The first time I saw Sleeping Beauty was on video, the Kirov version with Larissa Lezhnina. The music for the first entrance gave me butter- flies. Aurora comes out, and it captured my heart. Larissa coached me for my first sea- son of Aurora, and just the fact that we were sharing the same studio—I couldn't get over it. One of the things she encouraged me to explore is after Aurora faints: You get back up, you look up at your parents and re- center yourself. For me, what feels natural is that you don't want anyone to worry. Maybe there is a moment where you get a little embarrassed. It's those small moments that make it feel very personal to me.


I always hear that Aurora is not a very dramatic role. I disagree—she has to go through a distinct transformation. To capture that 16-year-old essence, I think about when I was 16, which is when I started as an apprentice at SFB, and felt like a child acting like an adult. Aurora has moments of innocence and tenderness, but she finds her voice and her independence as a woman.

Doing my first Rose Adagio onstage, I was very, very nervous. I stepped up for the first attitude and I got super-scared, and I thought, You've done the work. You can do it. Then I trusted my body to do what I had to do. I ask my suitors to give me 10 minutes before the curtain goes up, and we try the attitude balances, the promenades and pirouettes. It's all about where they offer their hand—if it's in the wrong place, I just have to power through. But I try as much as possible to not have much weight on them at all, so that when I release the hand it's not a huge change.

Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB

What I've always loved about Sleeping Beauty is how closely the music is linked with the choreography. In Aurora's first-act variation, she goes through a series of hops on pointe, and at the end of the Rose Adagio there's an arpeggio when she does a series of bourrées to fifth position. That's her youth and exuberance, and then she reins it back in before the diagonal of pirouettes. In the second act there needs to be this ethereal, romantic quality in order to show her maturity, so the wedding will make sense. Creating that arc has been the biggest challenge.

I don't like to watch the Prologue—if I'm already drawn into the story, my entrance doesn't feel fresh. I stay in my own world up until the first act begins, and I visualize my birthday party. It's all about tricking yourself.

Regardless of what I'm dancing, I always take a clean, proper ballet class in the morning. I never skip that, ever. And every single class I practice my attitude balance.

TIP: "Eye contact is very empowering. In the Rose Adagio, eye contact helps me be present with my suitors, versus concentrated on what I have to do. Your energy gets into sync."

Summer Intensive Survival
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There's a sweet spot toward the end of August—after summer intensives have wrapped up and before it's time to head back to school or work—where the days are long, lazy and begging to be spent neck-deep in a pile of good books. Whether you're looking for inspiration for the upcoming season or trying to brush up on your dance history, you can never go wrong with an excellent book on ballet. We've gathered eight titles (all available at common booksellers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble) guaranteed to give you a deeper understanding of the art form, to add to your end-of-summer reading list.

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James Yoichi Moore and Noelani Pantastico warm up onstage. Angela Sterling, Courtesy SDC.

On a sunny July weekend, hundreds of Seattle-area dance fans converged on tiny Vashon Island, a bucolic enclave in Puget Sound about 20 miles from the city. They made the ferry trek to attend the debut performance of the fledgling Seattle Dance Collective.

SDC is not a run-of-the-mill contemporary dance company; it's the brainchild of two of Pacific Northwest Ballet's most respected principal dancers: James Yoichi Moore and Noelani Pantastico. The duo wanted to create a nimble organization to feature dancers and choreographers they felt needed more exposure in the Pacific Northwest.

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The Princess Grace Foundation has just announced its 2019 class, and we're thrilled that two ballet dancers—New York City Ballet's Roman Mejia and BalletX's Stanley Glover—are included among the list of über-talented actors, filmmakers, playwrights, dancers and choreographers.

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The Royal Ballet's Alexander Campbell and Yasmine Naghdi in Ashton's The Two Pigeons. Tristram Kenton, Courtesy ROH.

While most ballet casts are 100 percent human, it's not unheard of for live animals to appear onstage, providing everything from stage dressing to supporting roles. Michael Messerer's production of Don Quixote features a horse and a donkey; American Ballet Theatre's Giselle calls for two Russian wolfhounds; and Sir Frederick Ashton's La Fille Mal Gardee requires a white Shetland pony. Another Ashton masterpiece, The Two Pigeons, is well known for its animal actors. But though ballet is a highly disciplined, carefully choreographed art form, some performers are naturally more prone to flights of fancy—because they're birds.

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