For the members of Boston Ballet II, Thursday mornings are a special treat. At 9 am, well before the company arrives, they begin their own class with BBII associate director Peter Stark. It's their chance to talk through corrections and dig into the details of their technique—a welcome break from the fast-paced company environment they're just getting used to. "I really enjoy our Thursday class," says Catherine Livingston, 19, who joined BBII last fall. "It's just the 10 of us, and Peter coaches us all individually."
BBII serves as a one- to two-year transitional period for young dancers just out of ballet school. "Many people think it's about going onstage, but it's more than that," says Stark. "It's learning the corporate culture, learning how to behave in company class and rehearsal, learning how to manage your schedule—all the elements of becoming a professional at a young age." Since artistic director Mikko Nissinen's time is split between numerous company duties, Stark's job is to help the BBII dancers adjust: "They have an advocate on their side, trying to help them."
Most mornings BBII takes class with Boston Ballet, dancing next to stars like Misa Kuranaga and Lia Cirio. As a student, Livingston was used to getting a lot of corrections. "Company life is a little different, because they expect you to be in charge of yourself," she says. "Sometimes company members will come up and give us pointers, which is really awesome." The rest of the day is spent in company rehearsals, supplementing the corps and understudying, and in rehearsals for BBII's own performances. "By doing their own shows, they can practice duets and solos," says Stark, "things that push them and feed their artistic souls."
Juggling company and BBII duties can be both exhilarating and exhausting. Pointe recently went behind the scenes with this hard-working troupe to see what a typical day is like for them.