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My teacher told me that my dancing looks academic and stiff, and it’s hard for her to see my love for ballet. How do I dance with feeling, so I’m not just doing the steps correctly? —Ramona
Dancing “correctly” has its benefits, but can look robotic or dry without personality. However, showing emotion doesn’t always come easily. There could be several reasons why your love of dance doesn’t quite come across—perhaps you’re naturally shy, worried about making mistakes or tend to overzealously analyze your technique. You’ll need to practice reaching outside your comfort zone in order to change—which takes a certain amount of courage, but will make a world of difference.

Listen to the emotional qualities of the music, and allow your body to breathe with it to create fuller movements. Take note of where you hold tension (for instance, in your arms, hands, neck, even your jaw) and try to relax those areas. Push beyond your usual boundaries: Travel further through space, make fuller use of your épaulement and reach more with your limbs. Also, observe what you’re doing with your face—a blank expression or downcast eyes can read as either boredom or a lack of confidence. Practice smiling in class—you don’t have to look like a total cheeseball, but a light smile and alert eyes can help awaken your whole body and let the world know that you love what you’re doing.


Is it possible to lay the educational groundwork for a future career outside of ballet while dancing professionally? —Nicole

Yes! Many dancers go to school part-time to accommodate their rehearsal schedules. But it’s not easy—you need to devote time for studying on days you’re not in class, which takes some serious organizational skills. I’ve been slowly working towards a BA in English and world literatures at Marymount Manhattan College. I take courses one or two nights a week, or during the summer when my schedule is lighter. If I know I’ll be touring extensively, I register for an independent study. I’m also applying for life experience credits through MMC’s dance program to use towards some electives—an option many colleges offer.

Much of your spare time will be devoted to homework, which can get pretty stressful. If my dance schedule looks insane, I take the semester off so I don’t lose focus. That’s why open communication with your professors is key. Sometimes exams or term papers coincide with crazy performance weeks—especially during Nutcracker season. Anticipate conflicts early in the semester, and talk to your professors to see what your options are; you may be able to reschedule tests or shift a deadline around. In my experience, they’re usually willing to work with you—especially if you prove to be a conscientious student.


As a dancer I have been told many different things about how many calories I should be eating daily. I am 5' 7", 130 pounds and 17 years old. What is a healthy range for someone like me who dances every day? —Priscilla

First off, remember that being healthy isn’t just about the number of calories you’re taking in. As a growing dancer, your diet needs a balance of nutrients (especially calcium to build strong bones), so what you’re eating should take precedence over counting calories. According to Emily C. Harrison, dietitian at the Centre for Dance Nutrition at Atlanta Ballet, there is no “one size fits all” approach for determining a healthy caloric intake—many variables can affect an individual’s appropriate weight range, such as how often you exercise. “Calorie intake directly relates to energy expenditure,” she says. That means that dancers typically need to eat more calories than the average person to compensate for their exercise load. For a 17-year-old dancer who’s 5' 7", 130 pounds and dancing a lot, Harrison recommends between 2,300 and 2,500 calories a day. For a more specific number that reflects your particular needs, see your physician or dietitian.

Harrison warns against obsessive calorie-counting. “There’s a risk you can get too caught up in it,” she says. “Being aware of where your calories come from is a better strategy.” Pay attention to portion sizes and ingredients. “Be a smart label reader. Look at the nutrition facts and serving sizes.” And listen to your body—hunger, fatigue, shaky muscles and dizziness are indicators that you’re not eating enough.














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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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Summer Study Advice
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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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