Pointe Stars

The Star-Crossed Lover: Houston Ballet's Karina González on Dancing Juliet

Karina González in "Romeo and Juliet" choreographed by Stanton Welch. Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy of Houston Ballet.

As told to Julie Diana

Juliet is one of my favorite roles—you go through every emotion in just three acts. I had done different versions of the ballet before, but it was an amazing opportunity when my director Stanton Welch created the role for me. I watched a lot of videos to prepare and struggled at the beginning because I was trying to copy what other ballerinas had done. It took me a while to find my own way. But now, every step comes from deep inside.

I love that Juliet starts as an innocent little girl, playing with the nurse like she's her best friend. When she goes to the ball, she sees this person that moves her world around. I'm married now, and know what it means to give everything to someone and make decisions that will change your life. And because of the love you have for that person, it is worth it.



It's important to be able to trust your partner completely, especially when there are a lot of romantic scenes and crazy lifts. You throw yourself and know that he's going to be there for you. My Romeo was Connor Walsh. Our relationship is a little more special compared with other partners, and we're closer friends than before.

My husband was a dancer so he understands that kissing my partner is part of the job. But I don't like to rehearse those moments so much! We know that this kiss takes eight counts and the other one takes 12, and we kind of mark it for a while. The first time we kiss is in the dress rehearsal, so it's happening for the first time onstage.


González with her Romeo, Connor Walsh. Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy of Houston Ballet.

At the beginning of the ballet, I'm happy, smiling and jumping around like a little 14-year-old girl with all this energy. But the third act is intense emotionally. Juliet is so strong compared to the beginning of the ballet. Her age is the same, but she has matured through all the problems.

To prepare for the emotional scenes, I'd stand in my room in front of the mirror, finding that painful feeling that makes me cry. I spent a lot of time alone, because it's difficult to start crying in a studio with 60 people watching you! My dad would say, "Imagine that everyone is a Halloween pumpkin that has a face but is empty inside," so I would try to feel that I was by myself with a lot of pumpkins around. Through the years, I've learned to let go of fear ("Do I look pretty while I'm crying?") Now I just try to feel what is happening in the moment.


González and Walsh. Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

For the death scene, I struggled. I hadn't had a bad experience in my life; I didn't want to just make a face, or do the steps. Eventually I learned how to bring the emotion in just eight counts—the music says it. But I lost my dad six months ago, so I'm sure the next time it will be completely different, having been through that pain.

Postelwaite and Pantastico's powerful reunion in "Cendrillon." Photo by Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB.

Lucien Postlewaite's Prince was anything but charming last February in Pacific Northwest Ballet's production of Cendrillon, Jean-Christophe Maillot's contemporary take on the Cinderella story. He strutted and preened, egged on by his friends. But once this prince met Cendrillon at the ball, his egotism gave way to lyrical grace, from the curve of his neck through his elegant extensions. For her part, Noelani Pantastico embodied the role of Cendrillon, taking us on her journey from a lonely, unwanted stepdaughter to a lovestruck young woman. Both dancers glided through the technically demanding choreography, infusing it with heartfelt emotion. This may be a fairy tale, but the romance felt real.

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Usually, it's the jaw-dropping moments on the stage that leave us equal parts inspired and amazed. But National Ballet of Canada principal Svetlana Lunkina has us totally in awe of her behind-the-scenes routine. A 2015 Pointe cover star (and former Bolshoi dancer), Lunkina shares as many clips on Instagram of her classes and rehearsals as she does glam stage shots. Earlier this week, she shared her floor workout—and you have to see it to believe it.

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Photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy New York City Ballet.

This time of year, we're used to seeing dancers embodying the flavors of The Nutcracker's magical Land of Sweets. But the real-life equivalents of those seasonal treats are more than just holiday guilty pleasures, and have benefits that could help you get through a crazy month of performances. Here are a few reasons to indulge in the spices and flavors of the season—now, and all year long.

Peppermint

This powerhouse herb has an abundance of benefits to help you get through a busy performance season. It's been known to aid digestion and help calm anxiety, and one study found that inhaling its vapors may improve athletic performance. Smelling peppermint has also been found to increase focus. You don't just have to get it from candy canes: Try brewing a hot cup of peppermint tea between rehearsals, or to wind down after a long day.

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Richmond Ballet dancers show off two adoptable shelter dogs at its annual "Pupcracker." Photo courtesy Richmond Ballet

If you're looking to upstage Clara, there's no better way to do it than with a four-legged furry friend—especially when that furry friend is looking for its forever home. Cue Richmond Ballet: During its December 16 and 21 matinees, the company is teaming up with the Richmond SPCA to present the "Pupcracker," special Nutcracker performances featuring adoptable shelter dogs. Several pups make their stage debut during the party scene as the guests bring their family pets to and from the Silberhaus home. Audience members can then meet—and adopt—the dogs during intermission and after the performance. The SPCA even provides a crate, collar, leash and treats so that patrons can bring their new family members home after the show.


Audience members can meet and adopt featured dogs during intermission. Photo Courtesy Richmond Ballet.

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Rudolf Nureyev and Merle Park in "The Nutcracker" (1968). Photo by Donald Southern, Courtesy of the Royal Opera House Collections.

Given the thousands of incarnations The Nutcracker has undergone—from tiny-tot productions in small-town studios to grand modern classics—the ballet's Grand Pas de Deux from Act II has remained remarkably intact. With slight variations, most professional dancers have seen its familiar choreography at some point or another. Tchaikovsky's radiant score calls to mind elegant promenades, partnered penchées and slow, supported développés.

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Photo by Taylor-Ferné Morris.

I have flatter feet and want to make them look better on pointe. Are there any special pointe shoes for my foot type? —Joana

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Photo by Kyle Froman

Peek inside Devon Teuscher's pointe shoes and you'll see a discreetly placed number. "I want to see how many shoes I go through in a year," says the American Ballet Theatre principal. "Last year it was close to 200 pairs." Teuscher keeps a Sharpie handy for this season's count in a small pouch containing other shoe accessories like ribbons and elastics. It's one of a handful of carefully organized pouches stored in her red mesh bag. "I'm definitely not a pack rat," she says of her no-frills style. Teuscher's bag came from Ascot + Hart, a California boutique that her sister introduced her to. "I love that it's breathable and lightweight and it can pack quite a bit. It's also easy to wash."

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