Ballet Careers
Ashley Thursby in Louisville Ballet's "Swan Lake." Photo by Sam English, Courtesy Louisville Ballet.

In her third year as a full company member of Alberta Ballet, Alexandra Gibson was amazed to learn she would be understudying Myrtha in Giselle. "Prior to that I had mostly played to my strengths in innocent, young roles," remembers Gibson, who didn't expect to actually perform the icy Queen of the Wilis. Yet when the first-cast Myrtha sprained her ankle a few weeks before opening night, Gibson was suddenly cast for six out of the nine shows. "Learning how to be cold, authoritative and mature in a short amount of time was as challenging as the choreography."

Every once in a while, you'll encounter roles that just don't click. Sometimes you will be cast against type, or thrown into a part that you don't feel ready for. Other times, unfamiliar choreography or movement styles may throw you off your game. In those instances, how do you remain unflappable and open to feedback in order to mold your body and mind to the role at hand? Three professionals get real about how they have struggled to do just that, and how they have grown as artists through the process.

Alexandra Gibson and artists of Alberta Ballet in "Giselle." Photo by Maximillian Tortoriello, Courtesy Alberta Ballet.

When in Doubt, Ask

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Health & Body
Emma Love Suddarth and Dylan Wald in Price Suddarth's Signature. Photo by Angela Sterling, Courtesy Pacific Northwest Ballet.

Monday morning class after a three-day weekend? Stiff. After eight weeks off? Agonizing.

For most professional dancers on their summer layoff, a break from the daily grind is simultaneously exciting and unnerving. These months are often reserved for recovery and rest—a necessary opportunity to let the body repair and recharge. How dancers spend their summer break is mixed: some teach at summer intensives; some take the extended time to travel, visiting family or exploring internationally; some choose not to pause, performing at galas or festivals; and some just want to stay home, feet up, movies on. Depending on where you dance, the break might span a couple weeks or a couple months. Regardless of length, it involves a physical wind down, as well as a build back up. While it's never going to feel entirely easy, here are a few pro tips to help smooth the transition between 1 and 100 percent.

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Ballet Careers
Dorger in Royal Danish Ballet's production of Giselle . Photo by Costin Radu, courtesy Royal Danish Ballet.

When Holly Dorger arrived in Copenhagen to join the Royal Danish Ballet after graduating from the School of American Ballet, she was shocked by the unfamiliar. “We brought home cat food thinking it was canned tuna," she laughs, recollecting her first weeks among new surroundings. Nine years later, the principal dancer calls Copenhagen home, crediting Denmark and artistic director Nikolaj Hübbe for her success.

European dance companies typically offer secure contracts, better salaries and a varied repertoire. Yet for American dancers, understanding a new culture, adjusting to different company dynamics and getting used to European contemporary work can be challenging. Below, dancers from four European companies weigh in on what they've learned from moving abroad.

Shelby Williams. Photo Courtesy Royal Ballet of Flanders.

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The School of Alberta Ballet in Calgary has announced a new scholarship program for boys ages 9 and older. Up to 25 boys will be selected this spring to train in its Professional Division for free. Remaining auditions include Edmonton on April 6 and Calgary on April 13 and 14. For more information, see schoolofalbertaballet.com.

The school's other new program, for boys ages 3–5, allows students to take class in the Open Division for $80 per year.

So boys, merde! And ladies, I know what you're thinking: When is it our turn? We've got you covered. Check out our aid advice, from funding your summer intensive to earning college scholarships.

Plains Midstream Canada, an energy company located in Calgary, Alberta, will sponsor a new international partnership between Alberta Ballet and Houston Ballet. Though Alberta Ballet is Canada's second largest ballet company, the organization is seeking to raise its international profile. Houston Ballet will perform in Edmonton and Calgary in late April and early May, while Alberta Ballet performed in Houston in January, 2015. At that point, it wasn't clear that the tour would develop into its current partnership between the companies.

While The Royal Ballet in London and the National Ballet of Canada jointly finance productions, the Alberta/Houston partnership hasn't yet described what it will create, beyond mutual touring opportunities.

As funding for the arts grows ever more grim, ballet companies are building new, global relationships. Hopefully these partnerships will result in the preservation of elaborate, full-length ballets as well as leaving room for artistic freedom and innovation.

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