We had a hunch that when Jenifer Ringer retired earlier this month, she wasn't saying "goodbye" to dance at large. The former New York City Ballet principal (and author of Dancing Through It) will be moving to California to direct Colburn Dance Academy, a new pre-professional dance program formed by The Colburn School, a performing arts high school, and Benjamin Millepied's L.A. Dance Project. The Academy will have a rigorous classical ballet foundation, but students will also explore modern, contemporary and commercial styles, as well as art and music history. The program will take just 10–12 students for its 2014–15 year, but eventually grow to 24. Dancers ages 14–19 are eligible. Auditions have yet to be announced.
The first time I was called to learn Mozartiana, I didn't think I would actually get to do it. It's a coveted ballerina role in the company, and I was still early in my career. But I got to dance it once or twice, and then not again for many years. The ballet isn't in our repertoire that often, so each time we've performed it I've been at a different level as a person and as an artist.
Mozartiana's music, an orchestral suite of the same name, was written by Tchaikovsky as a tribute to Mozart and is based on four of the great composer's piano works.
Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB
I have a terrible fear of falling when doing turns on pointe. I sometimes cry in class when we have to do new turns that I'm not used to. I can only do bad singles on a good day, while some of my classmates are doing doubles and triples. How can I get over this fear? —Gaby
Ballet at home: Since she's not preparing for any immediate performances, Steele takes ballet barre three to four times a week. "I'm working in more of a maintenance mode," she says, prioritizing her ankles and the intrinsic muscles in her feet. "If you don't work those muscles, they disappear really quickly. I've been focusing on a baseline level of ballet muscle memory."
What she's always working on: Strengthening her glute-hamstring connection (the "under-butt" area), which provides stability for actions like repetitive relevés and power for jumps. Bridges are her go-to move for conditioning those muscles. "Those 'basic food group'–type exercises are some of the best ones," she says.
Sarah Steele working out outdoors near the Washington Monument
Courtesy The Washington Ballet