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Ask Amy: Where to Stand at the Barre in My First Company Class?

I just scored a second company contract and will be taking daily class with the main company starting in the fall. I'm excited, but worried about knowing where to stand at barre. How can I figure that out without taking other dancers' places? —Carolyn

Dancers tend to be weirdly territorial, especially when it comes to where they stand at the barre. This can be tricky to navigate when you're new and in the junior ranks. You could wait until everyone has taken their places, but I think the easiest way is to politely ask a company member where a good place to stand would be. They'll understand where you're coming from (we've all been in your shoes), and will hopefully point you in the right direction. It's a new season, after all, and they know new dancers are coming in. (Keep in mind that some company members will probably waltz in at the last minute.)

Luckily, it doesn't take too long to figure out who stands where. Over the course of the first few weeks, people will settle into their "regular" places. Please don't fret too much over this—you may be in the second company, but you deserve a spot at the barre along with everyone else.

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I have a terrible fear of falling when doing turns on pointe. I sometimes cry in class when we have to do new turns that I'm not used to. I can only do bad singles on a good day, while some of my classmates are doing doubles and triples. How can I get over this fear? —Gaby

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The Washington Ballet's Sarah Steele on Her At-Home Workouts

Ballet at home: Since she's not preparing for any immediate performances, Steele takes ballet barre three to four times a week. "I'm working in more of a maintenance mode," she says, prioritizing her ankles and the intrinsic muscles in her feet. "If you don't work those muscles, they disappear really quickly. I've been focusing on a baseline level of ballet muscle memory."

What she's always working on: Strengthening her glute-hamstring connection (the "under-butt" area), which provides stability for actions like repetitive relevés and power for jumps. Bridges are her go-to move for conditioning those muscles. "Those 'basic food group'–type exercises are some of the best ones," she says.

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Hiding Injuries: Why Downplaying Pain Can Lead to Bigger Problems Down the Road

Sabrina Landa was thrilled to be offered a traineeship with Pennsylvania Ballet. "As a trainee, everything felt like a chance to prove myself as a professional," she says. Her training hours increased and she was dancing more than she ever had before. When Landa began experiencing pain in her metatarsals partway through the 2018 Nutcracker season, she notified the staff. "But in fear of losing my shows, I downplayed the severity of it," Landa says.

She notes that no one pushed her to keep dancing but herself. "I was 18 and was aiming to receive a contract by the end of the year," she says. "I felt so much anxiety over missing an opportunity that I was afraid to be honest about my pain." Pennsylvania Ballet's artistic staff were understanding and supportive, but Landa minimized her injury for the next few months, wanting to push through until the season ended and contracts were offered. But after months of pain and an onset of extreme weakness in her foot, Landa was diagnosed with two stress fractures in her second and third metatarsals. She spent the next three months on crutches and six months off dancing to allow for the fractures' delayed healing.

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