Your Career
Zhong-Jing Fang in Alexei Ratmansky's "Nutcracker." Photo by Gene Schiavone, Courtesy American Ballet Theatre.

Five years after joining American Ballet Theatre, corps member Zhong-Jing Fang sustained a serious ankle injury. Not one to let a setback take her off course, Fang wondered: What other things can I do as an artist? She loved imitating movie actresses as a child, so she decided to try acting while she recovered. For two years, she went every Wednesday evening to a four-hour group class with acting coach Diaan Ainslee. There she learned to dissect a monologue, develop a character, listen and feel emotionally exposed. The experience thrust Fang out of her comfort zone and transformed her as an artist. “It's a different layer of becoming a person," Fang says, “and becoming much more real."

Acting classes, which often incorporate exercises aimed at self-exploration, can offer dancers tools to deepen their artistry. Even simple things, Fang notes, like working without mirrors, can inspire you to go beyond image and find a deeper sense of self. “There is a lot more to say, beyond just being able to dance," she says. Here, Fang and three other dancers explain how acting skills have made them better performers.

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New Years is quickly retreating into the rearview as 2016 revs into gear and, for many people, the first couple months of the year mean one thing: awards season. Though our October/November 2015 cover girl Sarah Hay didn’t win a Golden Globe for “Flesh and Bone” last night, we doubt her foray into acting is over. With the Oscars around the corner, we’re taking a look back at some ballet dancers-turned-actors.

Brigitte Bardot

Photo courtesy of The Australian Ballet’s Behind Ballet.

Bardot was known for her sex-symbol persona in movies like Naughty Girl (1956) and A Very Private Affair (1962), but she trained as a classical ballet dancer and became the muse for pointe shoe company Repetto’s iconic street flats.

Audrey Hepburn

Photo by David Seymour courtesy of the Rare Audrey Hepburn.

Before becoming an Academy Award winner, Hepburn wanted to be a ballet dancer. Where else but a ballet studio would she have refined that stunning elegance and poise?

Mikhail Baryshnikov

Baryshnikov in Benjamin Millepied’s “Years Later.” Photo by Andrea Mohin courtesy of The New York Times.

One of the most famous male dancers of the last century, Baryshnikov didn't just win bunheads' hearts as Aleksandr Petrovsky in “Sex and the City” and in movies like The Turning Point (1977).

Zoe Saldana

Zoe Saldana. More fashion than ballet, but we couldn't resist.

Who could forget the sassy role Saldana played as Eva Rodriguez in Center Stage (2000) with co-stars and former American Ballet Theatre dancers Ethan Stiefel and Sascha Radetsky. Now she’s taking the big screen by storm in movies like Star Trek (2009) and Guardians of the Galaxy (2014).

Sarah Hay

Photo by Nathan Sayers

And, of course, our October/November cover girl as Claire in "Flesh and Bone."

For more news on all things ballet, don’t miss a single issue.

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