On the Side: Rachel Cossar

When she performs with Boston Ballet II, 20-year-old Rachel Cossar stands out for her spectacular extensions and her utter fearlessness. But few would guess that she owes both to an unlikely kind of training: Cossar was, until last year, a world-class rhythmic gymnast.

Cossar started studying “regular” (artistic) gymnastics when she was very young, but soon it was clear that she would be too tall to compete successfully. Her coaches steered her towards rhythmic gymnastics, which involves the manipulation of various devices (ribbons, hoops and balls among them), requires incredible flexibility and incorporates aspects of dance—including ballet. Cossar began taking ballet classes and immediately felt an affinity for the artform. “I noticed that routines with the ball—which are often set to classical ballet music—were my favorites,” she says.

Cossar was a member of the Canadian national rhythmic gymnastics team for 10 years. But at 19—when she was ranked third on the team—she decided to retire. Ballet was calling her. She began auditioning for companies, ultimately securing a spot at BBII. Today she continues to train and also teaches at Rhythmic Dreams gym in Boston.


Cossar is thankful for the steely confidence that comes out of years of high-level competition. “To get on that carpet in front of a panel of judges—that’s incredibly stressful,” she says. “It’s made it easier for me to feel comfortable onstage.” But she doesn’t miss the pressures of competition. “I love that ballet isn’t about winning; it’s about giving the audience joy.”

Latest Posts

Skjalg Bøhmer Vold, Courtesy Merritt Moore

How Quantum Physicist Ballerina Merritt Moore Learned to Dance With a Robot (Plus, Her Newest Film)

When the world went into lockdown last March, most dancers despaired. But not Merritt Moore. The Los Angeles native, who lives in London and has danced with Norwegian National Ballet, English National Ballet and Boston Ballet, holds a PhD in atomic and laser physics from the University of Oxford. A few weeks into the coronavirus pandemic, she came up with a solution for having to train and work alone: robots.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Lauren Anderson's Tips for Relevé Développé Écarté Devant

Développé écarté relevé "is in every class, every ballet," says Lauren Anderson, former principal dancer and current program manager of education and community engagement at Houston Ballet. Below, she gives you the keys to success for this "light and lovely" repertoire staple.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Andrey Chuntomov, Courtesy Arabesque-2020

Inside Arabesque-2020, One of Russia’s Top Ballet Competitions

Much like everything else this year, the XVI Russian Open Ballet Competition Arabesque-2020 was unlike any in its three-decade history. Rescheduled and shortened because of the coronavirus pandemic—and on the brink of cancellation until the very last moment—the competition nevertheless took place October 24 to November 2 at the historic Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks