Ballet Stars

Pacific Northwest Ballet Soloist Elle Macy Was Once Fearful of Cross-Training

Elle Macy in Benjamin Millepied's Appassionata. Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB.

Cross-training misconceptions: Before Elle Macy became an apprentice with Pacific Northwest Ballet, she was apprehensive about cross-training. "I was warned that it might bulk you, or not to do certain activities because they could potentially injure you." But a stress fracture in her foot changed her perspective. Unable to bear much weight, Macy reluctantly tried stationary biking at her physical therapist's suggestion. "What I learned is that you're not going to get injured from being on an elliptical for 20 minutes or by taking a Pilates class," says Macy. Today, it's not uncommon to find the soloist training on the elliptical, doing ankle stability exercises, using the Pilates reformer or taking a hot yoga class.


Blue circular boards with metal pieces sticking out of them.

Two BAPS boards. Gary Tucker, Courtesy PNB.

Favorite tool: Macy's ankle ligaments are loose because of past sprains. To strengthen the surrounding muscles and prevent injury, she does standing exercises on a BAPS board daily. Short for "biomechanical ankle platform system," the round board has an uneven rocker bottom, and weights can be placed at different spots around the board to further challenge balance and proprioception. Checking in with her ankles also preps Macy for PNB's varied rep. "We go from pointe shoes to socks to flat shoes to tennis shoes sometimes, so it's nice to have that stability intact."

How she starts her day: Macy arrives at the studio an hour before class starts. "Today, I saw our PT—my ankles were kind of jammed, so he helped me get them in the right place." Her daily warm-up includes stability work on the BAPS board, clamshells for her glutes, core strengtheners and TheraBand exercises. If she has an afternoon break, she'll hop on a reformer in PNB's Pilates room to reset between rehearsals. "It's a nice way to do some exercises without exerting too much energy," she says.

Macy onstage in a dark background wearing a black leotard costume and pointe shoes. One leg is extended in a kind of attitude behind her.

Macy in David Dawson's Empire Noir. Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB.

The magic number: "If a ballet's 20 minutes long, on a day that I'm not running it, I try to do the elliptical for that long," says Macy. If she needs to build more stamina, sometimes she'll do a run-through and a full elliptical session on the same day—but she's mindful of not overdoing it. "You don't want to peak too soon or be so exhausted that you don't end up performing as well."

Macy's workout advice: Use the buddy system. If she's in the gym or taking a yoga class, Macy trains with a friend to hold herself accountable. She often trades exercises with her boyfriend, fellow PNB soloist Dylan Wald. "Doing it with somebody else makes it more fun—and ensures that you're going to do it."

The Recovery Trick She Swears By

Salt spills out of a wooden spoon on a white background

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Epsom salt baths. "Getting in the warm water with the Epsom salts and the bubbles and the candles, it takes the weight of the day off, and rejuvenates the muscles to take on the next day."

When She Has Preshow Jitters

White headphones on white background

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"I try to get as Zen as possible. I'll lie down and just find my breath. I remind myself that it's just like a regular day, I've rehearsed enough and I'm ready to do it. I'll listen to music to make that busy-ness in my brain slow down." Her favorites? Broadway show tunes, Florence + The Machine, Adele, Sam Smith and Robyn.

Ballet Careers
Lenai Alexis Wilkerson. Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Michelle Tabnick Public Relations.

This is one of a series of stories on recent graduates' on-campus experiences—and the connections they made that jump-started their dance careers. Lenai Alexis Wilkerson graduated from University of Southern California with a BFA in dance (dance performance concentration) and a political science minor in 2019.

As Lenai Alexis Wilkerson looked at colleges, she wanted a school that would prepare her for two totally different professions: dancing and law. "I knew, pretty much when I was 16, that I wanted to go to law school," she says. "So I wanted the opportunity to have a dual college experience, where I could have a conservatory training style within a university and I could focus equally on my academics." When she auditioned for the inaugural class of University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, she knew it was the right fit.

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Sponsored by Ballet Arizona
Tzu Chia Huang, Courtesy Ballet Arizona

These days, ballet dancers are asked to do more than they ever have—whether that's tackling versatile rep, taking on intense cross-training regimens or managing everything from their Instagram pages to their summer layoff gigs.

Without proper training, these demands can take a toll on both the mind and the body. But students can start preparing for them early—with the right summer intensive program.

The School of Ballet Arizona's summer intensive takes a well-rounded approach to training—not just focusing on technique and facility but nurturing overall dancer growth. "You cannot make a dancer just by screaming at them like they used to," says master ballet teacher Roberto Muñoz, who guests at the program every summer. "You have to take care of the person as well."

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News
Nicolas Pelletier in Carmina Burana. Francisco Estevez, Courtesy Colorado Ballet.

Last week, Colorado Ballet interrupted Nutcracker rehearsals for an exciting announcement: Four dancers were being promoted. Though all made the jump from the company's corps de ballet, Nicolas Pelletier ascended directly to the rank of soloist, while Sean Omandam, Emily Speed and Melissa Zoebisch were promoted to demi-soloist. This news comes hot on the heels of last August's promotion of Francisco Estevez to principal.

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Courtesy School of Pennsylvania Ballet

While many of us are deep in Nutcracker duties, The School of Pennsylvania Ballet director James Payne has been looking further ahead, finalizing preparations for the school's summer intensive programs. In January, he and his staff will embark on a 24-city audition tour to scour the country for the best young dancers, deciding whether or not to offer them a spot—maybe even a scholarship—in the school's rigorous 5-week intensive focused on high-caliber ballet instruction. Though he'll be evaluating aspirants, he urges that as a student, you should be equally selective in choosing programs that could galvanize your training—and possibly even your career.

We got Payne's advice on strategizing your summer intensive plan before the audition cycle kicks in:

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