Anna Greenberg of ABT's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, photographed by Jayme Thornton for Pointe.

Where Do You Hold Your Tension? 6 Top Trouble Areas and How to Ease the Strain

All dancers have their go-to tension area: shoulders that creep up towards the ears, a hand that becomes a claw, or feet and ankles that grip. Yet "Just relax" can be the hardest correction to apply. We spoke with four teachers for their tips on releasing tension throughout the body—and how it's all connected.


Gripped Glutes and Hip Flexors 

Jayme Thornton

Cartwright notices that many dancers are "squeezing the butt, tucked under and trying to hold it." This can cause a chain reaction of problems, including hip-flexor pain.

"Lift the carriage of the back," says Jaffe, "breathe, and put the energy in the core and hamstrings." To help students find their hamstrings, Cartwright has them relevé in first and try to make their heels meet on the way down. "That makes you engage the back of your leg, and not tuck. It's a natural shape."

To avoid overworking the hip flexor in extensions to the front and side, focus on lengthening the standing leg. "By pushing down through the floor, you're engaging the lower abdominals and the psoas, which is going to let the other leg unfold," says Cartwright.

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The author, Lucy Van Cleef, dancing Balanchine's Serenade at Los Angeles Ballet. Reed Hutchinson, Courtesy Los Angeles Ballet

My 12-Year Journey to a Bachelor’s Degree While Dancing Professionally

If you'd have told me in 2009 that it would take 12 years to earn my bachelor's degree, I never would have believed you. Back then, I was a dancer in my early 20s and in my second year with Los Angeles Ballet. I was used to the straightforward demands of the professional ballet world. I knew that hard work and willpower were the currency you paid in the studio, and that the thrill of live performance made all that investment worth it. What I didn't know then is how life's twists and turns aren't always so straightforward. In hindsight, I can see how my winding road to higher education has strengthened me—and my relationship with the ballet world—more than I ever could have imagined.

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Victoria Morgan with Cincinnati Ballet principal dancer Sirui Liu. Jennifer Denham, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet

After 25 Years, Victoria Morgan to Step Down as Cincinnati Ballet's Artistic Director

Last month, Victoria Morgan announced that she will step down as Cincinnati Ballet's artistic director at the conclusion of the 2021-22 season. The organization's board of trustees has formed a committee to conduct a national search for her replacement.

Prior to coming to Cincinnati Ballet in 1997, the Salt Lake City native was a principal dancer with San Francisco Ballet and Ballet West, as well as resident choreographer for the San Francisco Opera. She graduated magna cum laude from University of Utah, where she also earned her MFA, and has judged several international ballet competitions.

Entering her 25th and final season as director, Morgan has accomplished a lot at Cincinnati Ballet, not the least erasing the $800,000 in company debt she inherited at the outset of her tenure. To right the organization's financial ship she had to make tough choices early on—the first task the company's executive committee gave her was to release a third of the company's dancers. In her continuing effort to overhaul how the organization did business, in 2008 she became both the artistic director and CEO and set about building the company's now $14.5 million endowment. For the 2016–17 season, with the arrival of new company president and CEO Scott Altman, Morgan returned to being full-time artistic director and helped lead the realization of the organization's new $31 million home, the Margaret and Michael Valentine Center for Dance.

A champion of female choreographers, Morgan has also choreographed numerous ballets for the company, including world premieres of King Arthur's Camelot and The Nutcracker. She has also helped orchestrate several company collaborations, including 2013's Frampton and Cincinnati Ballet Live and joint productions with BalletMet.

Pointe caught up with Morgan to talk about her recent announcement.

Victoria Morgan is shown from the side standing on stage right, turning to smile at a line of costumed dancers to her left during bows. She wears a patterned green dress with chunky green high heels and holds a red rose in her hand.

Peter Mueller, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet

Why leave Cincinnati Ballet now?

It's been an amazing run and I have seen it all. I am not sure where I would go from here. I also feel there is a required stimulus and infusion of new ideas and energy that always needs to be a part of a growing, evolving and exciting arts organization.

What made you happiest at Cincinnati Ballet?

The people, from the devotion of patrons and donors to learning from and feeling the pride in work from the staff. It has also been so satisfying for me to choreograph on and watch so many dancers evolve in their dance careers and lives.

Were there things you wanted to do for the company that you weren't able to?

There were other collaborations I wanted us to explore and choreographers I wanted us to work with. It takes quite an investment to make those happen.

Your legacy includes actively creating opportunities for female choreographers. What motivated that?

I started realizing, in a profound way, the gender inequities in our art form. Because I was in a leadership position, I thought I could do something about this and try to get to a 50-50 balance of male and female choreographers. It took a little time to find women to step forward, but it happened. Now there are many more prominent female choreographers, including our resident choreographer Jennifer Archibald, and I am proud of that.

If you could handpick your successor, what qualities would you look for?

Somebody creative, charged up, and who can be visionary. Someone who has had a high-level experience in our art form. A leader who is demanding but also kind and supportive, and who opens doors to find new ideas while still embracing Cincinnati Ballet's philosophies.

What do you feel will be one of the biggest challenges for the new artistic director?

The important cause of DEIA (diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility). Whoever steps into that position has to have awareness of the culture of today's conversation.

Do you plan to keep choreographing?

I am not being proactive about it, but if the opportunity presents itself, it would be fun.

What's next?

I feel my next calling is bringing movement to the biggest segment of our population, baby boomers. I want to be part of an initiative that makes moving and wellness enjoyable and enlivens people.

Carla Fracci in Romeo and Juliet, 1968. Erio Piccagliani, Courtesy La Scala Ballet

Backstage Notes: Conversations With Carla Fracci

Last month, the legendary Italian ballerina Carla Fracci passed away at the age of 84. A star whose name was eponymous for La Scala Ballet in Milan, she went on to have an international career with companies including The Royal Ballet and American Ballet Theatre. Over her five-decade career she developed partnerships with the greatest male stars of the age, including Rudolf Nureyev and Erik Bruhn. She also acted on television and in films, playing Tamara Karsavina in the 1980 movie Nijinsky, and would go on to direct ballet companies in Naples, Verona and Rome. Often called the "Duse of the dance" (referencing the great Italian actress Eleanora Duse), Fracci became famous for her bringing vivid spontaneity and depth to her roles, from her signature Giselle to The Accused (Lizzie Borden) in Agnes DeMille's Fall River Legend.

In October 2006, I had the pleasure of conducting a series of interviews with Fracci for my book, First Position: A Century of Ballet Artists (ABC-CLIO). After the interviews ended, she and her husband, Beppe Menegatti, graciously invited me to their home. Our conversation was wide-ranging (including our ideal casts of present-day dancers for various ballets, the role of the Alonsos in Cuba), and she shared anecdotes about partnering.

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