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. 

 

But my parents and teachers encouraged me not to give up, to pour my emotion into my dancing. Eventually, my self-pity transformed into a focused rage, and I began to approach ballet with new seriousness. Even though it wasn’t SAB, that summer I had gotten into Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School’s intensive and decided to go. There I found teachers who believed in my potential and wanted to work with me. I began to realize that I wasn’t as strong as many of my peers who had come from more rigorous programs. I studied the girls in the advanced level every chance I got and tried to mimic their movements, their grace. I took classes like Pilates and yoga for the first time, gaining strength in my core. At the end of the day I would collapse onto my hard twin bed exhausted and inspired. 

 

I attended the PBTS program the following summer as well, and was asked to stay for the year-round program during my freshman year of high school. Initially, I struggled to keep up with my classmates, again reminded that I was still much weaker technically. But I was determined to catch up. I took extra classes in lower levels the entire year to speed up my improvement. My focus shifted from an obsession with taking class at SAB’s Lincoln Center studios to the greater goal of being my absolute best.

 

And it paid off. The next summer I got into SAB’s summer intensive and was even placed in a high level. I wish I could say that this was the end, that every moment after yielded success and opportunity because I had weathered that early disappointment so well. But unfortunately, dealing with rejection may as well be part of a professional ballet dancer’s job description, no matter how good you are. You get into the great school, but not the level you want. You’re cast as an understudy for the part you know you deserve. You don’t get a job with the company you want, or worse, you lose your job with the company you love. The most important lesson to be learned from any one rejection is how to better deal with the next one. 

 

Auditioning for summer programs will always be particularly hard. It’s often a dancer’s first barometer of where she stands in the highly competitive world of ballet, and no one wants to hear that they aren’t quite there yet. Rejection can be the truest test of a young dancer’s potential, not because you weren’t accepted, but because it is a demonstration of your ability to rally back in pursuit of your dream. Instead of allowing the disappointment to take the wind out of your sails, remember that there are things to be learned by not getting the thick, glossy packet every time you try. Believe in yourself enough to see the turndown for what it really is: the opportunity to prove them wrong.

 

 

Advice From Auditioners

 

Don’t Overthink It
Dancers often put far too much weight on external factors when auditioning. They think, “If I audition too early or late in a particular school’s tour, I’ll be less likely to get in,” or “If I go to one city to audition, I’ll have better odds than at another.” Denise Bolstad, administrative director for Pacific Northwest Ballet School, says that these preoccupations are a waste of time. “We don’t have a quota of students that we’re looking for,” she says. “We take whomever we feel will benefit from the program. We try to be objective and fair, whether it’s the first audition or the last.”
  
It’s All In The Eye Of The Beholder
Where you want to be may not be the same as where you should be. Ethan Stiefel, dean of the dance program at University of North Carolina School of the Arts, urges disappointed applicants to remember that dance is a subjective art. “Potential in one person’s eye is not the same as in another’s,” he says.

They Want You To Succeed
Ultimately, the director of any program is looking for students who will flourish within their particular summer course. No one wants to put a student into
a situation where they will become frustrated and discouraged. According to Sharon Story, director of The Centre for Dance Education at Atlanta Ballet, this is considered in level placement as well. “We’re pretty conservative on our first placement because it’s easier to move students up than down,” she says. “We try to place them where they’ll succeed.” 

A Lot Can Change In A Year
A young dancer’s facility, strength and technique are everchanging. Bolstad points out that for dancers as old as 14, a rejection is often just an issue of physical strength. “Because we’re dealing with young adults, a great deal can change over the course of just six months,” says Stiefel. “I would encourage a student who’s been rejected to work hard and re-audition the following year, because they may have made huge leaps and bounds.”










 

 

Kathleen McGuire is a frequent Pointe contributor.

Your Best Body
Pilates hundred intermediate set-up, modeled by Jordan Miller. Photo by Emily Giacalone.

The Pilates hundred is a popular exercise used by many dancers for conditioning and warming up, but it's also one of the most misunderstood. Pumping your arms for 100 counts sounds simple enough, but it requires coordinated breathwork, a leg position that suits your abilities and proper alignment. Marimba Gold-Watts, who works with New York City Ballet dancers at her Pilates studio, Articulating Body, breaks down this surprisingly hard exercise. When done correctly, the benefits are threefold: "If you're doing it before class," she says, "the hundred is a great way to get your blood flowing and work on breath control and abdominal support all at once."

To Start

Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor. Nod your chin toward the front of your throat, and reach your fingertips long.

Keep reading... Show less
Pointe Stars

At just 16 years old, the Bolshoi Ballet's Maria Alexandrova already had the makings of a great artist. In this variation from Coppélia, she portrays the carefree Swanilda with blithe, youthful ease.

When she bounds on stage in her perky pink tutu, you immediately notice her legs–they just go on forever. In the first sequence of steps she keeps her jetés and développés low, but then the phrase repeats and she lets her gorgeous extensions fly. She sails through Italian fouettés and whirls around in piqués en manège that get faster and faster. While she nails all the virtuosic movement, Alexandrova also pays beautiful attention to detail throughout the variation. Even the simplest steps become something exciting, like her precise pas de bourrées beginning at 1:03 that sing with musicality.

Swanilda has been one of Alexandrova's signature roles throughout her career. For a fun side by side, watch her perform the same variation almost 20 years later in this video. Although Alexandrova formally retired from the Bolshoi in February, she still performs frequently in Moscow and internationally as a guest artist. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!


Pointe Stars
Ingrid Silva and her dog, Frida Kahlo. Photo by Nathan Sayers for Pointe.

You're probably already following your favorite dancers on Instagram, but did you know that you can follow many of their dogs, too? We rounded up some of our favorite dog-centered accounts and hashtags to keep you pawsitively entertained (sorry, we can't help ourselves).

Cora and Maya (American Ballet Theatre's Sarah Lane and Luis Ribagorda)

Sarah Lane and Luis Ribagorda's pups Cora and Maya update their profile pretty frequently. Often accompanying Lane to the ABT studios, they can also be seen using tutus or piles of pink tights as dog beds.

Keep reading... Show less
Pointe Stars
Vladislav Lantritov and Ekaterina Krysanova in "Taming of the Shrew." Photo by Alice Blangero, Courtesy Bolshoi Ballet.

If you haven't checked your local movie listings yet for this weekend, hop to it. The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema series and Fathom Events is broadcasting a performance of Jean-Christophe Maillot's The Taming of the Shrew to theaters nationwide on Sunday, November 19. (To see if it's playing near you and to purchase tickets, click here.) While the rest of the Bolshoi's cinema season features 19th- and 20th-century classics, The Taming of the Shrew gives audiences a chance to see the revered Moscow company in a thoroughly modern, 21st-century take on Shakespeare's famous play.

Aside from a limited run in New York City this July, American audiences have had little exposure to Maillot's 2014 production. To learn more, check out these two exclusive, behind-the-scenes webisodes below. Principal dancer Ekaterina Krysanova, who stars as the hotheaded Katharina, gives an intimate play-by-play of two major scenes in Act I. The first is her fiery rejection of three potential suitors (who all would prefer to marry Katharina's younger sister Bianca).

The second scene breaks down Katharina's first encounter with Petruchio (danced by the larger-than-life Vladislav Lantritov), the only man who seems to be able to challenge her. Here, too, we see the shrew's heart start to soften. (Don't miss her time-stopping attitude turn at 4:27.)

The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Series continues through June; for more details on upcoming screenings, click here.

popular
Smuin Ballet dancers Erica Felsch, Rex Wheeler, Mengjun Chen and Tessa Barbour in "White Christmas," choreographed by dancers Ben Needham-Wood and Michael Smuin. Photo by Keith Sutter, Courtesy Smuin Ballet.

Nutcracker-ed out? Or just can't get enough holiday ballets? These unique Nutcracker interpretations and non-Nutcracker productions will make your season bright.


The Hip Hop Nutcracker

Through December 30

Tchaikovsky's masterful Nutcracker score isn't just for classical ballet…

Hip Hop + a live DJ + an electric violinist unite in The Hip Hop Nutcracker, currently touring the U.S.

Familiar characters such Drosselmeyer, the Nutcracker, Mouse King and Marie (here called Maria-Clara) dance through an updated New York City storyline with choreography by Jennifer Weber, artistic director of the Brooklyn-based theatrical hip hop company Decadancetheatre.

Premiered in 2014, The Hip Hop Nutcracker is produced by New Jersey Performing Arts Center.

Keep reading... Show less
Pointe Stars
Jurgita Dronina as Kitri in "Don Quixote." Photo by Angela Sterling, Courtesy National Ballet of Canada.

When Jurgita Dronina first danced Kitri for a guest performance of Don Quixote with Teatro Filarmonico-Fondazione Arena Di Verona, she was in essence cast against type. "Before Kitri, I was dancing only lyrical or dramatic roles, so I had to start from scratch in finding my own signature in the steps and my own interpretation of the character," says Dronina, who was dancing with Royal Swedish Ballet at the time.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get Pointe Magazine in your inbox

Sponsored

Win It!