There are few things more thrilling than seeing your name on the cast list for a new ballet. But that excitement is often paired with anxiety. What will the choreographer expect of you? What can you do to facilitate the creative process? Here’s how to make the most of one of a dancer’s most valuable opportunities.

First, remember it’s a process.
Most ballets are choreographed very quickly, sometimes in as little as a week, and rehearsals can be chaotic. You’ll be absorbing a lot of information in a short amount of time. It’s your responsibility to retain that information—watching video of rehearsals can be helpful, as can getting your own copy of the rehearsal music and familiarizing yourself with its nuances—but mistakes will happen, especially if you’re asked on day three to scrap what you learned on day two and replace it with a previously discarded phrase from day one.

Don’t be hard on yourself. And remember that errors aren’t always a bad thing. Sometimes they even end up becoming part of the ballet. “You might accidentally do a step a little differently than the choreographer,” says San Francisco Ballet corps member Lonnie Weeks, “but he might say, ‘Oh, yeah, actually I like that better.’ ”

Be ready to give input, if you’re asked to.
Some choreographers walk into their first rehearsal with the entire ballet planned. But for others, making work is a collaborative process. You might be asked to help generate steps, phrases or even large sections of movement.
Knowing what kind of input to offer, and when, is a skill honed over time. You can speed up the process by sitting in on rehearsals for new works if you’re not cast. “I think any choreographer would be open to having dancers watch rehearsal,” says Pacific Northwest Ballet artistic director Peter Boal. Observing the way seasoned dancers interact with a choreographer will help you figure out how to “play around” in a way that’s constructive and appropriate.

Be confident.
Don’t waste rehearsal time wondering whether or not you belong in the room. “You just have to remind yourself that the choreographer picked you for a reason,” says New York City Ballet corps member Emilie Gerrity. He or she might even be looking for a quality that only you have.

Gerrity has been in three world premieres at NYCB; Justin Peck featured her in his recent In Creases. “He taught me to just go at it, and not worry so much about, ‘Am I doing this right? Does it look okay?’ ” Dropping that anxiety makes things easier for both you and the choreographer. “You become happier and freer,” says Gerrity. “It helps you discover new things about yourself and your dancing.”

Be patient—and persistent.
You’ll probably have to endure some tedium while the choreographer takes time to think. You’ll definitely have to endure run-through after stamina-testing run-through. Don’t let your frustration get in the choreographer’s way. “Making new work is stressful on the person at the head of the room,” says PNB corps member William Lin-Yee, who was cast in three premieres last November. Being patient, open and sensitive will help rehearsals run as smoothly as possible. 

Sometimes criticism from a choreographer trying to shape a new ballet can sound harsh, but don’t overreact. Mark Morris, who made a premiere for PNB last year, is famously exacting, but “when he had corrections for us, we ultimately knew he wasn’t just saying empty phrases—there was a purpose to the critique,” says PNB corps member Chelsea Adomaitis. “It wasn’t a personal attack.”

Even if things go really wrong, don’t give up. Consider the courage of a young corps member who was dropped from PNB’s Morris premiere because he thought she was a bit too green after all. “She showed up to rehearsal the next day anyway,” says Boal, “and in the end she performed the piece. Mark was very pleased with her.”

Video still by Nel Shelby Productions, Courtesy Dancio.

"What if you could learn from the world's best dance teachers in your living room?" This is the question that Dancio poses on their website. Dancio is a new startup that offers full length videos of ballet classes taught by master teachers. As founder Caitlin Trainor puts it, "these superstar teachers can be available to students everywhere for the cost of a cup of coffee."

For Trainor, a choreographer and the artistic director of Trainor Dance, the idea for Dancio came from a sense of frustration relatable to many dancers; feeling like they need to warm up properly before rehearsals, but not always having the time, energy or funds to get to dance class. One day while searching the internet for a quick online class, Trainor was shocked to not be able to find anything that, as she puts it, "hit the mark in terms of relevance and quality. I thought to myself, how does this not exist?" she says. "We have the Daily Burn for Fitness, YogaGlo for yogis, Netflix for entertainment and nothing for dancers! But then I thought, I can make this!" And thus, Dancio (the name is a combination of dance and video), was born.

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New York City Ballet in "George Balanchine's The Nutcracker." Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy Lincoln Center.

Nutcracker season is upon us, with productions popping up in on stages in big cities and small towns around the country. But this year you can catch New York City Ballet's famous version on the silver screen, too. Lincoln Center at the Movies and Screen Vision Media are presenting a limited engagement of NYCB's George Balanchine's The Nutcracker at select cinemas nationwide starting December 2. It stars Ashley Bouder as Dewdrop and Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz as the Sugarplum Fairy and Cavalier.

While nothing beats seeing a live performance (the company's theatrical Nutcracker run opens Friday), the big screen will no doubt magnify some of this production's most breathtaking effects: the Christmas tree that grows to an impressive 40 feet, Marie's magical spinning bed, and the stunning, swirling snow scene. Click here to find a participating movie theater near you—then, go grab some popcorn.

Artists of Pennsylvania Ballet rehearsing for "The Sleeping Beauty" for the 2017/18 season. Photo by Arian Molina Soca, Courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet.

Today the Pennsylvania Ballet's board of trustees announced the appointment of Shelly Power as its new executive director. Having been involved in the five-month international search, company artistic director Angel Corella said in a statement released by PAB that he's "certain Shelly is the best candidate to lead the administrative team that supports the artistic vision of the company." Power's official transition will begin in February. This news comes at the end of a few years of turmoil and turnover at PAB, including the departure of former executive director David Gray in June.

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Pointe Stars
Tiler Peck with Andrew Veyette in "Allegro Brillante." Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy New York City Ballet.

"I was particularly excited when I saw my name on casting for Allegro Brillante in 2009," remembers principal dancer Tiler Peck. "Balanchine had said Allegro was, 'everything I know about classical ballet in 13 minutes,' and of course that terrified me." To calm her fear, Peck followed her regular process for debuts: begin by going back to the original performers to get an idea of the quality and feeling of the ballet and ballerina. "It is never to imitate, but rather to surround myself with as much knowledge from the past as I can so that I can find my own way," says Peck.

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Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's 'The Nutcracker.' Photo by Rich Sofranko

Catching a performance of The Nutcracker has long been a holiday tradition for many families. And now, more and more companies are adding sensory-friendly elements to specific shows in an effort to make the classic ballet inclusive to children and adults with special needs.

While the accommodations vary depending on the company, many are presenting shorter versions of the ballet with more relaxed theater rules. Additionally, lower sound and stage light levels during the performance, as well as trained staff on hand, make The Nutcracker more accessible for those on the autism spectrum and others with special needs.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's performance will take place on Tuesday, December 26th, and they are one of the pioneer companies in presenting sensory-friendly performances of The Nutcracker (their first production was in 2013). PBT has also offered sensory-friendly versions of Jorden Morris' Peter Pan and Lew Christensen's Beauty and the Beast in the past.

See our list of sensory-friendly performances, and check out each site for all of the details regarding their offerings.

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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.

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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!





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