Ballet Careers

How Richmond Ballet's Eri Nishihara Leapt from a BFA to Company Life

Eri Nishihara in Rex Wheeler's Symphonic Dances. Sarah Ferguson, Courtesy Richmond Ballet.

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. Eri Nishihara graduated from University of Utah with a BFA in ballet performance in 2016.

As her time in high school drew to a close, Eri Nishihara knew she wasn't ready to dance professionally. She had seen dancers her age from other cities at summer intensives and didn't think that she was up to company caliber yet. "I didn't want to feel like I was having to keep up for a lack of training or experience, while adjusting to a new professional life," she says. Nishihara had trained with University of Utah professors in the past, through summer intensives at Ballet West, and felt that their teaching style would best prepare her for a future career.


Top-Notch Teachers

Nishihara loved the way her professors asked her to think critically. "They really challenge you to think for yourself and evaluate your strengths and your weaknesses, so that when you're being trained, you can apply everything in a way that works best for you," she says.

Nishihara and Marty Davis in Stoner Winslett's The Nutcracker. Sarah Ferguson, Courtesy Richmond Ballet.

Favorite Nondance College Course: Kinesiology

"It gives you a better physical understanding of what the body is capable of and how it moves," she says. "It's something every dancer can benefit from."

Learning Versatility

Classes at the University of Utah ranged from Cecchetti to contemporary to Russian to Balanchine. "That challenged me to be a lot more versatile, and versatility is something that comes in handy when you're looking for a job."

Nishihara and Davis in Philip Neal's Gargoyles. Sarah Ferguson. Courtesy Richmond Ballet.

Leaping Into Company Life

During her sophomore year, Nishihara decided to do a round of auditions with some older classmates, thinking the process would be less intimidating with friends. "I got really lucky and was offered a second-company contract with Richmond Ballet," she says. With the help of her professors, she was able to finish her degree remotely while dancing in Richmond.

Advice for Bunheads Considering College

"Don't limit yourself to dance. You get this opportunity when you're on campus to see so many more things, so enjoy being in such a diverse environment."

Health & Body
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I have very tapered Morton's toes (longer second toes). My big toe joints are about a half centimeter shorter than my second and third toe joints, so I have a terrible time finding stability on demi-pointe. My weight lands on that second toe joint, which is pretty narrow and uncomfortable under that pressure. How can I find a more stable relevé? —Larissa

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Sponsored by The Rock School
From left: Sarah Lapointe, Derek Dunn and Jeanette Kakareka. Courtesy The Rock School

For more than five decades, The Rock School for Dance Education has been launching young dancers into professional ballet careers around the globe. Boasting distinguished alumni such as Beckanne Sisk, Michaela DePrince and Taylor Stanley, the Philadelphia-based institution has garnered a well-deserved reputation for pairing rigorous training with a tight-knit, welcoming community. Their summer intensives are no different, with a wealth of prestigious faculty members, many of whom are Rock School alums currently dancing at companies around the world.

What inspires busy pros to keep returning to their alma mater? We talked to three of The Rock School's buzziest alums about why they make it a priority to come back and teach:

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News
The National Ballet of Canada's Harrison James and Emma Hawes in Orpheus Alive. Karolina Kuras, Courtesy NBoC.

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've rounded up some highlights.

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Courtesy Apolla

Ballet dancers today are asked to do more with their bodies than ever before. The physical demands of a ballet career can take an immense toll on a dancer's joints and muscles—subjecting them to pain, inflammation and an increased risk of injury. Considering all that is required of today's dancers, having a top-notch recovery regime is paramount.

Enter Apolla Performance Wear, which is meeting ballet's physical demands with a line of compression footwear that is speeding up the recovery process for professional dancers by reducing inflammation and stabilizing the joints.

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