Ballet Stars

Boldly Beautiful: Ballet Austin's Jaime Lynn Witts

Jaime Lynn Witts. Photo Courtesy Ballet Austin.

Jaime Lynn Witts' persistent, can-do attitude is the secret to her success at Ballet Austin.

How do you divide your career between talent and pure determination?
You need equal parts talent, determination and luck. Someone needs to see you, feel like you're interesting enough to hire and have a spot available in their company. I don't really look like a typical ballet dancer—and plenty of people told me that it would never happen. I had to have the determination to keep going in spite of that.

You have had such a long career at Ballet Austin. What's your secret?
Being open to trying new things, whether it's different styles of movement or different ways of generating material. Especially when I first joined the company.

Are you more of a rehearsal or performance person?

While I absolutely love performing, I'm more of a workshopping person. When we are in the studio experimenting with movement, artistic director Stephen Mills will give us an idea to play with, and then ask “Do you think you can...?" The answer is always “yes," even if I think it's impossible. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but I love the challenge of trying to figure it out.


Which role has been the hardest and why?
Dancing the role of the Survivor in Light/The Holocaust & Humanity Project. It contains some of Stephen's most modern choreography. Then there is the emotionally challenging task of telling this woman's story of fear, segregation, dehumanization, survival and hope. While I could never begin to comprehend the atrocities of that event, the educational materials we were given and the opportunities to speak with survivors and visit the Holocaust memorial in Israel were experiences that have impacted my life far beyond the stage.

What's the most challenging part of your job?

It's hard to find balance in the ups and downs of the season, from the anticipation of casting (the surprises, whether exciting or disappointing) to the highs of performing to rehearsing a ballet you're not that interested in. You invest so much of yourself into your work that it's difficult not to be emotionally attached to it all.

Describe your dancing in one or two words.
Musical and fearless.

If you could invite anyone in history to dinner, who would be on the list?

I'd love to invite Balanchine and Vaganova, and some history-making women like Susan B. Anthony and Rosa Parks.

What advice would you give young dancers?
Take in as much art as you can, wherever and whenever you can. See as much dance as possible, of all styles. You have YouTube. Take advantage of it! And if in the end your ballet training doesn't lead you where you'd like it to, you'll look back and see all of the other things it has given you that you'll use the rest of your life.

Witts in "Light/The Holocaust & Humanity Project." Photo by Tony Spielberg, Courtesy Ballet Austin.


Which role has been the hardest and why?
Dancing the role of the Survivor in Light/The Holocaust & Humanity Project. It contains some of Stephen's most modern choreography. Then there is the emotionally challenging task of telling this woman's story of fear, segregation, dehumanization, survival and hope. While I could never begin to comprehend the atrocities of that event, the educational materials we were given and the opportunities to speak with survivors and visit the Holocaust memorial in Israel were experiences that have impacted my life far beyond the stage.


What's the most challenging part of your job?
It's hard to find balance in the ups and downs of the season, from the anticipation of casting (the surprises, whether exciting or disappointing) to the highs of performing to rehearsing a ballet you're not that interested in. You invest so much of yourself into your work that it's difficult not to be emotionally attached to it all.


Describe your dancing in one or two words.
Musical and fearless.


If you could invite anyone in history to dinner, who would be on the list?
I'd love to invite Balanchine and Vaganova, and some history-making women like Susan B. Anthony and Rosa Parks.


What advice would you give young dancers?
Take in as much art as you can, wherever and whenever you can. See as much dance as possible, of all styles. You have YouTube. Take advantage of it! And if in the end your ballet training doesn't lead you where you'd like it to, you'll look back and see all of the other things it has given you that you'll use the rest of your life.

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