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Photographed for Pointe by Jayme Thornton

This is Pointe's August/September 2018 Cover Story. You can subscribe to the magazine here, or click here to purchase this issue.

On a slushy March morning in New York City, Tulsa Ballet's Jennifer Grace took warm-up class onstage at The Joyce Theater, gearing up for the company's second day on tour. Even in a relaxed atmosphere, Grace epitomizes her name. In adagio, her arms move as if through warmed honey, swaying richly though never late. As she piqués into an attitude pirouette, her leg soars high, scooping air like a wing.

Grace feels quite at home in roles like Cinderella's Fairy Godmother; Glinda, in Edwaard Liang's Dorothy and the Prince of Oz; and the Lilac Fairy, in The Sleeping Beauty. "I fairy-godmother a lot," she jokes. It's no wonder. Her stature (at 5' 5", she's one of the tallest women in the company) and singing movement quality cast a commanding aura. "Honestly, it's one of my favorite things," she says of dancing regal, feminine roles. "I get to move scenery around and make love stories come true."

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Summer Intensive Survival
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At my first summer intensive away from home, my roommate and I deliberated good-naturedly over bunkbeds and decorations. But the next summer, I walked into a triple dorm room and was met with the least desirable bed choice and nearly every inch of wall space plastered with posters of teen pop artists I didn't care for. (Well, hated.) While my two roommates became fast friends, they were aloof towards me and disregarded my personal space.

It was not an ideal situation, but it was one that I had to learn to live with for five weeks. Venturing away from home for summer programs means intimate spaces, unfamiliar faces and new rules—a recipe for lifelong friends if you're lucky, tribulations if you're not. Either way, learning to deal with residence hall life is good training for what may come later in your ballet career or in college.

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Ballet Stars
Courtesy of Belleza Athletica

Dancer designers seem to be a dime a dozen these days. With three already in Pacific Northwest Ballet's ranks (principals Elizabeth Murphy and duo Lindsi Dec and Karel Cruz), it might seem like an over- saturated market for another dancewear brand to be able to turn heads. Enter Angeli Mamon. With her new line, Belleza Athletica (pronounced "bay-yes-ah"), the corps member is carving out a niche in studio wear with leotards and skirts that match her confident personality.

Mamon in Belleza Athletica.

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Ballet Careers
A cast of courtiers watch former PNB principal Kaori Nakamura and Lucien Postlewaite in "Don Quixote." Photo by Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB.

Everyone has to start somewhere. It's a mantra you may repeat to yourself time and time again when you see your name next to less-than-desirable roles on the cast list. Perhaps it's the townsperson, the courtier or the garland girl—that character that makes you feel more like part of the scenery than part of the company. Some dancers seem to leapfrog over or power through this initiation stage, getting cast in featured roles during their first professional season. But the majority of us have to come to terms with standing by the backdrop for a few years, mime-clapping for the soloists at the front.

No matter what stage you are at in your career, you've likely dealt with the frustration of being cast in small dance-sparse roles. But these three dancers show that remaining positive in the face of disappointing casting pays off, both for your peace of mind and your future opportunities.

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Ballet Stars
José Martinez and Marie-Agnes Gillot in "Sylvia," via YouTube.

Is there anything more heart-wrenching than a tale of doomed lovers? It's no wonder that so many enduring ballets don't end in happy embraces. John Neumeier's modern Sylvia plumbs the depths of the story for its most melancholy notes. Paris Opéra Ballet étoiles, who make up the ballet's original cast, are masterful storytellers in the emotionally charged ballet.

In this clip from a DVD released in 2006, Marie-Agnès Gillot plays the huntress Diana. Her love faces a fate even more dispiriting than death: Endymion, danced by José Martínez, is doomed to eternal sleep. She dances in memory, a passionate pas de deux with a partner who cannot reciprocate. Diana's inescapable loneliness is etched on Gillot's features: the strong huntress at her most vulnerable.

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Ballet Stars
From left: Peter Walker, Harrison Coll. Photos by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

A company's corps de ballet is rarely the pool from which title roles are plucked. Yet New York City Ballet seems to buck convention, especially for its full-length production of Peter Martins' Romeo + Juliet. When it debuted back in 2007, the ballet featured a cast of untested corps members and apprentices as the eponymous stars. (A School of American Ballet student was originally tapped to dance Juliet, but she wasn't able to perform due to injury.) At the time Martins, who recently retired as NYCB's ballet master in chief, attributed his casting choices to the characters' ages in Shakespeare's play; Juliet and Romeo are 14 and 19, respectively. Also, he remarked, "Never underestimate youth."

This week, two young Romeos are stepping up from the company's corps. Harrison Coll made his debut on February 13, opening night, alongside principal Sterling Hyltin (the original Juliet in the production's opening night performance back in 2007). Peter Walker follows on Friday, February 16.

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Ballet Stars
Photo by James Glader, Courtesy Merritt Moore.

"I'm quitting dance." Freelance dancer Merritt Moore has said this twice: before a high school year abroad, and after a year away from Harvard University to dance with Zurich Ballet. Luckily, the statement didn't stick, and Moore has successfully forged her own path—combining physics and ballet.

At 15, Moore had only been dancing for two years, but already felt disillusioned. "This whole idea of perfection—it was a bit negative," she says. A Los Angeles native, Moore decided to spend her junior year of high school in Viterbo, Italy, a tiny town near Rome. Since she wasn't dancing, Moore went to a local gym, where she met former National Ballet of Romania dancer Irina Rosca. The two started an intensive training regimen, and Moore returned to the States with a renewed love of dance but no professional aspirations.

She began her freshman year at Harvard in 2006 with her major already in mind. "I always knew I wanted to do physics. It's a nonverbal activity, like dance. You have to use creativity and imagination to problem-solve." The school also had plenty of dance opportunities through its student-run club, allowing Moore to take technique classes from Damian Woetzel and Heather Watts while still performing.

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Ballet Stars
Photographed for Pointe by Jayme Thornton.

This is Pointe's February/March 2018 Cover Story. You can subscribe to the magazine here, or click here to purchase this issue.

In a polished cast of Sir Frederick Ashton's Symphonic Variations at an American Ballet Theatre performance last October, corps member Betsy McBride shone with a warmth that belied the piece's crystalline, cold precision. Dark-haired with large, light-catching eyes, McBride was more coiled spring than willowy sylph, evident in the way her pliant limbs shot rather than floated to Ashton's prescribed positions. While the choreography's measured steps and lowered legs may seem particularly limiting for someone with McBride's flexibility, she managed to find pockets of expansion in the restricted movement. She lunged a little deeper, sailed on pointe a little longer, her open face lingering in the spotlight until the very last moment.

Symphonic Variations marked McBride's debut in a principal role with ABT, yet it was not the 25-year-old's first taste of the spotlight. She began her career at Texas Ballet Theater at just 15, becoming a principal by 19. Under TBT artistic director Ben Stevenson, she performed roles that most dancers her age still covet—Juliet, Odette/Odile, Aurora—before leaving the company for an ABT corps contract in 2015.


McBride (far left) with Devon Teuscher and Cassandra Trenary in "Symphonic Variations." Photo by Erin Baiano, Courtesy ABT.

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