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After Leaving Home as Teens, These Dancers Find Comfort Quarantining with Their Families

We all know that pursuing a ballet career involves sacrifice, whether that means giving up social gatherings, school dances or other hallmarks of a common childhood. Many teenagers make an especially significant sacrifice: moving away from home to attend a finishing program or to join a company. That often means losing out on valuable family time, and even leaving the nest for good. Once they become a professional, it's rare for dancers to return home for extended periods of time unless they are recovering from injury or burnout.

With the specter of the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down performances around the world, several fully-realized artists have chosen to take advantage of the situation and quarantine with their families. Pointe spoke with three such dancers about their homecomings and how they are reconnecting and regaining lost time with their loved ones.


McGee Maddox

McGee Maddox, dressed in black paints, white blouse and an untied bow tie, lunges to his right while Allison Walsh, wearing a pink dress, leans unti his right arm and kicks her right leg toward the sky.

Maddox as Jerry Mulligan with Allison Walsh in the national tour of An American in Paris

Matthew Murphy, Courtesy Maddox

Former National Ballet of Canada principal McGee Maddox had to make some fast decisions as the country began to shut down. Since leaving the company in 2017, he has embarked upon a musical theater career, headlining as Jerry in the national tour of An American in Paris and, most recently, as Rum Tum Tugger in CATS. "We were in a hectic schedule when we heard rumors about COVID-19 and how it would affect our tour," says Maddox. "There were murmurs about CATS being halted, especially because we interact directly in the audience." Sure enough, the tour was shut down and dancers were flown back to their primary residences.

Having been on tour for nearly three years—and without any official home base—Maddox made the split-second decision to fly back to Spartanburg, South Carolina, where his family still resides. "I wanted to be away from a major metropolitan area and I definitely wanted to be with my family."

Maddox left home when he was 16 years old to train at the Houston Ballet Academy. "Since then, the longest I have been home was for a few months during an injury," says Maddox. "It was a much different experience, though, because my focus was on recovery."

This time, returning home has been a time of reconnection and revitalization. "I have especially enjoyed my mom's cooking," he says. "It is the best! We make an effort to eat at the dinner table every night. Being on the road, it is hard to get a home-cooked meal. It has been valuable for me to halt things, feel like a normal person, and reconnect with my family."

Indiana Woodward

Indiana Woodward stands in fourth position on pointe while holding on to a wrought iron banister. She wears black shorts and a long sleeved shirt, while her white dog lounges in the corner.

Indiana Woodward takes barre at her family's home in California.

Courtesy Woodward

For New York City Ballet soloist Indiana Woodward, the choice to head home to Malibu, California, came when New York City Ballet cancelled its March tour to London. "I left right as the pandemic started," Woodward says. "I thought I would spend four days with my family before spring season rehearsals began." Expecting a short trip home, Woodward only brought her dog and a pair of pointe shoes. But now it has been more than 12 weeks. "I didn't bring any clothes or belongings with me. It has been a shock to be here as long as I have."

Woodward left home at 15 years old to spend two months at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Russia. During that time, she received a scholarship to the summer intensive at the School of American Ballet. "I fell in love with the Balanchine style," she says, and that summer SAB asked her to stay for the year. Woodward's mother, a South African dancer, had danced with Roland Petit in France and understood the sacrifices it takes to achieve a performance career.

While Woodward didn't foresee spending nearly three months at home in California, she has embraced the experience. "I haven't spent a good amount of time with my family in ages. One of my sisters lives in New York, too, but I don't get to see her often. It is the first time we are all together in many years."

As the family settles into routines and is learning to live together again, Woodward talks about how she has changed. "My perspective of home is different. The spaces are smaller than I remembered and the places we occupy have shifted. But also, I have changed. Coming home feels like a time warp. I feel like I'm going back in time as a student, but with the perspective of an adult."

Cameron Thomas

Wearing a green unitard, Cameron Thomas performs a saut\u00e9 jump with his right leg in retir\u00e9 and his left arm held above his head.

Cameron Thomas in William Forsythe's In the middle, somewhat elevated

Ali Fleming, Courtesy Kansas City Ballet

Kansas City Ballet up-and-comer Cameron Thomas flew to Rochester, New York, in the middle of March, two weeks after the company cancelled the remainder of its 2019-20 season. Thomas says, "I concluded the safest and most financially responsible thing to do was fly home. Given the sheer magnitude of a global crisis like this, I felt I should face it with my family."

In 2015, Thomas left home at 17 years old to attend American Ballet Theatre's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School in New York City. Since then, he has never spent more than a month at home. "I am still very close with my family. But in recent years, I have had to find as much work as possible, making it difficult to fly halfway across the country during layoffs," he says.

Speaking about his current experience, Thomas says, "I have enjoyed moving past the visit phase of coming home. Under normal circumstances, a trip home consists of a big meal, visiting close relatives, a night out with old friends, and I am gone before I unpack." He has now been home long enough to settle into a regular routine. "With the pandemic, I have coexisted with my family in all of the daily events for which I am usually not present. I may never get that opportunity again, so I am trying to appreciate it. I have even been here for a few significant moments: my dad was promoted, my sister graduated her junior year, and we lost my grandma. We experienced these things together, as a family, and that is valuable to me. We have been able to share success and grief together, which makes the former more rewarding and the latter easier to endure."

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Eighteen-year-old Sarah Patterson (foreground), with her classmates at New Ballet School. She's decided to stay home this summer to take advantage of outdoor, in-person classes. Courtesy New Ballet School.

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CALIFORNIA

Alonzo King LINES Ballet Adult Dance Intensive (virtual only, via Zoom)

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KENTUCKY

Lexington Ballet Adult Ballet Intensive

July 12–16, Lexington

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A group of eight smiling adult ballet students\u2014seven women and one man in the middle\u2014pose in a line and stand on their right leg in tendu crois\u00e9 devant.

A group of dancers pose at a past Lexington Ballet Adult Dance Intensive.

Ayoko Lloyd, Courtesy Lexington Ballet

Louisville Ballet Adult Summer Intensive

May 31–June 4, Louisville

Polish off a glass of sweet tea (or two), and then work up a sweet sweat at Louisville Ballet's Adult Summer Intensive. Geared towards beginning through advanced levels, students ages 18+ can take part in half- or full days of training. Classes offered include technique, pointe and jump strengthening, modern, Pilates and yoga. Students will also perform in a livestreamed performance on the final day.

MASSACHUSETTS

Brookline Ballet School Adult Summer Ballet Intensive

June 23–27, Brookline

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NEW YORK

Kat Wildish Presents (virtual, via Zoom)

June 14–25 and July 12–23

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A group of older adult ballet students in leotards, tights or leggings, stand in two lines with their left foot in B+ position and holding hands, as if rehearsing a ballet.

Kat Wildish (far left) working with adult students at Peridance Capezio Center

Matthew Venanzi, Courtesy Kat Wildish

OHIO

artÉmotion Adult Ballet Summer Workshop

June 14–19, Cleveland

Head to the Buckeye State for a week of training under the tutelage of Ballet West first soloist Allison DeBona and principal Rex Tilton. In this Adult Ballet Summer Workshop, beginner and intermediate/advanced students will fine-tune their skills in two classes every morning: a 90-minute technique class followed by a one-hour class in one of the following disciplines: pointe/pre-pointe, acting, men's and women's variations, conditioning.

PENNSYLVANIA

Amy Novinski

May 24–28 and June 28–July 2, Philadelphia

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SOUTH CAROLINA

Ballet Academy of Charleston Adult Summer Intensive

July 26–30 and August 2–6, Charleston

Embrace the low-country charm in historic Charleston, where a weeklong Adult Summer Intensive at the Ballet Academy of Charleston invites beginning through advanced students to take classes in technique, stretching/Pilates/yoga, pre-pointe or pointe (for advanced students), variations, jazz, modern, contemporary and choreography. You may choose the half-day or full-day program.

TEXAS

Houston Ballet Adult Intensive

June 1–5, Houston

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UTAH

May 31–June 5, Salt Lake City

Ballet West welcomes students of all levels to artÉmotion's one-week Adult Ballet Summer Intensive. Classes include ballet, contemporary, pointe, jazz, modern, acting, and men and women's variations. Available in full-day or half-day options, those dancing only in the morning will take two 90-minute technique classes. The full-day experience offers the opportunity to be choreographed on for an in-studio performance on Saturday, June 5. All students will also have a professional dance photo shoot with Logan Sorenson.

A group of four men in dance practicewear face the right corner of the room and raise their arm as if beckoning someone. Three of the men stand in parallel, which the man in the middle sits in a wheelchair.

A men's class at artÉmotion Adult Summer Ballet Intensive

Logan Sorenson, Courtesy artÉmotion

INTERNATIONAL

The August Ballet Retreat in Leeds

August 28–30, Leeds, UK

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July 2–10, Morlaix, France

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