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I’m almost 15, and am just about to start taking pointe classes. I’m worried that after high school, companies won’t accept me because I won’t have been dancing on pointe long enough. Is it too late? I’m starting to think I should just give up. —Kara
Breaking into the professional ballet world is difficult for someone who has trained her whole life, let alone a late starter. That’s not to say it hasn’t been done. American Ballet Theatre’s Misty Copeland and The Joffrey Ballet’s Valerie Robin both started dancing as teenagers. But to be successful, you need a large dose of raw talent, advantageous physical attributes (such as natural turnout and flexibility), excellent training and, above all, an insatiable determination to catch up with your peers.

Since you haven’t started pointe yet, you still have a ways to go—and with a ballet career, time is of the essence. Talk to your teachers about your ambitions and ask for their honest opinion of your professional potential. See if one of them would be willing to mentor you with private instruction to help speed things along. Also, consider taking another year after graduation to focus intensely on your training before auditioning for companies, colleges or conservatories—they’ll expect you to have an advanced level of pointework.


I’ve gone to the same summer intensive for the past three years, and they seem to like me. This summer I’m hoping to join the second company. How can I increase my chances? Should I talk to one of my teachers? —Justina

Absolutely! I had a similar experience. I attended Milwaukee Ballet’s summer program three times, and during my last year I had an opportunity to speak with the school director. He asked if I was interested in their trainee program, and when I said yes, he told me that the summer would serve as an audition process. I worked my tail off to make a good impression, and during the last week of the intensive they offered me a spot.

Approach the faculty early in the program to let them know you’d like to be considered for the second company. Then, after telling them you’re interested, show you’re interested through your behavior in and out of classes. Stand where the teachers can see you and give them your undivided attention. Absorb any stylistic details they stress to prove that you’d fit in with their company. They’ll be looking for team players, so show respect for your fellow classmates and project a positive attitude. In addition, follow all dormitory rules and avoid any foolish behavior (like excessive partying or underage drinking) that might tarnish your reputation. Since they already know you, you have an advantage. Make the most of it!


I have a serious problem with musicality. When I’m dancing, I get so caught up in making everything technically correct that I end up behind the beat. Help! —Ayako
It’s great that you’re a stickler for technique, but you’re missing out on the fun part—dancing to music! And you’re not doing yourself any favors by slowing down to perfect a position. Not only are you weakening the artistic integrity of your performance, but you’re training yourself to fear failure rather than take risks.

Listen closely to music in your spare time to learn to connect with all of its different facets: upbeats, downbeats, syncopations, specific instruments. Try taking a tap class or piano lessons to help improve your rhythm. And when you’re dancing, don’t analyze every step so much. Listening to the musical rhythm can actually help your technique if you let it. For example, my turns improved dramatically when I started spotting with the rhythm instead of fretting over my form. Even when the turn doesn’t work out, I’m musically in the right place to keep going.

You’d be surprised—when you make musicality a top priority, you have no choice but to trust your training and just go for that double pirouette or entrechat six. Sure, you may not always look perfect…but you’ll be much more interesting to watch.

















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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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