This morning we had a cover shoot with one of my all-time favorite dancers who's a principal at a top company. She's reached a level of success that most dancers only dream of. Yet she told me that when she was young, she never thought she'd get hired as a dancer. There was always someone better. There was always something she needed to improve.

 

It made me think, If even a dancer of this caliber had doubts about "making it," how many ever really know they have what it takes? Pointe gets letters from students all the time asking,  "Will I really be able to make a career out of my passion?" 

 

Ballet is an uncertain field where every director has different tastes and the competition for jobs is insane. Students devote their lives to the art without ever really knowing if all those hours in the studio will pay off. So many sacrifice so much—a social life, their feet, going to a normal school, living with their families—all in pursuit of a dream that may never come. It's one of the inspiring things about our world, as well as one of the most heart breaking.

 

Whenever you have an off day or are feeling afraid or unsure, remember this: Most of your idols were once in the same shoes you're in now. I bet just about every one of them questioned their future in ballet at one point.

 

There are no guarantees in life, and even fewer in ballet, but if you approach the challenge with the right attitude and give it everything you've got, it can only help to make you an even better dancer.

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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