ballets that included Coppélia and La Sylphide. She also had roles made on her, such as Twyla Tharp’s razor-sharp Brief Fling.

Yeager’s daughter, Hannah Marshall, now a pre-professional student at ABT’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, is more at home in lyrical roles like Swan Lake’s Odette. Even at 16, Marshall has an effortlessness in her dancing that makes it seem like each sky-high extension and expressive upper body movement really does start from deep inside and move out.

While Yeager did not teach Marshall until her daughter was 11, she oversaw Marshall’s dance development from the outset. Marshall took her first “Mommy and Me” class as a toddler at Manhattan’s Ballet Academy East, where Yeager is on faculty, and she continued on through the graded level program at BAE until moving to JKO last fall. “It was just so nice having her in the same building,” Marshall says. “And she guided me, but with just enough room that I could do things sort of on my own.”

When Marshall did eventually take class with her mother, there was occasional mother/daughter tension. (“Sometimes with technique I can get a little, ‘Enough, Mom,’ ” she says.) Marshall has relished, however, the moments where Yeager can offer perspective. “The first time I didn’t get a part,” Marshall says, “I was crushed and she knew exactly what to say because she’s been there, but she could also be my mom at the same time.”

Now that Marshall is on her own at JKO, Yeager misses her but is glad that she is doing what she wants. “When you’re a dancer it affects your life forever,” she says. “It has been my life since I can remember, and now it’s her life, too.”



































Elizabeth Abbick as the Snow Queen in Butler Ballet's "Nutcracker." Photo by Brent Smith, Courtesy Abbick.

Pointe caught up with three college dancers last spring to see what it's like juggling ballet, academics and a social life on campus. First up is Elizabeth Abbick, a student at Jordan College of the Arts, Butler University getting her BFA in dance performance and her BA in mathematics.

Abbick studying in the library. Photo by Jimmy Lafakis for Pointe.

Leawood, Kansas, native Elizabeth Abbick faced some tough choices her senior year of high school. Equally talented in math and ballet, she wanted a professional dance career but also desired to plan her post-performance life. "Butler University had always been on my radar because I knew the faculty was stellar and the students are the best of the best. I realized it could offer me both worlds," she says. Now a senior majoring in dance performance and mathematics, she hopes to work on the business side of the ballet world after her stage career.

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If you're in the NYC area and are in need of weekend plans, you might want to consider heading to the Film Society of Lincoln Center to see Jean-Stéphane Bron's documentary, The Paris Opéra. While the film was originally released in France this past spring, it just made its way to the US on October 18th, and it chronicles the 2015-2016 season at the Paris Opera.

Encompassing the entire institution (which was founded in 1669 by King Louis XIV!), dancers will particularly enjoy an inside look at the Paris Opéra Ballet—both in rehearsals and onstage. Most notably, Bron captures the then POB director Benjamin Millepied as he decides to leave his position with the company barely a year after his appointment.

Check out the full trailer below, and the Film Society of Lincoln Center's full listing of showtimes here.

Your Training
Thinkstock.

Bianca Bulle was always prone to ankle sprains. When she was 18, her recoveries became more complicated: She started experiencing Achilles tendonitis due to muscle weakness and fluid buildup in the ankle. "The last thing to get back to normal would be my Achilles, which was so incredibly tight and painful," says Bulle, now a principal at Los Angeles Ballet.

The Achilles is the body's largest tendon, attaching the bottom of the calf muscles to the back of the heel. It contracts and releases as you relevé and plié, as well as when you jump and even walk. Tendonitis, or inflammation, of the Achilles is one of the most frequently reported overuse injuries among active people, according to the American Physical Therapy Association. You'll know it by the pain or tightness at the back of the heel. If the condition gets bad enough, the tendon can rupture, which requires surgery to fix.

Achilles tendonitis is especially common among dancers on pointe, but it's not inevitable. With rest and proper conditioning, you can work to avoid it with careful technique and a commitment to cross-training.


Boston Ballet School pre-professional students. Photo by Igor Burlak Photography, Courtesy Boston Ballet.

What Causes It?

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New York City Ballet in Marc Chagall's costume designs for Balanchine's "Firebird."

I am a self-confessed costume nerd who really needs little persuasion to travel nearly 3,000 miles to see a costume exhibition—which is what I did when I set off for California for the new exhibition at Los Angeles County Museum of Art: Chagall: Fantasies for the Stage. I knew Marc Chagall primarily for his sumptuous blue swirling paintings featuring violin-playing goats, his incredible ceiling at the Paris Opéra's Palais Garnier, and murals at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, so I was intrigued to see his work with ballet.

Marc Chagall (1887–1985), was born Moishe Zakharovich Shagal in Belarus. He later moved to St. Petersburg, Russia, to study art, apprenticing under famed Ballets Russes designer Leon Bakst. Chagall's work in ballet and opera, however, did not begin until he and his wife Bella arrived in the U.S. as World War II refugees in 1941.

Chagall: Fantasies for the Stage, adapted from an earlier exhibition at the Montreal Music of Art and curated by Yuval Sharon and Jason H. Thompson, is an exciting opportunity to see 41 costumes and nearly 100 designs. But it is the costumes that really steal the show. You won't see any tutus here, but instead amazing, almost cartoon-like realizations of Chagall's artwork. LACMA's exhibition runs through January 7, 2018. For those of you who can't make the trip like I did, here's a rundown of highlights.

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Tiler Peck in "Who Cares?". Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck and Emmy-winning actress Elisabeth Moss (of Mad Men and Handmaid's Tale fame) may seem like unlikely friends, until you dig a little deeper into their backgrounds. Both attended Westside School of Ballet in Santa Monica and spent summers at the School of American Ballet in their youths. Moss and Peck's career paths diverged when the former fell in love with acting and Peck went on to study at SAB full time, eventually becoming the star we know today. Now, the pairs' artistic pursuits are uniting in an exciting new project.

According to Deadline.com, Moss will produce a documentary featuring Peck and her work curating BalletNOW, last summer's star-studded, critically acclaimed program at Los Angeles's Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Peck was the first woman to lead BalletNOW's programming, and she brought together dancers from companies including The Royal Ballet, Miami City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and the Paris Opéra Ballet, putting them on stage with tappers, clowns and break dancers (sometimes simultaneously).


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Your Best Body

Looking for creative and healthy ways to get your pumpkin fix this fall? First, back away from the pumpkin-spiced latte—the season's unofficial drink is often laced with sugary syrup and comes with a complimentary mid-rehearsal crash. Instead, try these simple snacks with puréed pumpkin. It's high in beta-carotene, which converts to immunity-boosting vitamin A, and is a good source of vitamin K, iron and fiber. You can buy it canned or make the purée from a "sugar" or "pie" pumpkin (they're commonly available at grocery stores or farm markets).

Fruit-and-Spice Toast

- Spread purée onto whole-grain toast.

- Top with sliced pear.

- Add a dash of cinnamon.

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Pointe Stars

When Maya Plisetskaya first toured abroad with the Bolshoi Ballet, she stunned the world. Her dramatic and technical abilities were far beyond what anyone outside the Soviet Union had seen before. She quickly became an icon, symbolizing Russian ballet.

Plisetskaya was the perfect ballerina to play the Tsar Maiden in The Little Humpbacked Horse when choreographer Alexander Radunsky and composer Rodion Shchedrin recreated the classic Russian folktale in the 1960s. This vintage clip of the ballet offers a glimpse into an era gone by. Although ballet technique has advanced since then, Plisetskaya's performance is still electrifying. She is daring and agile in her manèges and fouettés, while she shows gentle purity and authentic emotion in the pas de deux with the wide-eyed Ivan. Even half a century later, this magnificent artist continues to transfix us with her radiant presence onstage. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!


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