Pennsylvania Ballet corps member Alexander Peters is only in his third year as a professional dancer, but his short career has already had more than its share of twists and turns. And while the twists have been surprising—including dancing the lead in two full-length ballets—the turns have been impeccable. “The first thing you notice about him is the technique,” says PAB artistic director Roy Kaiser. “He has one of the cleanest, purest classical techniques that I’ve seen on anyone.”

Peters began building that technique early, starting with gymnastics, then following his older sister into dance. Tap and jazz at 7 led to ballet at 10, with one small hitch along the way. “I remember skipping my first ballet class after I found out that I had to wear tights,” says Peters. “I called my mom and had her come pick me up.” Fortunately, he returned, and within a few years, he made ballet his focus. By the time he reached the School of American Ballet, he was a force. He won the school’s coveted Mae L. Wien Award and a Princess Grace Award, among others.

After graduation, he headed west to join Kansas City Ballet. He spent the 2010–11 season learning the ropes, and creating the lead in Tom Sawyer. The new full-length was slated to open the company’s new venue, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, in October 2011. But for Peters, another event would come first.

He returned home to Pennsylvania for a break and took some company classes at PAB. Kaiser offered him an apprentice contract on the spot and Peters jumped at it. He had long loved PAB’s Balanchine-heavy rep and been a fan of the company since childhood. But there was a lot riding on Peters back in Kansas City. With Kaiser’s blessing, he returned to dance Tom Sawyer—and danced it brilliantly. As Alastair Macaulay wrote in The New York Times: “Tom, marvelously danced by the young redhead Alexander Peters, is life-enhancing.”

Ready for the next chapter in his career, he joined PAB in time for The Nutcracker. He hit the ground working, impressing as much with his quiet determination as his natural ability. When he was cast in the title role of Trey McIntyre’s Peter Pan, he was still an apprentice—for a day, anyway. Kaiser watched his first rehearsal and gave him a corps contract. And the role, which included being strapped into a harness and executing moves in midair, was another soaring success.

Peters has achieved these heights without, well, notable height. “Technically, I’m 5' 6",” he says. “At first I felt like my height prohibited me from doing things, but it has actually enhanced my career. It’s made me more of an individual.” He adds, “Being short doesn’t have to limit you. If anything, it makes me want to dance bigger.”

One potential difficulty: partnering. Soloist Evelyn Kocak danced opposite him in Peter Pan last spring. “We are roughly the same height, so that posed some interesting challenges for us,” she says. “But he is one of the most focused, hardworking people I’ve ever danced with. He brought a lot out in me. It was very inspiring!”

Kaiser sizes Peters up this way: “He’s unique, in size and physical appearance. He has that bright red hair. There’s no doubt who that is when he comes out on stage.” In Peters’ case, he says, that’s a good thing. “He’s tremendously likable. When people see him, they want to follow him, to go down that path with him.”

So where will that path lead next? “For Alex,” says Kaiser, “it’s wide open.”

At a Glance

Alexander Peters

Age: 22

Training: Allegheny Ballet Company, School of American Ballet

Dream role: Male lead in Balanchine’s “Rubies”

Favorite performance: The Gigue from Balanchine’s Mozartiana

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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.

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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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