Dancers-Turned-Actors Through the Years

New Years is quickly retreating into the rearview as 2016 revs into gear and, for many people, the first couple months of the year mean one thing: awards season. Though our October/November 2015 cover girl Sarah Hay didn’t win a Golden Globe for “Flesh and Bone” last night, we doubt her foray into acting is over. With the Oscars around the corner, we’re taking a look back at some ballet dancers-turned-actors.

Brigitte Bardot

Photo courtesy of The Australian Ballet’s Behind Ballet.

Bardot was known for her sex-symbol persona in movies like Naughty Girl (1956) and A Very Private Affair (1962), but she trained as a classical ballet dancer and became the muse for pointe shoe company Repetto’s iconic street flats.

Audrey Hepburn

Photo by David Seymour courtesy of the Rare Audrey Hepburn.

Before becoming an Academy Award winner, Hepburn wanted to be a ballet dancer. Where else but a ballet studio would she have refined that stunning elegance and poise?

Mikhail Baryshnikov

Baryshnikov in Benjamin Millepied’s “Years Later.” Photo by Andrea Mohin courtesy of The New York Times.

One of the most famous male dancers of the last century, Baryshnikov didn't just win bunheads' hearts as Aleksandr Petrovsky in “Sex and the City” and in movies like The Turning Point (1977).

Zoe Saldana

Zoe Saldana. More fashion than ballet, but we couldn't resist.

Who could forget the sassy role Saldana played as Eva Rodriguez in Center Stage (2000) with co-stars and former American Ballet Theatre dancers Ethan Stiefel and Sascha Radetsky. Now she’s taking the big screen by storm in movies like Star Trek (2009) and Guardians of the Galaxy (2014).

Sarah Hay

Photo by Nathan Sayers

And, of course, our October/November cover girl as Claire in "Flesh and Bone."

For more news on all things ballet, don’t miss a single issue.

News
The Joffrey Ballet's Amanda Assucena and Greig Matthews in Cathy Marston's Jane Eyre. Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Joffrey Ballet.

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Sponsored by BLOCH
Courtesy BLOCH

Today's ballet dancer needs a lot from a pointe shoe. "What I did 20 years ago is not what these dancers are doing now," says New York City Ballet shoe manager Linnette Roe. "They are expected to go harder, longer days. They are expected to go from sneakers, to pointe shoes, to character shoes, to barefoot and back to pointe shoes all in a day."

The team at BLOCH developed their line of Stretch Pointe shoes to address dancer's most common complaints about the fit and performance of their pointe shoes. "It's a scientific take on the pointe shoe," says Roe. Dancers are taking notice and Stretch Pointe shoes are now worn by stars like American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston, who stars in BLOCH's latest campaign for the shoes.

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Herman Cornejo in Don Quixote. Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT.

American Ballet Theatre's fall season at Lincoln Center's Koch Theater offers a chance to see the company in shorter works and mixed-repertoire programs. This year's October 16–27 run honors principal Herman Cornejo, who's celebrating his 20th anniversary with the company. Cornejo will be featured in a special celebratory program as well as a new work by Twyla Tharp (her 17th for the company), set to Johannes Brahms' String Quartet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 111. The October 26 program will include Cornejo in a pas de deux with his sister, former ABT dancer Erica Cornejo.

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Ballet Careers
Gray Davis with wife, ABT soloist Cassandra Trenary, after his graduation from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. Courtesy Trenary.

When Gray Davis retired from American Ballet Theatre in July of 2018, he moved home to South Carolina, unsure of what would come next. Last month, just over a year later, Davis graduated from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. Today, he's working as a deputy for the Abbeville County Sheriff's Office.

Though Davis danced in ABT's corps for 11 years and is married to soloist Cassandra Trenary, to many he's best known for saving the life of a man who was pushed onto the subway tracks in New York City in 2017. The heroic effort earned him the New York State Liberty Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by a member of the New York State Senate. We caught up with Davis to hear about how the split second decision he made in the subway affected the course of his life, what it's been like starting a second career and what he sees as the similarities between ballet and law enforcement.

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