I dragged myself off the plane after the 12-hour flight to Melbourne, stiff, fuzzy-headed from jet lag, and wondering if I could ever get pointe shoes on my swollen feet again. At the same time, I was bursting with excitement. As a 20-year-old corps dancer with Pacific Northwest Ballet, I was embarking on my first major tour, which would turn out to be a challenging, exhausting and thrilling 10 days in Australia.

For any ballet company, large or small, contemporary or classical, touring is a fact of life. My tour to Melbourne as a young dancer was full of ups and downs (literally—the rehearsal studio was so slippery that I fell out of a tour jeté the first day and was sore for a week), but navigating my way through it gave me both insight and a suitcase full of strategies I'd use for the rest of my career.


Don't Forget to Pack…

  • Any potentially hard-to-find necessities, including things like toe tape, eyelashes and glue and hairnets. I once tried to buy hairspray in Finland and ended up with air freshener because I couldn't read the label!
  • Travel-size packets of laundry soap, in case that elusive laundromat can't be found. Shampoo works in a pinch, too.
  • Your own protein or granola bars, trail mix, crackers, instant oatmeal, cups of dry soup mix, protein powder, cans of tuna or jars of nut butter in case you're stuck at a theater in the middle of nowhere and need nourishment.
  • A portable medicine cabinet. Searching for a drugstore is not what you want to do in between performances or on your day off. Bring any prescription medication you need, of course, but also over-the-counter items like ibuprofen, cold medicine, Pepto-Bismol and antihistamines.

On the Plane, Bus or Train

  • Traveling always hurts—but just how much depends on what you do in the air or on the road. Sleeping is good; moving around is better. Get up and stretch, wherever you can. (I've been known to do grand pliés in the galley of the airplane to stay loose!) Give yourself a mini leg massage to keep the blood flowing. Wearing compression stockings can also prevent swelling.
  • Planes especially are notoriously dehydrating. Drink plenty of water at regular intervals as you travel. I like to take a travel mug and keep it filled up with hot tea on a long flight.
Going with the Flow
  • Dancing in a new place will be disorienting. Even if you hit the jackpot and tour to a place where the theater, studio and stage are ideal for dance, you will still need to adjust quickly to the unfamiliar surroundings. Try not to break in brand-new pointe shoes until you've tested the studio or stage and know if the floor is hard, slippery, sticky or uneven.

A version of this article was originally published in November 2011.

Ballet Stars

For many a bunhead, "The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" is not just a holiday tradition, but a rite of passage. The variation, with its tinkling celesta, bourrées and petit battus, is one that all ballet dancers are familiar with, and getting the opportunity to perform it often represents moving into new realms in your training or career. Such was the case for Soviet ballerina Ekaterina Maximova. In this 1957 clip, the 18-year-old aspirant performed the Sugar Plum variation at a ballet competition, where she represented the Bolshoi 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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Getty Images

For any young dancer performing in The Nutcracker, Marie (aka Clara, depending on the production) is a dream role. But Charlotte Nebres, who will be playing Marie in New York City Ballet's Nutcracker this year isn't just bringing her own dream to life—she's also making history.

Charlotte is the first black dancer to ever perform the role of Marie in NYCB's production of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker, which dates all the way back to 1954. Charlotte was, of course, hugely excited to perform the role of Marie, but, according to the New York Times, when her mother told her that she was the first black dancer cast in the role, she said "Wow. That seems a little late."

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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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