Ballet superstars don't get much bigger than Wendy Whelan and Desmond Richardson. This winter, the two inimitable dancers teamed up for a one-night-only performance in New Orleans to commemorate Richardson's last season as a performer with Complexions. If you haven't seen Jim Lafferty's gorgeous shots of their rehearsals in our April/May issue, you're missing out. This is one outtake we didn't have room for in the magazine, and I had to share it. Whelan is so lifted, has such breath in her arms with Richardson as a strong, grounded counterpoint. I love the stretch that extends through both of their bodies in that moment just before her toe hits the floor. Enjoy!
Hollywood could make a movie about Sarah-Gabrielle Ryan's big break at Pacific Northwest Ballet.
It was November 2017, and the company was performing Crystal Pite's film-noir–inspired Plot Point, set to music by Bernard Hermann from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. Ryan, then a first-year corps member, originally was understudying the role of another dancer. But when principal Noelani Pantastico was injured in a car accident, Ryan was tapped to take over her role.
Jayme Thornton for Pointe
Early Successes—and Struggles<p>Ryan, now 23, has been dancing since she was 3 years old, when her parents enrolled her in tap, jazz and ballet classes at a local dance studio. At age 5, her teacher recommended she pursue more rigorous ballet training at Philadelphia's acclaimed Rock School for Dance Education.</p><p>Ryan flew up the levels there, and by the age of 12, she'd advanced to the top, the youngest student in her classes. Although she held her own with high-school–aged peers, Ryan knew she was different. "Everyone was older," she says. "You were expected to look a certain way, but I was still going through puberty!"</p><p>That didn't stop Pennsylvania Ballet, which then did not have an affiliated school, from casting Ryan in its annual <em>Nutcracker</em>. Ryan was 10 when she danced her first role, a toy soldier. Miami City Ballet School director Arantxa Ochoa was a principal dancer with Pennsylvania Ballet at the time, but she noticed the young dancer.</p><p>"I just remember her beautiful eyes and big smile," Ochoa recalls.</p>
Jayme Thornton for Pointe
Ryan with company dancers in Jerome Robbins' West Side Story Suite
Lindsay Thomas, Courtesy PNB
A New Home<p>Ryan had attended Pacific Northwest Ballet's summer intensive the summer after joining PBII. She was among 30 young women enrolled in Peter Boal's class that summer—all excellent dancers, he says—but Ryan stood out.</p><p>"She had this kind of go-for-broke presence," Boal says. "A gutsiness." He made a mental note. A year later, when Ryan contacted him about an audition, Boal invited her to attend class when the company toured to New York City. At the end of that class, Boal offered Ryan a contract; she joined PNB as an apprentice in the fall of 2016.</p><p>"I loved PNB's rep, I loved the idea of working for Peter," Ryan says. Although she was scared about moving across the country, she calls it "good scared."</p>
Ryan in Ronald Hynd's The Sleeping Beauty
Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB
Finding Her Voice<p>During this long pandemic year, Davis and Ryan have had ample opportunity to explore their partnership. They share a Seattle apartment with two miniature Australian shepherds, Hawk and Magpie, who make frequent cameos during the online classes the couple both take and teach.</p><p>PNB's 2020-21 season is all-digital, and when the dancers returned to the studio last August, only those who co-habitated could partner one another. In the company's opening program, Ryan and Davis reprised the pas de deux from Balanchine's "Rubies." While dancing for cameras instead of live audiences hasn't been ideal, Ryan says she's learned how to use her face to convey emotions in a more intimate way, instead of playing to the second balcony.</p><p>Beyond the pandemic, the past year also ushered in frank national conversations about race and racism, which freed Ryan to speak more openly about her Latin heritage. "It gave me a voice I didn't always have before," Ryan says. "I always knew I was different, especially in ballet, but didn't often talk about it."</p>
Jayme Thornton for Pointe
Wearing a mask while dancing in exchange for finally getting back into the studio seems like a small price to pay—though it doesn't make maskne any less pesky.
But the irritation and acne caused by sweating in a mask doesn't have to be part of the equation. To clear up breakouts and prevent new ones from popping up post-rehearsal, Dr. Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Entière Dermatology, explains the importance of a strong (but simple) skin-care routine.
"Masks cause heat, friction and occlusion on the skin," says Levin, who trained in ballet through her teenage years. Combine that with the sweat that gets trapped by your mask and you've got the perfect environment for clogged pores and bacteria overgrowth. Levin notes that the best approach for clear skin is to consistently use a gentle cleanser in the morning and at night, followed by a lightweight moisturizer, and a topical cream with an active ingredient to treat and prevent breakouts.
CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTc5NjcwMi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2ODU3MDc0NH0.Eup3sjBemMMQaH5KusBketwYyuasx4Zi8BB2qYnKpio/img.jpg?width=4558&coordinates=0%2C625%2C0%2C749&height=4722" id="86c71" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa6bee499882c62c31b61d5633f8ccde" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="A white and lime green bottle of CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser with a pump" data-width="4558" data-height="4722" />
Courtesy CeraVe<p>"I recommend washing your face before dance class and after a full day," Levin says. This <a href="https://www.ulta.com/hydrating-facial-cleanser?productId=xlsImpprod4190255" target="_blank">CeraVe cleanser</a> is formulated with ceramides and hyaluronic acid so it won't strip your skin of essential moisture, and it's noncomedogenic (meaning it won't clog your pores).</p>
Differin Adapalene Gel<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTc5NjY5Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MzcxODM3NH0.W8eHIOdwEjSpwiy6x8Q6M-ZpkRDLfOUWpOXhAyOZ4KU/img.jpg?width=980" id="d0689" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4fa8bdb9a5e5085dc7f03a425952a5e4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="A white bottle of Differin Adapalene Gel with yellow accents and a blue cap" data-width="1785" data-height="1178" />
Courtesy Differin<p>An over-the-counter acne treatment can help to clear clogged pores, and Levin likes this drugstore find because it still provides prescription strength. "<a href="https://www.target.com/p/differin-adapalene-gel-0-1-acne-treatment-15g/-/A-51346324" target="_blank">Differin</a> is a retinoid or vitamin A derivative, which is the foundation of how dermatologists treat acne," she says of its ability to increase skin cell turnover to prevent breakouts. "However, it's important to ease into the frequency of the Differin gel, and use it with a moisturizer at night," she adds. That will help minimize signs of irritation, like dryness.</p>
La Roche-Posay Effaclar Clarifying Oil-Free Cleansing Towelettes<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTc5NjY3MS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNjE2NDA2M30.42iUNYCK3N4dIOqumoYNbdflakV9XIKy8Cwip94yeUc/img.png?width=980" id="023df" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fb498b42052c1c2a027fe0fbf1d05406" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="A white package of La Roche-Posey cleansing towelettes" data-width="1500" data-height="1180" />
Courtesy La Roche-Posay<p>It's important to keep your skin clean to help prevent acne, but excessively cleansing can actually just cause more irritation. Rather than wash your face after class or in between rehearsals (which is a pain to do in the studio anyway), Levin recommends using on-the-go wipes like <a href="https://www.ulta.com/effaclar-clarifying-oil-free-cleansing-towelettes?productId=xlsImpprod16011005" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">La Roche-Posay</a>'s. Not only are they alcohol-free and fragrance-free, but they also include soothing thermal spring water, and a gentler derivative of salicylic acid to exfoliate the skin without causing irritation.</p>
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel-Cream<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTc5NjY1OC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMDYwMzc4MX0._VrUehU3Ucoc1xHxJ_eOJAFiyd_8DX6qme9Lf-B8pO0/img.png?width=1539&coordinates=0%2C169%2C0%2C0&height=1079" id="7ff80" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5790694efae14a2186591777e4c893cc" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="A small aqua blue jar of Neutrogena Hydro Boost gel-cream with a white screw-on lid" data-width="1539" data-height="1079" />
Courtesy Neutrogena<p>Skip the makeup, and apply a moisturizer under your mask instead. This gel formula from <a href="https://www.target.com/p/unscented-neutrogena-hydro-boost-hyaluronic-acid-gel-face-moisturizer-to-hydrate-and-smooth-extra-dry-skin-1-7oz/-/A-16600134" target="_blank">Neutrogena</a> is lightweight and oil-free, so it absorbs quickly without leaving your skin feeling greasy. Plus, it still contains super-hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid to protect against moisture loss.</p>
Avène Cleanance Hydra Soothing Cream<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTc5NjY1My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2ODAwMzg1MX0.n_VC95QWwd1eakW2_lfR20N1h6m0ZAmp3llmSyLlyQs/img.png?width=980" id="119cf" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1126dd3a20ea2428ccac14ddbb81a0a7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="A white, squeezable tube of Av\u00e8ne Cleanance Hydra Soothing Cream with a light blue cap." data-width="1000" data-height="830" />
Courtesy Avène<p>Because over-the-counter acne treatments like Differin can be drying as your skin adjusts, <a href="https://www.walgreens.com/store/c/avene-cleanance-hydra-soothing-cream,-acne-treatments-adjunctive-care-1.3-fl.oz./ID=300399911-product" target="_blank">Avène</a> created this multitasking cream. Use it at night for a more moisturizing option that also helps to reinforce the skin's natural barrier and calm signs of irritation like redness.</p>
The Klog Soft Shield Pimple Patch<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTc5NjY0OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNzUwOTkxMH0.ifP0bO_Lh9HGpetgQn06hxs8AYcDB9n2Tupe1N4Gbk0/img.jpg?width=980" id="1ec7a" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="610eaa3b73c5b7ec924837940c0d7e56" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="A package of The Klog Soft Shield Pimple Patch, featuring three sheets of pimple patches fanned out next to the packaging" data-width="1024" data-height="1280" />
Courtesy The Klog<p>When you start to feel a pimple brewing, apply one of these clear patches from <a href="https://sokoglam.com/products/soft-shield-pimple-patch" target="_blank">The Klog</a>. The hydrocolloid bandages absorb excess oil and pus, keeping the affected area clean while speeding up healing time. The tiny adhesives are meant to stay in place throughout the day, but if too much sweat has them sliding around while you dance, switch to using a pimple patch while you sleep instead.</p>
Of all the unprecedented effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the dance world, perhaps the most unthinkable a year ago was the forced pivot to online training. With many studios mandated to close, we've outfitted our homes with barres and marley and harnessed technology to create more learning opportunities than ever before. And now, as some studios reopen for in-person classes (either fully or in hybrid form) and others remain online, it's easier to supplement your school's offerings by adding virtual master classes—or even going to another school for in-studio time. But while being able to take class from anyone, anywhere, offers great opportunities, there are pitfalls to jumping from teacher to teacher. It's important to balance out the pros and cons of creating your own "COVID curriculum."
Balance Opportunity and Consistency<p>Some virtual classes can feel more fun than others—Instagram Live with a celebrity dancer can be an exciting contrast to the familiarity of your regular Zoom classes. But for a lot of students, the combination of isolation and inadequate space at home becomes a huge struggle. As some schools reopen for in-person classes while others remain fully online, the urge to grab a chance at studio time elsewhere is real.</p><p>"Some students are having a really difficult time with online training," says Erica Fischbach, director of the Colorado Ballet Academy, which has been mostly virtual since last March. While the Academy's policy prohibits students in the pre-professional program from taking outside classes, Fischbach has cautiously allowed it during the pandemic, within strict parameters. "If a student comes to us and is really struggling, we've said it's okay to go to another studio to take classes—so long as CBA is still virtual, it does not conflict with their current classes, and they are not overtraining."</p>
Colorado Ballet Academy director Erica Fischbach teaching CBA Pre-Professional Division students
Mark Hutchens, Courtesy Colorado Ballet
Consistency Versus Variety<p>Students seek out supplemental virtual training for various reasons. Pre-pandemic, Miami-based Veyette Virtual Ballet School mostly worked with students seeking individual attention missing at their primary school, whether to prepare for a competition, learn the nuances of a different style, or simply gain confidence through one-on-one coaching. While VVBS has since added group classes for those wanting to train with them under a more consistent schedule, directors Lauren and Francis Veyette are still very careful in how they guide private students who attend another school full-time. Finding a balance between variety and consistency is crucial, they say. "I think any teacher has a little bit of tunnel vision; even the best teachers may not see every little detail," says Francis. "Having a diversity of opinion can be valuable. On the other hand, if you take class from a different teacher every time, you're not going to get the chance to really work on the corrections each one emphasizes."</p>
Lauren and Francis Veyette work with one of their local students on a sit lift.
Ariel Rose, Courtesy Veyette Virtual Ballet School
Getting the Most Value from One-Off Classes<p>When taking a one-time class, consider how the teacher's perspective can complement and augment the training you're already getting, not replace it. Jessica Lynn, a sophomore at the University of Oklahoma majoring in ballet performance and journalism, took virtual master classes on several platforms over her winter break, including ones on Zoom from Peter Stark and Cynthia Harvey. She feels those in particular reminded her how to use speed, plié and movement dynamics in different ways, elements she finds applicable to her OU classes.</p><p>But the one-time classes also gave her a taste of being a professional. "As I've gotten older, giving myself corrections is more important than ever," says Lynn. "That's something I've learned to employ from the Instagram Live and other online classes. Not having hands-on specific instruction is challenging, but I think that's indicative of how it's going to be in the professional setting."<strong></strong></p>
Sarah Cermak, Courtesy Lynn