Few things in life are more beautiful than Alessandra Ferri. Personally, I could watch old videos of her for hours on end. And it turns out I'm not the only one still in love six years after her retirement: This Friday, the Italian International Dance Festival will present the former prima with the IIDF A Heart For Art Extraordinary Dancer Award at the festival's gala performance in New York City. Other honorees will include famed jazz master Luigi, who will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award, and modern dance teacher Elena Albano, who will be given an IIDF A Heart For Art Teaching Award. Find out more at italianidf.com.
The corps de ballet make up the backbone of every company. In our Fall 2020 issue, we highlighted 10 ensemble standouts to keep your eye on. Click on their names to learn more!
Dara Holmes and Edson Barbosa in Myles Thatcher's Body of Your Dreams
Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Joffrey Ballet
Wanyue Qiao as an Odalisque in Konstantin Sergeyev's Le Corsaire
Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT
Joshua Guillemot-Rodgerson (far right) with Saul Newport and Austen Acevedo in Oliver Halkowich's Following
Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet
Leah McFadden as Amour in Colorado Ballet's production of Don Quixote
Mike Watson, Courtesy Colorado Ballet
Maria Coelho and Sasha Chernjavsky in Andy Blankenbuehler's Remember Our Song
Kate Lubar, Courtesy Tulsa Ballet
Alexander Reneff-Olson (right) as Von Rothbart with San Francisco Ballet principal Yuan Yuan Tan in Swan Lake
Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB
India Bradley practices backstage before a performance of Balanchine's Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2.
Erin Baiano, Courtesy NYCB
Bella Ureta performs the Act I Pas de Trois in Kirk Peterson's Swan Lake
Hiromi Platt, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet
Alejandro González in Michael Pink's Dracula at Oklahoma City Ballet.
Kate Luber, Courtesy Oklahoma City Ballet
Nina Fernandes in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker
Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Miami City Ballet
Your partner accidentally drops you during a lift. You collide head-on with another dancer in rehearsal. Or you're hit in the face while you're spotting a turn. Even if you didn't lose consciousness, you may have a concussion, which can occur from a direct blow to the head or rotary force of the brain moving excessively or striking the skull.
As a dancer, your first instinct may be to keep going, but you shouldn't, says physical therapist and athletic trainer Carrie Gaerte, PT, DPT, ATC, who works with Butler University in Indianapolis and at Ascension St. Vincent Sports Performance. "What's really hard for dancers is admitting that maybe something isn't right," she says. "But the big thing about concussions is that your brain is not like your ankle, shoulder or knee. When your brain has an injury, that needs to take precedence over a role or a job."
If You Think You've Had a Concussion<p>"If you have a dramatic fall, hit your head and lose consciousness, that's an automatic 911 call," says Gaerte. Sometimes, though, a dancer might run into someone and jostle their head, but they feel fine completing rehearsal. It might not be until that next day or later that they notice any symptoms (see below). "That's when you call your sports medicine physician," she says, stressing that a general practitioner might not understand ballet's athleticism enough to suspect a concussion.</p><p>Following any impact, a dancer should spend about 48 to 72 hours (or until they are further evaluated by a sports medicine physician) in relative rest—meaning that you shouldn't dance, though the old advice about not falling asleep after a concussion doesn't typically apply to these types of sports-related head injuries.</p><p>When you speak with the physician, be very specific. Use language like "I think I may have sustained a concussion," advises Gaerte. Detail when and how you think it happened and any symptoms you're experiencing. "They will get a sense of your situation quickly, and there won't be as much of a delay in the start of rehab."</p>
Cervical tests may be used to evaluate a potential concussion.
Courtesy Carrie Gaerte
Symptoms<p>A concussion isn't always evident when it happens, so monitoring your symptoms is crucial. The most common symptom is a headache, as well as dizziness, feeling foggy, blurred or double vision, or balance problems. Less common symptoms include memory dysfunction, sensitivity to light, fatigue or trouble concentrating.</p><p>Collegiate or high-school level dancers may notice the impact in their academic classes. "Sometimes they'll say that they can't pay attention, they feel very tired, their homework takes longer to do, or they have difficulty studying or taking notes," says Gaerte. Even if a collision seemed uneventful, these symptoms signal that you should seek treatment.</p>
Diagnosis<p>Gaerte emphasizes that there is no single test to diagnose a concussion. A physician or athletic trainer may administer some of the following based on your symptoms: vestibular (balance) tests; oculomotor tests, which monitor your eye movements; cervical (neck) tests; or emotional tests, evaluating your moods.</p><p>One popular method in the sports world is ImPACT testing, which Gaerte hopes to implement with dancers at Butler. Athletes take a series of computer tests that evaluate neurocognitive function at the beginning of a season to establish a baseline. If a concussion is suspected, they can retake the tests to see where their deficits are and, later, how they've improved, says Gaerte.</p>
A physician or athletic trainer may administer a balance test if you think you've had a concussion.
Courtesy Carrie Gaerte
Treatment Varies<p>There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for concussions. The nature and duration of your rehabilitation depend on the injury's severity and affected areas of the brain. A sports medicine physician will refer you to specialists who can treat your specific symptoms.</p><p>Dancers, in particular, may need to focus on neck rehabilitation. "They really need to make sure those muscles are working properly because of all the spotting and specific head movements," says Gaerte, noting that the neck's deep stabilizers are often impacted by a concussion. Other types of treatment may help you recoup your balance or deal with injury-related anxiety.</p>
Returning to Dance<p>After rehabilitation, Gaerte, in conjunction with a physician, leads the dancer through exertional tests to see if they're ready for a gradual return to the studio. For example, she might have them do a jumping combination or a series of chaîné turns. "Like any other injury, you don't want to jump back in all at once. It might look like just barre for a week or two," she says. As you progress, if you start to have familiar symptoms, you might need to take a couple steps back.</p>
Second Impact Syndrome<p>If you've had a concussion and return to dance before you've healed, you're putting yourself at risk for second impact syndrome. Having a subsequent concussion can result in life-threatening swelling of the brain. "Most dancers are very sensitive to the pressures they face, not wanting to be 'out' or injured," says Gaerte. "But it's really important for dancers to realize the gravity of a concussion." </p>
Gone are the days when you had to skip college in order to have a successful ballet career. College ballet programs are better than ever before, providing students with the training, professional connections and performance experience they need to thrive in companies postgraduation. But given the number of elements involved in the application process, choosing the right program can feel daunting. We've broken the college application timeline down step by step to help you best approach each stage along the way.
Christopher Alloways-Ramsey teaches a men's class at University of Utah.
Courtesy University of Utah
Fall of Sophomore Year: Start Your Research<p>It's never too early to get to know your options, but sophomore year of high school is a great time to start. Talk to your high school's college counselor. They may not be familiar with ballet programs, but they will be familiar with the college application process and timeline. Then, begin your hunt by reading up about different programs on their websites. Don't know where to start? Get recommendations from your dance teachers and read the company bios of dancers that you admire to see where they trained.</p><p>Claudia Rhett, who graduated with a BSOF (a BS in music with a ballet emphasis and an outside field in business) from Indiana University this year, found the <em><a href="https://www.pointemagazine.com/st/College_Guide" target="_blank">Dance Magazine College Guide</a></em> invaluable to her search. The guide, which is published by Dance Media, contains information on more than 600 programs. Once you've come up with a list of schools you're interested in, reach out to their dance departments for more information. "We love talking to prospective students and their families," says Whitney Herr-Buchholz, director of operations and advancement at University of Arizona's dance department. "We encourage students to reach out. We want to help guide their search." </p><p>Don't be afraid to ask for direct contacts for professors and current students. "Word of mouth is the best form of research," says Stefanee Montesantos, a 2020 Butler University graduate who earned a BFA in dance performance and a minor in English and creative writing. "It's an authentic source because the person is telling you about their actual experience."</p>
University of Arizona dance students Wen Na Robertson and Omar Rivera in performance
Ed Flores, Courtesy University of Arizona
Fall of Junior Year: Visit Schools<p>As you head into your junior year of high school, start scheduling campus visits. Nothing will give you a sense of day-to-day life quite like walking around the school's grounds. "Talk to the dancers and watch class," recommends Rhett, who says that when she visited colleges, she considered community involvement and volunteer opportunities, as well as how she'd get around via public transit. </p><p>As you tour schools, consider the variables. Think about if you would prefer attending college in the country or a city. Rhett suggests that having an idea of whether you want to attend a big school or small school can help guide your search. Do you want to live on campus in a dorm? If not, what are the off-campus residential options? Be sure to get a sense of what student life is like. Are there clubs or extracurricular activities you might like to join? Are you interested in Greek life? If so, see if you can talk to members of sororities and fraternities. Be sure to get a sense of how the dance department is integrated into the university at large, who your professors would be and what they've done professionally. If possible, get familiar with the area you're visiting, and see if there are nearby ballet companies you'd have access to.</p><p>Keep in mind that getting a good feel for university campuses may be trickier this year, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. Many of the schools you're interested in may be offering virtual tours.</p>
Butler University 2020 graduate Stefanee Montesantos
Courtesy Stefanee Montesantos
Spring of Junior Year: Prepare Your Application Materials<p>Getting and staying organized is key when it comes to college applications. With so many components to juggle, you'll want a clear system in place. "Create a calendar from day one," says Christopher Alloways-Ramsey, assistant professor of dance and recruitment director for the ballet program at University of Utah. "Look at each school's website, find their deadlines and put them in your calendar." Your high school guidance counselor may have some useful suggestions for how to stay on top of these dates.</p><p>Make a list of all the required application materials and be mindful that there will be separate components for both the universities and the dance programs themselves. When Rhett applied for IU, she had to submit photos, a resumé and an essay to the dance department on top of her regular application materials to the university, such as SAT scores, letters of recommendation and transcripts. If possible, see if you can complete those components before audition season starts.</p><p>If a program requires a video submission, make sure you know exactly what they're looking for. Some departments want specific classwork alongside a variation or two, whereas others may be more open to choreographic submissions in other styles, like jazz, modern or tap. "You can choreograph your own piece, but be sure to say that it's self-choreographed," says Montesantos, noting that admissions committees like the innovation and creativity.</p>
Autumn Eckman's ballet class at University of Arizona
Ed Flores, Courtesy University of Arizona
Summer Before Senior Year: Plan Out Your Audition Season<p>Have a firm list of the schools you want to apply for before your senior year starts, and then see when they are holding auditions. Keep in mind the time and money you'll spend traveling to attend them and decide how many you can realistically go to. "I applied to three or four programs," says Montesantos. "It's difficult to have an intense audition season when you're a senior. It can be really taxing on the body to do six, seven or eight auditions."</p><p>Spring of senior year tends to be the heaviest audition season for colleges, but find out if any schools offer fall auditions. A few programs, like University of Arizona, not only have fall auditions, but they allow prospective students to audition twice. "We're happy to give feedback. If a dancer receives a non-accept and would like to audition again, we encourage them to give us a call," says Herr-Buchholz.</p><p>Some schools, like the University of Utah, hold auditions in multiple locations. See if a program you're interested in is hosting one in a city nearby. Also, ask if a video submission is possible. "We offer it," says Alloways-Ramsey. "It gets so expensive traveling."</p><p>The audition process might look different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While many universities are planning for auditions to resume in person, contingency plans are being created in the event of continued social-distancing guidelines. For example, at University of Arizona, all applicants this year will audition via video submission. "We will not hold in-person auditions," says Herr-Buchholz. "We feel this is the most accessible and safe way to proceed in light of COVID. I anticipate many schools will be making use of video-audition methods in the coming year."</p>
Claudia Rhett on her graduation day at Indiana University
Courtesy Claudia Rhett