Tricia Albertson kisses Didier Bramaz after finding the perfect hat in The Concert. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Miami City Ballet.
Tricia Albertson, as told to Gavin Larsen.
I like to make people laugh, so I was excited to be cast as the Mad Ballerina in Jerome Robbins' The Concert. But the character herself didn't feel like me. She's so bubbly and excited, and I'm a bit more pensive (when it comes to ballet, at least). I didn't want her to come across as stupid—she's still thoughtful. I guess you could say she's flighty, but it's just that she's so excited about the music at the concert that everything else is a blur to her.
Carolina Ballet in Zalman Raffael's In the Gray. Photo by Ames Photography, Courtesy Carolina Ballet.
In 1996, a classified ad in Dance Magazine read: "Carolina Ballet…seeks an Artistic Director to lead the next phase of its development as a professional company." Robert Weiss, who had been a New York City Ballet principal dancer and spent seven years as Pennsylvania Ballet's artistic director, was intrigued. "It was the chance to start something from scratch, build it from the ground up, like George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein did," he recalls. "Could I make something successful for the community and for myself in an artistic way I really believed in?"
More than 20 years later, it's abundantly clear he could. Weiss' Carolina Ballet has had 122 world premieres (second in the country only to NYCB). That includes over 60 of his own creations, 16 by principal guest choreographer Lynne Taylor-Corbett and 20 by co-artistic director Zalman Raffael. The 38-member company presents over 80 performances a year—a staggering number for a midsized company—in North Carolina's Triangle region of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill.
Jensen with Silas Henriksen in Petite Mort. Courtesy Norwegian National Ballet.
As told to Gavin Larsen by Whitney Jensen
My first time dancing Petite Mort—or any ballet by Jiří Kylián—I was 17 and in the corps of Boston Ballet. I didn't know it then, but the stager, Roslyn Anderson, was nervous about me doing it because I was so young. I was super-naïve and had never seen the ballet before, but I just tried to listen to Roz and emulate what she was describing. She said that she knew I could do it when I applied every single one of her corrections after our first rehearsal.
As if the road towards a dance career wasn't demanding enough, the costs associated with intensive pre-professional training also add up quickly. Suddenly, the price tag on becoming a dancer seems like a daunting obstacle that working hard in class can't overcome. In addition to school tuition (academic as well as dance), there's the cost of dancewear, shoes, auditions, competition fees and coaching. For those training away from home, housing and living expenses also factor into the overall price. For many students and their families, finding a way to pay for it all takes strategizing and soul-searching.
"It's challenging to fund your training," says Philip Neal, artistic director of Next Generation Ballet in Tampa, Florida. There are ways to make it more affordable, he notes, but it can take creative thinking. "Some of our students needed to work part-time to help pay for their training, but restaurant jobs were too physically draining, so they devised jobs requiring only an online presence. I'm proud of their proactive solutions."
Artistic directors sift through hundreds of audition packets a season, and your resumé is often your first chance to catch their attention. Naturally, you want a document that makes a positive impression. But some surprising (and seemingly minor) details can inadvertently turn a director off. So, how do you make your resumé stand out—for the right reasons?
Focus on Essentials
At an audition, directors need to see your essential information at a glance: where you trained and what companies and choreographers you've worked with. Cincinnati Ballet artistic director Victoria Morgan scans for names she recognizes. "It's good to know if a dancer has worked with a respected leader in the industry, and if there's a colleague I can call as a reference. I'm also more inclined to take a second look at a student if I recognize a particular school or teacher," she says.
Your resumé should be no longer than one side of one page. "When I've got 600 resumés sitting here, a three-page resumé is a disincentive to me," says Kansas City Ballet artistic director Devon Carney. "It comes down to time—how quickly can you present your information to an unknown pair of eyes?"
Students taking class at the Miami City Ballet School. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Miami City Ballet.
Growing up in Michigan, Jessy Dick was used to her daily hour-long drives to the Grand Rapids Ballet School, where she trained. But when she started to think about summer intensives, a new problem emerged: Auditions for the schools she was interested in were even farther away, in Chicago or Detroit. "I learned early on that if I wanted to do any summer programs, I'd have to travel at least three hours in order to audition," says Dick, now a member of The Washington Ballet's Studio Company.
Making plans for your summer training is complicated enough, especially with the sheer number of programs to choose between. But students who live far from popular audition hubs face the additional hurdle of organizing, scheduling and budgeting for audition trips. Luckily, with strategic planning, what can feel overwhelming at first can become a rewarding experience.
Students at the Ballet Conservatory of Asheville look for weekends when auditions overlap in one city. Photo by Blair Chamberlain, Courtesy Ballet Conservatory of Asheville.
For dancers without the luxury of an audition city nearby, prioritizing which schools to aim for is crucial. How to decide? Research, research, research. (Pointe's "2018 Summer Intensive Guide" is a good place to start.) Emily McDougall, a 14-year-old student at The School of Oklahoma City Ballet who's made several six-hour drives to auditions in Dallas and Kansas City, does some serious investigating in order to narrow down her choices.
Saneshige performing the Black Swan pas de deux with Cincinnati Ballet's Patric Palkens. Photo by Will Brenner. Courtesy CCM.
Pointe caught up with three college dancers last spring to see what it's like juggling ballet, academics and a social life on campus. Here's Kiahna Saneshige, a student at the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati getting her BFA in dance with a minor in communications.
Saneshige posing with friends in CCM's dance studios. Photo Courtesy Saneshige.
When Kiahna Saneshige attended Cincinnati Ballet's summer intensive after her junior year of high school, she knew she wanted a professional career but wasn't sure joining a company after graduation would completely satisfy her. "The RAs were all University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music students, and they gave me the rundown of what the school was like," she recalls. "It's known for the excellent quality of its dancers, plus I could have the social life of college and the chance to pursue another degree besides dance." Saneshige, who graduated from CCM in May, says the last four years were challenging but couldn't have prepared her better for her next step: a position with Columbus Dance Theatre.
Jackie Schiffner rehearsing onstage for the BFA Spring Dance Performance. Photo by Carolyn DiLoreto, Courtesy USC.
Pointe caught up with three college dancers last spring to see what it's like juggling ballet, academics and a social life on campus. Here's Jackie Schiffner, a student at the Glorya Kaufman School of Dance at the University of Southern California getting her BFA in dance with a concentration in dance performance.
Schiffner with friends during USC's Trojan Family Weekend. Photo by Justina Gaddy, Courtesy USC.
Jackie Schiffner grew up in Huntington Beach, California, training in everything from ballet to hip hop. Now a junior at University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, she was drawn by the school's mission to develop "hybrid artists." "Even at the audition, we were required to do contemporary, hip hop, improv. And the faculty was so focused on each of us as individuals, which has definitely carried over into my experience here," Schiffner says. Her teachers' influence has already inspired Schiffner's future goal. "After I graduate, I definitely want to join a company, but then get my MFA in dance to teach at the collegiate level."