Vampires & Ballerinas: True Blood's Kristina Anapau

In "True Blood"'s world of vampires and werewolves, one of the last things you'd expect to find is a ballerina. But one of the breakout stars of the fifth season of the HBO show (out on DVD and Blue-Ray today) is 500-year-old faerie Maurella, played by former ballet dancer Kristina Anapau. The actress grew up in Hawaii, then trained at The Joffrey Ballet and American Ballet Theatre schools. She combined her ballet background and her acting career while playing Galina in Black Swan, but has found her greatest success in the role of Maurella, which she will reprise in season six starting June 16. Anapau gave Pointe an exclusive interview about how her ballet background has shaped her career.


You're one of many actresses who came out of the ballet world. Do you feel there's something about it that prepares performers for an acting career?

It gives you an incredible work ethic. The acting world can be very disheartening at times and success often has to do more with the tenacity to keep going than with talent. Ballet ingrains a sort of graceful determination and elegant independence in you, which works very well in the film industry. Ballerinas are tough.


What made you choose to become an actress?

I never wanted to be an actress and for a long time was very focused on classical ballet and academics. I graduated from high school rather early and was intent on having my PhD by age 21. And even though I was performing on stage all the time in ballet, I couldn’t imagine anything more terrifying than having to  speak up there! When I unexpectedly got cast in the leading role of a movie that Universal was shooting in Hawaii at age 16, however, it completely threw my plans for a loop. After realizing how challenging the craft of acting really was, I began to fall in love with it and shifted my focus.


Do you ever still dance at all?

I do, though not nearly as regularly as I used to. But the nice thing about that is when I do get to class, it feels like such a privilege rather than a daily ritual. Ballet is much more freeing and expansive now than it was when I was training seriously.


What was it like returning to the ballet world in Black Swan?

Intense! It was wonderful to be back in class every day and to have the opportunity to be so disciplined and focused again. I felt like that aspect of my life had come full circle and any regrets I had about not choosing the path of a professional dancer were completely healed. It was incredibly fulfilling.


As Maurella on "True Blood," you move with such an elegant, delicate quality—so balletic! Do you think your background in dance helps you portray a faerie?

Absolutely! Faeries and ballet go hand in hand. It’s so fun to incorporate elements from my dance background into the scenes. The leg during the birth scene in the season finale was my favorite. During the blocking, I asked creator Alan Ball if he thought I should use a bit of my balletic flexibility to make the scene even funnier and more odd. I showed him how high I could go with it, and he exclaimed “Oh my god, yes!” I read in an interview of his recently that Maurella’s birth scene was one of his favorite scenes of all time on the show. To say that was an incredible honor is an understatement.


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.


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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Lopez in Circus Polka. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy MCB.

When Miami City Ballet artistic director Lourdes Lopez was a principal dancer at New York City Ballet, she missed her opportunity to honor Jerome Robbins onstage. "Every time there was a celebration for Jerry, I was either injured or had just retired," says Lopez. "I was never able to publicly thank him onstage for all that he taught us and the beauty he left us."

But when Lopez was planning MCB's Jerome Robbins Celebration for the 100th anniversary of the legend's birth, she saw an opportunity. She asked the Robbins Trust to allow her to perform the Ringmaster in Robbins' Circus Polka, a role the choreographer originated himself.

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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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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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