Ballet Training

Ask Amy: Do I Need Training in the Balanchine Style to Dance in an American Company?

Miami City Ballet in Balanchine's "Symphony in Three Movements" ©The George Balanchine Trust.Photo by Joe Gato, Courtesy MCB.

Is it necessary to have significant experience in Balanchine technique to dance in any or most ballet companies in the U.S.? —Madeline

It depends. If you're interested in dancing with New York City Ballet, the company co-founded by Balanchine himself, you'll need substantial training in the style. (Besides, NYCB usually only hires from its affiliated School of American Ballet.) Balanchine experience would also benefit you if you want to audition for other companies that regularly perform his work, such as Miami City Ballet or Pacific Northwest Ballet. Of course, there are always exceptions—I was not initially trained in the style, and I went on to dance with The Suzanne Farrell Ballet later in my career. But I had to go through a challenging learning curve.


Most companies in the U.S. are repertory companies that perform a range of work by many different choreographers. You may perform something by Balanchine, Jirí Kylián and Sir Frederick Ashton, all in one evening! Many directors value dancers who are adaptable and versatile.

While I don't think extensive Balanchine training is required to get a job

in an American company, it's certainly helpful to be familiar

with the style so that you can perform his ballets well.

When you're researching companies, browse the dancer biographies on company websites to get a sense of how important a Balanchine background is to the artistic director. If you can, try attending a workshop or summer intensive at a school that emphasizes the style so you can familiarize yourself with the basics. For instance, there's a significant emphasis on footwork, speed and attack. Turning preparations stem from a deep fourth position with a straight back leg, and spotting is done to the front—even if you're doing piqué turns to the corner. The more versatile you are, the more options you'll have in your career.

Have a question? Send it to Pointe editor and former dancer Amy Brandt at askamy@dancemedia.com.

The Conversation
Ballet Training
Getty Images

When the curtain falls, your work isn't over: That's exactly when post-show recovery begins. According to Carina Nasrallah, Houston Methodist athletic trainer for Houston Ballet, timing is everything. The 30 minutes after a performance is the optimal window to start combatting soreness and encourage muscle repair. Here, she shares the essential elements of a recovery plan from curtain call until bedtime.

Keep reading... Show less
Viral Videos
Brittany Cavaco in Until Midnight. Claire Morris, Courtesy Cavaco.

A white tulle dress, time travel, the Eiffel Tower at night... these elements come together in Until Midnight, a new dance film by Christopher Alexander of Zen Film Works. This eight-minute long vignette opens with Louise (played by Louise Schirmer), a former ballerina now living alone in old age. Through the delivery of a mysterious letter and a wristwatch from her past, she returns briefly to her youthful self, danced by former Washington Ballet dancer Brittany Cavaco. In a Cinderella-like twist, Louise has until midnight to find her beloved Jean Pierre (Sebastien Thill, former dancer with Paris Opera Ballet and Hamburg Ballet) for one last dance. According to Cavaco, all of the movement was improvised, created by herself and Alexander in each location.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Training
Peter Boal in class a New York City Center. Courtesy PNB.

"People have so much fear associated with arabesque turns," says Peter Boal, artistic director of Pacific Northwest Ballet. Here, he shares images and ideas to help you confidently master this advanced pirouette. "It's a real accomplishment when you can put it all together."

Keep reading... Show less