As told to Laura Cappelle, Margaret Fuhrer and Nancy Wozny

Every young ballet student has a dream role, a part she feels she’s made to dance. But a seasoned star has many dream roles over the course of her career. They trace a trajectory—the evolution of the way the dancer defines herself, and the “ballet ideal,” as she matures into an artist. We asked some top ballet dancers about their dream roles and how those have changed.


Carla Körbes
Principal, Pacific Northwest Ballet
I saw Swan Lake in Brazil when I was 11, and dancing Odette/Odile became my dream. When I finally got the opportunity in 2007, it was even more than I expected. It’s hugely challenging to be a human/bird; there are so many nuances. As a sensitive person, I connect to the fragility of Odette, to her human suffering and her disappointment. But there is a side of me that is playful and vibrant like Odile, too. Her flirtatiousness feels connected to Brazil’s dance culture, which is all based on flirting.

During my time at New York City Ballet, Jerome Robbins’ Afternoon of a Faun became another dream role. But when I actually performed it, I felt uncomfortable. It was intimate, but not in the way I thought it would be. The stage seemed so naked and exposed. The music felt too slow—there were awkward moments. But I still love watching it. I would like to explore it a little more.

Juliet is another part I dreamed of, and I love the Jean-Christophe Maillot version of Roméo et Juliette that we do here at PNB. But it’s emotionally exhausting. When you’re doing Swan Lake, even though it’s sad, you’re not asked to be as impulsive onstage. In Maillot’s Roméo there is just so much pain.


Lucia Lacarra

Principal, Bayerisches Staatsballett
I can’t say I’ve had many dream roles. Growing up in Spain, I didn’t have access to performances—we didn’t even have a ballet school in my town. I started full-time training very late, and my only goal was to be onstage. I joined Víctor Ullate’s company at 15, and while I created solo parts in his neoclassical works, I didn’t know much about what ballet was like elsewhere.

Once I got to know the classical repertoire, I figured I should try everything to decide what I liked, so at 22, I joined San Francisco Ballet. I performed all the classics, and the reality couldn’t be a letdown, because I’d never dreamed about them. I just tried to do them as correctly as possible. I loved Swan Lake, because you have a character—you’re a magical creature.

I moved to Munich because I yearned to do more dramatic ballets, like Lady of the Camellias, Onegin and John Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet. The first time I saw Cranko’s Romeo, I was in tears. I wanted to be out there, dying. When I discovered Lady of the Camellias, it felt like everything had gone still. Dancing those ballets, they’ve lived up to my dreams and gone far beyond them. Each performance is an intense experience. As I get older, I try to keep them as truthful for me as possible.


Ekaterina Kondaurova

Principal, Mariinsky Ballet
As a student, I saw nearly every performance at the Mariinsky Theatre—and each time I’d want to perform that ballet! I still want to do everything.

When I joined the Mariinsky, I was happy to dance anything I could get. But the role I dreamed of, above all, was Nikiya in La Bayadère. Here in Russia, everybody wants to dance Odette/Odile, but for me, ballet isn’t just Swan Lake. I’d done the Kingdom of the Shades before, but I only made my debut in the full Bayadère in 2010. I never tire of it: There are so many things I can still work on.

Today I think a ballerina should be able to do everything. There are still some roles in the repertoire that I’d like to try, like Kitri in Don Quixote. I would also love to dance Wayne McGregor’s Chroma some day, and to work with John Neumeier or Mats Ek.


Robert Fairchild

Principal, New York City Ballet
When I was younger, I was less role-oriented and more dancer-oriented. I did a lot of jazz and tap, and I remember seeing Gene Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain and thinking he was fantastic. Actually, to this day I’ve tried, when I do side gigs, to see if there’s anything we can re-create from his movies. I haven’t yet, because it’s pretty hard to justify paying Warner Bros. for the rights to a short dance. But wouldn’t that be amazing?

Once I got to New York, the end all, be all was Apollo. What I like to do as a dancer is to have a conversation with the audience, and Apollo offers these still, quiet moments when you can connect with the people watching you. You create an atmosphere. And that moment when the curtain comes up, and the strings are going crazy—that’s the coolest thing in the world.

The most fun I’ve had onstage recently is in ballets I didn’t expect to come my way. Like Opus 19/The Dreamer—it’s epic for the guy. I'm at this incredible point in my career where I've been able to dance some of my dream roles. So it’s the ballets that catch me by surprise that end up being the highlights.*

*Updated on August 27, 2013

































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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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Photo by Theo Kossenas, Courtesy The Washington Ballet

You made a deal with your mom to take ballet classes in exchange for a ride to tryouts for the football team. How did that work?
I thought that I would take ballet for a couple months, become a master and then leave that alone and concentrate on football. Ballet had other ideas, which perplexed me, and ultimately, I think, made me fall in love with it.

How is The Washington Ballet evolving under Julie Kent's leadership?
It's still early, but I think that the company is growing stronger classically. And we have Julie, Victor Barbee, Xiomara Reyes and Rinat Imaev—a great team of people who are giving their input and expertise, which is quite helpful.

Mack in 'Swan Lake.' Photo by Theo Kossenas

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Summer Study Advice
Summer intensive students at the School of American Ballet. Photo by Rosalie O'Conner, Courtesy SAB.

As a young student, Shea McAdoo's classes at the Master Ballet Academy in Scottsdale, Arizona, were “strict, straightforward, very classical and purely Vaganova." She appreciated the Russian rigor and precision, but when she was accepted to the School of American Ballet's summer course at 13, she leapt at the chance to learn something new. The vastly different emphasis on Balanchine technique at SAB was illuminating: “It changed my whole way of thinking about musicality and accents. I'd never known there were so many ways to do a tendu! And the épaulement—I loved how they talked about light hitting your face, tilting your chin to show off your diamond earring."

McAdoo's experience was transformative, even when she returned home. “Of course, I lowered my arms back down in second and didn't cross my wrists," she says, “but there were stylistic choices I brought back with me." Today, as an apprentice with Oregon Ballet Theatre rehearsing Balanchine's Serenade, she credits her ease with the ballet's fluid port de bras to her summer at SAB.

Learning about ballet's various styles and techniques is an important part of a dancer's development. With summer intensive auditions approaching, it's a perfect time to consider broadening your training. While it can be initially confusing, immersing yourself in a style outside your comfort zone can be eye-opening and influential for your future training and career. And the benefits of diversifying your training can last beyond a single summer.


Shea McAdoo in OBT's production of "Paquita." Photo by James McGrew.

Let Curiosity Be Your Guide

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Summer Study Advice
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As summer intensive audition season starts up, I've been reminiscing about my own experience as a young dancer—way back in 1993—and how challenging it was to navigate. In fact, I think it's safe to say that my first summer program audition was a complete disaster.

I was almost 16—a little late by some standards—and was still pretty clueless as to how I compared to others outside my hometown. That weighed heavily on my mind as my parents and I made the hour-long drive to Milwaukee. The audition was for a school in Pennsylvania, and as I scanned the big-city studio, my mind slipped into exaggerated teenage self-consciousness. Dancers lined the barres stretching, showing off their flexibility as if doing some sort of war ritual. Many were chatting in groups, wearing trendy warm-up jumpers and donning perfectly shellacked buns. I tried to act like I knew what I was doing, but inside I was a wreck.

The teacher clapped his hands together to begin class. He was fast-paced, no-nonsense and not one for smiles. During pliés, he stopped in front of me with his clipboard as I emerged from a cambré back. He looked me up and down, frowned and kept going. I, of course, freaked out—what did that mean? I still had an entire hour and a half left of class to prove I was still capable, but instead I completely lost my concentration. I just couldn't shake that frown. I forgot combinations and even started with the wrong foot in front a few times in center. By jumps, the adjudicators had stopped watching me altogether. Needless to say, I spent the majority of the ride home trying not to cry.

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via YouTube

It's finally the weekend, and we're celebrating the best way we know how—a new ballet video. Juliet Doherty (who trained with San Francisco Ballet and Master Ballet Academy, and is set to star in the dance film, On Pointe), teamed up with Cartoon Network for her latest project.

"Cartoon Network contacted me about their show, Steven Universe, which was coming out with a new vinyl album of the soundtrack of the show," Doherty shared with Pointe. "They told me about one of the show's main characters named, Pearl, who is a strong-willed character but has the grace inspired by a ballerina."

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Videos
Mr. Jeremy FIsher, from Sir Frederick Ashton's "The Tales of Beatrix Potter."

Animal roles might not typically be what dancers dream of performing…but they're oh-so-fun to watch. You can't help falling under their spell (and perhaps aspiring to dance one someday). Here's a round-up of some of our favorite furry and feathered roles.

Bunny Hop

Run. Dance in a circle. Pretend to be a rabbit. It might sound like a creative movement combo, but don't let that fool you. The role of Peter Rabbit in Sir Frederick Ashton's The Tales of Beatrix Potter requires fierce technique—not to mention the ability to project personality while wearing an animal head and fur suit.


Four-Legged Interlude

Who do you turn to for halftime entertainment during a quartet of fairy variations? Dancing lizards, mice and a frog of course! This charming quintet of creatures light up the stage in David Bintley's Cinderella.

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