Dancer Spotlight: Serious Talent

Although she can move with the lightness of a dragonfly skimming a pond, a year ago American Ballet Theatre corps member Meaghan Hinkis scored a great success with ABT II by doing no dancing at all. Last spring, she performed the role of a mourning widow visiting the statue of her assassinated husband in Roger VanFleteren’s pas de deux Pavlovsk. From her entrance through her slow collapse and subsequent gestures of grief, Hinkis’ powerfully restrained command of mime permeated the theater with nobility and loss. Of course the statue (Alberto Velazquez) soon came to life, and the dancing began. By that point, however, we knew we were not watching just another pas for two attractive young people.

 

“I feel most comfortable when I’m onstage,” admits Hinkis, 19. A dancer since age 4, she grew up in Simsbury, Connecticut, and focused on ballet by the time she was 11, when she started at The Hartt School. Two years later, she began going to New York’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, the traditional springboard to ABT II, which she joined in 2007.  She also studied with reknowned coach Fabrice Herrault on her own time.

 

Already an apprentice with the main company when she danced Pavlovsk, Hinkis’ expressive almond eyes and long limbs give her movement eloquence. Although she’s just 5’ 4”, she easily dominates the stage with space-defying speed.

 

Last October, when ABT accepted her into the corps, the company was gearing up to launch a new production of The Nutcracker, choreographed by artist in residence Alexei Ratmansky. By then, Hinkis was an old Nutcracker hand: “I seemed to be dancing it everywhere,” she says, noting that she performed Clara in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular for two seasons when she was younger and more recently danced the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Hague (thanks to ABT II contacts). Ratmansky not only recruited her for the Toy Soldier’s dance in the Act I party scene that he had turned into a pas de deux for the windup toys, he cast her in the December 23 premiere.

 

The honor came as no surprise to her teachers. “Meaghan is a joy to work with because she is hungry for a challenge,” recalls ABT II artistic director Wes Chapman. “She has no real limits. I used to make her mad by saying, ‘I don’t know if you can do this.’ She showed me she could.” 

 

Her maturity was what initially impressed ABT ballet mistress Nancy Raffa. “She immediately adapted to working in the company,” she says. “Her commitment to her career is so serious  that she has no time to be neurotic. Some young dancers always talk about what they are going to do. Meaghan always demonstrates she can do it.”

 

This commitment was amply illustrated at two Nutcracker rehearsals a few weeks before previews began, when Hinkis was alternating work in the corps for “Waltz of the Flowers” with the demanding pas de deux she had been awarded. Although the “Waltz” was still a work in progress at that stage, Hinkis stood out from the other 15 women who were being coached by ballet mistress Susan Jones. It was also obvious that she was already dancing the steps full out, with line and verve to spare and a special twist to the torso in leaps.

 

Then she was off down the hall to a rehearsal with Ratmansky for the rapid-fire pas de deux for her and Luis Ribagorda. “Alexei is a pleasure to work with,” she says. “He tells you what he wants, and you want to do it for him.” While other couples stood by to mark the choreography, Ratmansky patiently clarified the steps that went off like a string of firecrackers and tightened the jagged poses that abruptly ended each phrase.

 

Thanks to Hinkis, rehearsals with the other couples could now proceed smoothly through rough spots. When a woman’s footwork looked uncertain, Ratmansky would call upon Hinkis to demonstrate the correct steps, and she never failed to do so. 

 

Did I mention her middle name is Grace?

At A Glance
Name: Meaghan Hinkis
Age: 19
Company: American Ballet Theatre
Training: The Hartt School in Hartford, CT, JKO, Fabrice Herrault
Dream Roles: Kitri, Aurora, Juliet
Idols: Gillian Murphy, Alina Cojocaru

Latest Posts


James Barkley, Courtesy Dance for Change

Take Class From Celebrated Black Dancers and Raise Money for the NAACP Through Dance for Change

Since the nationwide fight against racial inequality took center stage in May, organizations across the dance world have been looking for meaningful ways to show their support, rather than fall back on empty social media signifiers. July 10-11, Diamante Ballet Dancewear is taking action with Dance for Change, a two-day event dedicated to fundraising for the NAACP, and amplifying the voices of Black professional dancers.

Organized by Diamante Ballet Dancewear's founder, Nashville Ballet 2 dancer Isichel Perez, and Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre teacher Elise Gillum, Dance for Change makes it easy to participate. Dancers need only to make a donation to the NAACP (in any amount) and email proof to diamante.ballet@gmail.com to be given online access to a full schedule of Zoom master classes taught by Black pros artists. Teachers include Ballet Memphis' George Sanders, Boston Ballet's Daniel Durrett, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's Corey Bourbonniere, and more. "It's important that we amplify BIPOC voices during this time, and it's also important that we're conscious of where we're putting our dollars," says Bourbonniere. "Diamante is doing both with Dance for Change, and I'm honored to be in this talented group of melanated dancers."

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Vikki Sloviter

Sydney Dolan Takes Center Stage at Pennsylvania Ballet

This is Pointe's Summer 2020 cover story. You can subscribe to the magazine here, or click here to purchase this issue.

Just days before the world shuttered under the strain of the coronavirus pandemic, and the curtain came down indefinitely on dance companies everywhere, Pennsylvania Ballet soloist Sydney Dolan debuted Gamzatti in La Bayadère with captivating ease. Her jumps soared, her technique was sound, and her cheeky smile paired with exquisite port de bras was beguiling. Though she didn't know the company would soon cancel the remainder of its season, her beautiful performance acted as a kind of send-off into the unknown.

Dolan's career could be described in one word: charmed. At just 19 years old, she's flown through the ranks at PAB, debuted a long list of roles, won a Princess Grace Award and been named one of Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch." Yet it's her challenges that have shaped not only her training but her outlook, giving her a solid foundation for becoming one of Pennsylvania Ballet's rising stars.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Courtesy de Roos

SAB Student Founds Dancewear Nonprofit to Help Others in Need

When School of American Ballet student Alexandra de Roos was 8 years old, she placed a collection box at her dance studio for others to donate their gently used dancewear. De Roos, now 17, has since turned that single collection box into a nonprofit organization that aims to minimize economic barriers in the performing arts with free dancewear and classes.

De Roos' organization, Peace Love Leotards, has collected about $2,600 of new and gently-used dancewear and $2,000 in grants and donations since formally launching in April. Dancers or studio owners can request items through a form on the organization's website.

"I knew that dancewear was really expensive and that a lot of students might not be able to do the thing that they love because it's cost-prohibitive," de Roos said. "I really wanted to create something to allow people to have the same experience of the love and joy of dance that I've been so grateful to have."

After SAB shifted its winter term online amid the COVID-19 pandemic, de Roos decided to expand Peace Love Leotards. She reached out to dance companies, resulting in partnerships with brands including Jo+Jax, Lone Reed Designs, RubiaWear and Wear Moi.

"To have them be like 'We want to help you with this and we love this idea and what you're doing is amazing,' that was really exciting to me," she said. "It was very heartwarming."

Jordan Reed, the creator of custom dancewear brand Lone Reed Designs, said she has donated seven items to Peace Love Leotards with plans to donate more consistently every quarter. Custom leotards often retail at higher prices, but Reed, a former Houston Ballet corps member, said the one-of-a-kind clothing offers an "extra bit of confidence, which can go more than a long way in a dancer's journey of training."

Paul Plesh, a sales director for Wear Moi in the United States and Canada, said the company donated 11 leotards after finding Peace Love Leotards' mission to be "commendable." Joey Dowling-Fakhrieh, the founder and creative director of Jo+Jax, said dancewear "can make a significant impact on a student's confidence, as well as how much they enjoy the process of learning dance."

De Roos has worked to expand Peace Love Leotards, Inc. rapidly in the past few months, but she first created the organization at eight years old after participating in a mentorship program with competitors in the Miss Florida and Miss Florida's Outstanding Teen pageants. The pageants, which are part of the Miss America Organization, require competitors to have personal platforms they advocate for as titleholders. As a competition dancer, de Roos instantly thought about the cost barriers to dance when wondering what her own future platform would be.

De Roos said she and her young classmates often outgrew nearly brand-new dancewear, so she approached her studio's owner about placing a collection box at the studio.

Barbara Mizell, who owns Barbara's Centré for Dance in Florida, said she was unsurprised by de Roos' proposal. De Roos always had "such a way of pushing herself and she never forgot those around her," Mizell said. As the box filled up, she distributed the dancewear to others at the studio, local schools with dance programs, and the local YMCA.

"When they could start to see that it was providing happiness for others, then it was almost like the kids couldn't wait to donate," Mizell said.

Nearly a decade after the Miss Florida organization inspired her to launch Peace Love Leotards, de Roos is now a titleholder herself, as Miss Gainesville's Outstanding Teen 2020. Her new mission for Peace Love Leotards is applying for grants, and she has already received a $1,000 grant from the Delores Barr Weaver Legacy Fund that will be used to fund a Title 1 school class.

"The whole organization behind Peace Love Leotards is the dancers," de Roos said. "Being able to help the dancers that are in need and being able to think about the dancewear that they're going to be receiving or have received has been truly amazing."

Editors' Picks