In reaching the top, how much is talent and how much is sweat?
For me, it was definitely more determination than talent. I know principals all over the world who are actually not naturally talented, but have worked very hard.

What are you most proud of?
My productions of La Sylphide. Staging it at the Bolshoi was an enormous personal achievement, because they’d just done a different production of La Sylphide, and I was able to change the dancers’ opinions of the ballet.

You were trained in Bournonville technique. What do you love most about it?
For a dancer it’s an amazing technical base. Maybe especially for boys, because for all the jumps you’re not using your arms to get you in the air. It comes from the stomach. That core strength makes everything else easier.

What’s your biggest indulgence?
I’m a shopaholic. If you let me loose in Dolce & Gabbana and I see something, I just think, ‘I work so hard, I should have it.’ It’s not good. I’m also a bit of a sparkler—I always wear gold sneakers. I have lots of pairs.

You trained as a tenor—do you still sing?
I traveled most of Europe singing, but I stopped at 16 when I began to focus on ballet. Lately, I started again and even make pop songs on my computer!

You and Alina Cojocaru are on- and offstage partners. What is your favorite role to perform with her?
Giselle is very special for us both. We’ve traveled the world with this ballet, and we can do so many things together in it.

What talent do you have that few people know about?
I’m not bad at designing costumes. I’ve done a few, for The Royal’s production of Napoli, for instance. I also used to do a lot of circus stuff, so I can juggle, ride a monobike and do magic tricks!

What advice do you have for students hoping to be professional dancers?
Unless your heart and mind are telling you that this is really what you want, then forget about it. It’s too hard to not love it.

What inspires you?
Alina.

Ballet Training
Hortense Millet-Maurin (third from left) and her classmates perform August Bournonville's La Conservatoire. Svetlana Loboff, Courtesy POB.

As a little girl, Hortense Millet-Maurin fell in love with the wide spiral staircase that dominates the center of the Paris Opéra Ballet School. Today, as a focused 15-year-old POB student, she and her classmate Vincent Vivet navigate the school's spacious architecture on a daily basis. In a hallway strewn with foam rollers and tennis balls, their faces are laced with concentration as they prepare alongside their peers for afternoon ballet class. Color-coded uniforms reflect Vivet's and Millet-Maurin's third division; with only two advanced divisions remaining, they are increasingly close to realizing their professional aspirations: joining the Paris Opéra Ballet. Pointe spoke with these two young dancers to see what it's like studying inside the world's oldest ballet academy.

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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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Ballet Training
Emily Giacalone, modeled by Elizabeth Steele of The School at Steps.

If you're feeling wobbly in adagio or wish you could hold your piqué attitude a bit longer, there are ways to assess and improve your balance. Try these four exercises, recommended by Heather Southwick, Boston Ballet's director of physical therapy.

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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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