How do principal dancers handle their intense schedules? For New York City Ballet star Sara Mearns, honing her instrument is key. The company's Tuesday-through-Sunday workweeks, lengthy performance seasons and extensive repertoire can make for longs days and late nights. "During performance weeks, I think about what I'm doing that night and make sure I don't have a lot during the day—or if I do, I'm smart about it," says Mearns. "You do one or two things full-out and then take it easy so that you perform your best at night."
To keep her body strong and injury-free, Mearns schedules cross-training sessions with former dancer and personal trainer Joel Prouty. "I've had a few back injuries, so we work a lot on making sure my glutes, back and hamstrings are all working together," she says. "It's really important to my regime—I feel like I can get through a day of rehearsing seven ballets."
Even when her NYCB schedule lightens up, Mearns keeps busy with side projects. She recently collaborated with her husband, Broadway choreographer Joshua Bergasse, in a New York City Center Encores! production of I Married An Angel, and she'll perform at a Merce Cunningham centennial event at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in April. "I don't overload myself, but I want to stay busy," she says. "My outside projects are really important to me. I want to do a lot of different things at this point in my career."
Pointe spent a rehearsal day with Mearns to see how she does it all.
Mearns wakes up around 9 am. "I'm definitely not a morning person," she says, adding that she doesn't get home until 10:30 or 11 pm on performance nights. "The later I can sleep, the better." Her husband makes a breakfast of smoothies, toast and coffee before Mearns stretches and rolls out her muscles. "I have to be at the theater for class at 10:30, so I like to arrive ready to go."
After her workout with Prouty, Mearns gives herself a full class, including pointework. "I always start with a lot of layers and take them off as I go. I want to be warm from deep within."
Photography by Kyle Froman