Jacquelyn Long, Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

With her long, slender arms and legs, Houston Ballet’s Jacquelyn Long has a gazelle-like quality—lyrical yet ready to charge through space with aggressive confidence. That may be why she looked so at home this past season in Balanchine’s impossibly paced Ballet Imperial. “I’m Herbie, Fully Loaded,” quips the 20-year-old corps member. “I like to go fast.”

Long has dance in her DNA. Her mother, Suzanne Long, danced with Cleveland San Jose Ballet for 11 years and currently co-directs Ballet Virginia International, a school in Norfolk, Virginia, where Long trained until she was 16. Having your mother run your ballet school isn’t easy, yet Long did her best to gather skills without hogging the limelight. The mother-daughter team had to find a working method when it came to corrections. “It took some maturity for me to realize that in the studio she was my teacher, and out of it, she was my mom,” says Long. “It was a tough slope.”

She got to know Houston Ballet during three summer intensives at the company’s Ben Stevenson Academy. “Once I got there and saw the Houston Ballet II dancers in the program,” Long says. “I knew that was what I wanted to be.”

By 16, Long was wrapping up high school and heading to Houston to join the second company with her mother’s blessing. After two years, she had a corps contract, skipping the apprentice stage. HBII’s ballet master Claudio Muñoz wasn’t surprised by the contract offer. “Jacquelyn knows how to make every step her own: She can speak both the poetry of ballet and the prose of contemporary with equal precision, clarity and, above all, intelligence,” says Muñoz. “She was able to go directly from HBII to the corps because of her maturity and the quality of her dancing.” Long’s sprightly presence and charm made her a good fit for a repertoire that ranges from Trey McIntyre’s whimsical Peter Pan to Houston Ballet artistic director Stanton Welch’s hyper-physical choreographic style.

Despite some hurdles, Long found herself ready for the challenge of company life. “My first response when I got my contract was pure joy. My second was, ‘Oh no, I have to dance ‘The Kingdom of the Shades’ in La Bayadère. Adagio is not my strong suit,” she says. “ ‘Shades’ scared me so much, because the closest thing I’d done to adagio onstage at that point had been pas de deux work. It’s where I have the least amount of confidence.”

Conquering her fear of slow, controlled movement proved doable in the end. “Stanton would come in and ask for that spirit of hope in our eyes,” says Long. “After that, I think the feeling of the ballet really took over.”

Long ended up having a banner year. “I danced in every single performance, which included 37 Nutcrackers, and had no injuries.” Her work with contemporary choreographers proved a high point. She spent six weeks with Aszure Barton for the rigorous creation process of Angular Momentum, where phrases were fractured into smithereens of gestural minutia. “I’m a nerd, so the detailed process appealed to me,” she says. She also has loved working with Garrett Smith and Melissa Hough, both of whom have new ballets this season. “No matter how fast something is, I know Garrett wants me to be right on the money,” she says. “He challenges me to keep the grounded feeling and flow that the music carries.”

Long’s mother comes to Houston as often as she can to see her daughter perform. “My mom is not allowed to correct me now,” says Long. Although she sees herself as a different kind of dancer than her mother, she realizes that they share many qualities. “She was a great Juliet, and I hope to dance Romeo and Juliet someday, too. I’m determined to make my own mark.”

At a Glance 

Jacquelyn Long

Age: 20

Training: Ballet Virginia International, Houston Ballet’s Ben Stevenson Academy

Favorite ballet to dance: Ballet Imperial

Dream role: Juliet in Romeo and Juliet

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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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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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