Profiles

Julia Erickson's 6 Pieces of Unsolicited Advice to Hack Your Overactive Ballet Brain

Cooper Verona and Julia Erickson in William Forsythe's "In the middle, somewhat elevated." Photo by Rich Sofranko, courtesy PBT.

As I prepare to take my final, "official" bow as principal dancer with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre this weekend and look back on my 20-year career, my inner monologue is neither short on concepts nor on words elucidating them. Though I still plan to dance and am giddily excited for new adventures, I nevertheless feel the weighty finality of it all.

Surprisingly, I also feel effervescently light. Perhaps because, right now, it's about my love for the art form as opposed to maximizing my efforts toward success in it. It truly does feel like a metamorphosis—an exhilarating shift that makes me realize how much I love dance, how important change is and how much we can all learn from one another.


From that inner monologue, I feel compelled to share a few morsels of knowledge with my colleagues as I straddle staying in the moment and the anticipation of inevitably parting ways. Though I know they'll be fine (and at the risk of sounding self-important), I sometimes worry about how they'll fare without me to lighten the mood at barre, or to empathetically relate a story that might resonate with their own obstacles

So, here are some of the most resonant morsels—call them hacks—for them, and for you:

1. The way you perceive yourself is probably not as accurate as you think.

Erikson as Odile in "Swan Lake." Photo by Rich Sofranko, courtesy PBT.

Remind yourself of this continuously, especially when the self-criticism reaches a fever pitch—treat it like a yoga practice. Armed with this knowledge, continue to work hard and test your limits. But seriously, just be yourself, because you don't look the way you think you do anyway. Your "you-ness" is the dominant gene and is, by far, the most attractive part of you.

2. Just because you're "better" than someone at ballet (or they're "better" than you) does not mean you're better or worse as a person.

This unspoken talent caste system limits us as humans and artists, and therefore it limits the industry. Kindness is infinitely more attractive and useful. So please always treat people the way you'd want to be treated, even if you'd never cast them as Basilio—even in the Monday night show.

3. Your friends' victories are not your defeats.

Photo by Rich Sofranko, Courtesy PBT.

Remember, it is you you're competing against. Your friend did not get that role as part of a personal vendetta to devastate you, nor was the casting conceived as a personal insult. Reminding yourself of this fact is a practice, too, and must be continually reinforced! See above.

4. Smile.

You've likely heard this one before, but it warrants repeating. Smile. It helps. Smile at your classmates and colleagues. Smile at your teachers and at the receptionist. Smile at yourself in the mirror. Not the fake kind. Try it. Do it. Right now.

5. Success in ballet does not require sacrificing joy in the rest of your life.

Erickson in William Forsythe's "In the middle, somewhat elevated." Photo by Rich Sofranko, courtesy PBT.

Cultivate richness within the studio by living fully outside of it. Resist limiting your life because you fear tomorrow's rehearsal. Instead, bring the feelings, moods and energy from your interests and experiences into the studio and paint the room with them. Side directive: Smile thinking about all the fun you're about to have! See, isn't that better?

6. There is no such thing as ballet quicksand.

Erickson as Nikiya in "La Bayadère." Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy PBT.

Every step is a new opportunity to begin again. Just because you did three things wrong doesn't mean you shouldn't get excited about the 97 things you did right. We often act like we love perfectionism more than we love dance. Get over it! Humor me for a hot second and just float in the fact that you are straight up doing ballet. When you mess up, just keep flowing and riding that beautiful wave (even if your glute feels flooded with lactic acid and you have a corn that's preventing you from feeling half your foot). Repeat daily.

Instagram

Are you a total bunhead who loves to write? You might be the perfect fit for Pointe. We're seeking an editorial intern who's equally passionate about ballet and journalism.

Keep reading...
News
Manuel Legris at the Vienna State Opera. Michael Phon, Courtesy La Scala Ballet.

Former Paris Opéra Ballet etoile Manuel Legris has just been appointed artistic director of La Scala Ballet in Milan. Legris, who has directed the Vienna State Opera Ballet since 2010, posted on his Instagram page that he will assume his new position in December 2020. He replaces outgoing director Frédéric Olivieri. According to French news sites, Olivieri, who has led La Scala Ballet School since 2006, will continue to serve as the academy's director.

Keep reading...
News
Aran Bell and Catherine Hurlin in Of Love and Rage. Erin Baiano, Courtesy American Ballet Theatre.

This spring, American Ballet Theatre unveils Of Love and Rage, a new evening-length work based on an unlikely source: a tale of love and adventure written in the first century AD. We're all aware of Greek mythology, of the tragedies and of the Greek philosophers. But it is much less widely known that a writer by the name of Chariton penned what is likely the first romantic novel in Western literature, or at least the oldest that has survived: Callirhoe.

Keep reading...
Viral Videos

Earlier this month, 15-year-old American dancer Ava Arbuckle was one of eight scholarship winners at the Prix de Lausanne. For her classical selection, Arbukle, clad in an ultra-feminine, rosette-covered tutu, performed Flora's variation from The Awakening of Flora, Marius Petipa's 1894 one-act ballet about the Greek goddess of Spring. Back in 2007, historian and choreographer Sergei Vikharev reconstructed the work for the Mariinsky Ballet, with Evgenia Obraztsova, then a soloist at the Mariinsky and now principal at the Bolshoi Ballet, originating the titular Flora.

Keep reading...