At 5’ 4”, New York City Ballet corps member Lauren Lovette could be easily overlooked at the end of a long line of corps women. Once she begins to dance, however, she captures your attention. Her head is held high atop an eloquent neck. Her body is a textbook example of classical proportions with its 2:1 ratio of legs to torso. Her long arms possess an invariably musical sinuosity.

Last year Lovette, now 21, began earning critical acclaim for major roles. Reviewing her debut as Sugarplum in The Nutcracker, New York Observer critic Robert Gottlieb wrote that she was “strong, clear, musical, succeeding through dance power and ballerina-like self-assurance.” Yet Lovette has had her share of disheartening setbacks along the way. It took determination and talent to lay the foundation for her success.

One of her first NYCB roles could not have been more negligible. Soon after she became an apprentice in 2009, she was cast in a fleeting cameo in choreographer Susan Stroman’s Frankie and Johnny . . . and Rose. She popped up out of nowhere at the end to console Amar Ramasar after he had been simultaneously dumped by Tiler Peck and Sara Mearns.

 “I came out from under a bench to make some facial expressions and a quick exit with Amar,” Lovette says. “That may not sound like much, but the real challenge was waiting to dance while squeezed into a cramped position for minutes on end. I had just enough room to ease my muscles by pointing and flexing my feet.” Yet what had been a throwaway moment paved the way for her first big break. When the ballet returned, Lovette, now a corps member, saw her name go up on a call sheet. Stroman had decided to create a solo for her. 

“Lauren had been a delight to work with,” says Stroman. “As a choreographer, you are inspired by such a dancer. She seems weightless in her jumps; her energy is boundless, her stage presence unrivaled. She has the natural charisma and strong technique of a star in the making.”

Lovette’s training began relatively late. Growing up in Thousand Oaks, California, she started lessons at 10, after watching a cousin take class. “Jumping around had looked like great fun,” she says, “but I soon learned that starting ballet at that age involved challenges that often left me in tears.” Though her parents told her she could quit, Lovette never considered it. “I loved the music, being in the classroom, trying to perfect something.”

Her family’s move to Raleigh, North Carolina, two years later, just as Lovette had begun to feel technically secure, could have been a major setback. Fortunately, she found a strong teacher, Rosanna Nesta Gahagan, at the nearby Cary Ballet Conservatory. Another inspiration was a student there who had gone to the School of American Ballet for the summer. “I had never seen a dancer who was so beautiful,” says Lovette. She decided to audition for SAB’s intensive as well, but wasn’t accepted. Refusing to be discouraged, Lovette went to Carolina Ballet’s summer program instead, and got her first taste of Balanchine. “Not getting into SAB the first time just reinforced my desire to try again,” she says. “I made it my target.” The next year she was accepted to SAB’s summer program on a scholarship. After another summer there, she stayed year-round.

Teachers quickly spotted her promise. “Onstage your eye goes right to Lauren because she has what I’d call an inner sense of movement,” says NYCB ballet master Jean-Pierre Frohlich. “And she never stops working.” Despite a sprained ankle, she pulled herself together to dance the Waltz Girl and Dark Angel in Serenade for the 2009 workshop. When she did not immediately receive an apprenticeship offer from NYCB, she wasted no time mourning, but spent seven weeks studying with former Balanchine ballerina Patricia McBride at The Chautauqua Institution in western New York.

That fall, she finally got the call from the company and started rehearsing The Nutcracker as an apprentice. Accepted into the corps in 2010, she began dancing roles like Maria in West Side Story Suite, and Alexandra Ansanelli’s role in Christopher Wheeldon’s Polyphonia (see this issue's “How It’s Done"). Coached by Frohlich, Lovette and fellow corps member Taylor Stanley gave the shifting demands of the bluesy pas de deux in Jerome Robbins’ Interplay a slo-mo eloquence. “Lauren has this sprightly glow,” Stanley says, “but there’s genuine independence under that. She doesn’t let other people get to her, and she is always trying to improve.”

Last year her career took off. She was cast in Wheeldon’s new Les Carillons. Performing the pas de deux of Balanchine’s “Rubies” at the fall gala, she whetted everyone’s appetite for the complete work. Ballet master in chief Peter Martins selected her as one of the four corps members who formed the entire cast of his Mes Oiseaux. Then she won the Clive Barnes Foundation Award as the year’s outstanding young dancer (an honor that came with $5,000), and she began 2013 by being selected as NYCB’s Janice Levin honoree, a virtual guarantee of promotion to soloist. [Lovette was in fact promoted to soloist in February, after this issue went to press.]

Nothing was more sensational than Lovette’s debut as Sugarplum. When she bourréed out of the wings and spun around in response to an electrifying cymbal crash, she embodied joy at its purest. Her solo concluded in a glittering series of coupé and chaîné turns and a tendu arabesque, impeccably matched to every heavenly note of the celesta. The pas de deux with soloist Chase Finlay was a series of increasingly ardent approaches interspersed with shoulder lifts as Balanchine had intended.

Lovette still faces challenges aggravated by her late start and perfectionism. “I’ve never been a natural jumper or turner; I’ve had to keep on refining my pirouettes,” she says. Pilates lessons have helped her overcome a loose back and strengthen her core. And then there’s NYCB principal Daniel Ulbricht, with whom she’s in a serious relationship, and whom she often turns to for advice on her weak spots. “It helps to have someone close to me who’s good at the things I’m not,” she says. They debuted as an NYCB team in the Bluebird pas de deux in Sleeping Beauty this past winter, and tour together as dancers. She’s also assisted him when he’s taught at Chautauqua. “I help with partnering classes,” she says. “Who better to learn from than Daniel?”

Each season brings new dream roles. She confesses that she likes ones that involve acting and hopes to dance Odette some day, and Juliet. Adagio is her favorite tempo, especially in a minor key. “Dance is expressing yourself without words. I wish I could express myself in music. I’m not a great singer. I couldn’t learn piano. But I can dance.”

Harris Green is a frequent contributor to
Pointe.
























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Angela Sterling, Courtesy of Pacific Northwest Ballet

Clear your schedule now for Monday, January 29th, 2:45PM (EST)/ 11:45AM (PST). Pacific Northwest Ballet will be live-streaming rehearsal from Kent Stowell's Swan Lake, straight from their Seattle, WA-based studios. To psych us up for their on stage performances February 2nd - 11th, PNB is letting us in on their Act II rehearsal.

From the corps of swans to Odette and Prince Siegfried's pas de deux, and the infamous four swans, this rehearsal is not to be missed. You can sign up now for a live-stream reminder on their site. In the meantime, we'll be brushing up on our Cygnets with this PNB sneak peek.

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Rigorous program, check. Well-rounded technical training, check. Purposeful liberal arts curriculum, check. Study your craft abroad, check! If you are looking for all the above, the Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance at Dean College truly has it all.

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Lopez in Circus Polka. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy MCB.

When Miami City Ballet artistic director Lourdes Lopez was a principal dancer at New York City Ballet, she missed her opportunity to honor Jerome Robbins onstage. "Every time there was a celebration for Jerry, I was either injured or had just retired," says Lopez. "I was never able to publicly thank him onstage for all that he taught us and the beauty he left us."

But when Lopez was planning MCB's Jerome Robbins Celebration for the 100th anniversary of the legend's birth, she saw an opportunity. She asked the Robbins Trust to allow her to perform the Ringmaster in Robbins' Circus Polka, a role the choreographer originated himself.

Keep reading at dancemagazine.com.

Summer Study Advice
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Videos are a great alternative when auditioning in person isn't possible. Here are some general guidelines for making a good impression.

1. Follow directions. Before filming, research what each school you're interested in requires. "It demonstrates your ability to follow instructions, and schools pay attention to that," says Kate Lydon, artistic director of American Ballet Theatre's summer intensives and the ABT Studio Company. "If the guidelines haven't been followed, your video might not be watched the whole way through." You may need to make multiple versions to accommodate different schools.

2. Videos should be no longer than 10 minutes. "Keep it short, simple and direct," advises Philip Neal, dance department chair at The Patel Conservatory and artistic director of Next Generation Ballet. "You have to be sensitive to how much time the director has to sit down and look at it." Barre can be abbreviated, showing only one side per exercise, alternating. Directors will be looking at fundamentals—placement, turnout, leg lines, stability—but don't ignore musicality or movement quality. Make sure music choices match combinations and are correctly synced in the footage.

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Career
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I want to be a professional dancer, but my parents won't listen. They either don't think I can do it (contrary to what my teachers have said) or they won't let me take the necessary steps to become a professional. Please help. —Audrey

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Videos

They say that pigeons mate for life—perhaps that's why these birds naturally symbolize the young lovers in Sir Frederick Ashton's The Two Pigeons. In these two clips from a 1987 performance in Pisa, Alessandra Ferri and Robert LaFosse—then stars with American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet, respectively—dance a rapturous pas de deux at the end of Act II. With tiny pricks of her feet and bird-like flaps of her elbows in Part 1, Ferri marks her anguish, thinking she's been abandoned for another woman. Later, both she and LaFosse grow more and more entangled as they reconcile, Ferri dancing with the passionate abandon she's famous for. I love how in Part 2 (0:20), they can't seem to get enough of each other as their necks arch and intertwine. At the end of the ballet, two pigeons fly in to perch symbolically on the chair—er, there's supposed to be two. It looks like one missed its cue at this performance! No matter—Ferri and LaFosse's dancing make it clear that these young lovers are meant to be together for life. Happy #TBT!

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Summer Study Advice
The author at 13, rehearsing at her home studio, Ballet Arts Theater, in Endicott, NY. Courtesy McGuire.

This story originally appeared in the December 2010/January 2011 issue of Pointe.

As a young student at a small ballet school in upstate New York, I was obsessed with getting into the School of American Ballet. From the age of 10, I entered class each day with the ultimate goal of studying at SAB dangling before me like a carrot on a stick. Every effort I made, every extra class I took was for the sole purpose of getting into what I thought was the only ballet school that really mattered.

I auditioned for SAB's summer program for the first time when I was 12. In the weeks that followed, I became a vulture hovering over my family's mail, squawking at my mother if the day's letters were not presented for my inspection when I walked through the door. The day the letter finally arrived, it was thin and limp. I cried for a week as I dealt with the crushing feeling of rejection for one of the first times in my life.

My mind filled with questions and self-doubt. What was wrong with me? Why wasn't I good enough? I figured I must be too fat, too slow, my feet too flat. I had worked so hard. I had wished on every fallen eyelash and dead dandelion in pursuit of my single goal, just to have a three-paragraph form letter conclude that I was a failure. For a while, I let myself wallow in the comfort of my resentment, content to believe that success should have come easily, and that to fall was the same as to fail.

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