Maria Kowroski
Principal, New York City Ballet

I had to learn to stay focused on myself, and not let other people’s successes and opportunities interfere with my own life. Being too focused on other people can give your career a negative twist. Everyone has his or her own path. I really struggled with perfectionism, too. If I made mistakes back then, I would get angry. That doesn’t do you any good. Now I know if I make some mistakes, but the feeling was there, it can still be a good performance. Once I let perfectionism go, I danced much better and enjoyed performing more.

Ballet can be too all-consuming. Expose yourself to a wide sector of the arts. I wish I had done more of that as a young dancer. Go to opera, musicals, plays, other art forms besides ballet—that can really enhance your artistry. You might even see someone performing at a high level make a mistake. It’s important to realize we are all human, and mistakes are part of that. This is a live art form and anything can happen. It’s okay to mess up. Don’t beat yourself up over it. We will always have time to practice and work on ourselves.

 

Ashley Murphy
Dance Theatre of Harlem

I spent too much time looking in the mirror and judging myself, which comes from insecurity. I had this idea of what I was supposed to look like. Now I understand that everyone’s body works differently, and that movement often feels better than it looks. Part of being in a company is about playing off our strengths and weaknesses.

I could have benefited from knowing more about cross-training, too. I had to wait to get injured to figure that out. Now I alternate between swimming, the treadmill and the elliptical, along with lots of core work, and I feel so much stronger. In the early part of my career, I also let others push me too hard. Our bodies tell us when they need to rest and we had better listen.

As for those heading out on a career: Learn to strive, but within reason. Be true to yourself, and encourage others. Don’t bother with the petty stuff—it isn’t worth it. Your company is like a family; these are the people you depend on. Don’t lose the connection with those around you. 

 

Amy Aldridge
Principal, Pennsylvania Ballet

First, you need to be 100 percent behind the decision to go for a career, and not contemplate whether it’s something you should be doing. You need total confidence.

That said, I wish I had known how to pace myself better. Sometimes less is more, especially when approaching rehearsal. I was working too hard, and it wasn’t necessary—I punched everything with such high energy that by the end of the day I was exhausted. Using less energy actually made the movement more appealing. Throughout my career, I have had to learn to dance with a little less, a little softer, a little under. I had to work hard to find balance both inside and outside of the studio: diet and nutrition, my energy, my emotions. I tried to build myself too quickly. You don’t have to throw yourself into everything.

Also, you should be totally prepared when doing a new ballet or meeting a new choreographer. Do your homework. I research their work, study their ideas, look at what they have done before and who danced in the original work. I want to know where their head is at.

 

Simon Ball
Principal, Houston Ballet

I was way too impatient as a dancer. I wanted to jump higher, do more turns and so on. I should have been more patient so that I could develop my placement. When I broke my ankle nine years ago, I realized I had been doing things incorrectly for a long time. I had to go back and correct many of the inadequacies in my technique. I have much better hip placement now.

I also needed to learn to be respectful of older dancers. You have to modulate respect and ambition. I got caught up in “back of the room” chatter, be it talking about other dancers or jealousy. That can be toxic. Luckily, I snapped right out of it when I realized it was a waste of time.

Dancers need to be on simmer all the time, be on the ready. Run things through your head. A big break might happen if someone is injured, so you need to be totally prepared. There’s no such thing as being too prepared—you are always on the brink of being recognized.

 

Natalia Magnicaballi
Ballet Arizona; principal, The Suzanne Farrell Ballet

If I have to think of something that surprised me the most, I could say the “politics” inside companies when I came to America to audition. I entered company life when I was 15 years old in Argentina and went through the ranks very quickly. I think I was very naïve, thinking that being a great dancer was enough. I didn’t understand that there were other factors, like a company’s budget, who you know, height requirements, egos—things beyond your control—that can get in the way. I think it’s like that in any other profession, but when you start so young, it’s kind of surprising and hard to understand at first. Knowing that now, I wish I had not been so hard on myself. Some things are not meant to be.

I always followed my instincts. As a young dancer you have to ask yourself what kind of ballets you’d like to dance. And figure out what is more important for you: to go through the ranks in a big company or be part of a medium-size company that doesn’t have ranks but gives you more opportunities to dance.

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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.

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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 also offers sensory-friendly versions of Jorden Morris' Peter Pan and Lew Christensen's Beauty and the Beast throughout the year.

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!


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.

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