Ballet Training
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I'm in my second year as a trainee. I like the company, but it's hard to tell if the director sees a place for me here long-term. I don't want to waste my time hoping for a contract that may never come. Any advice? —Eryn

Don't pin all your hopes on one company. A traineeship is a very vulnerable position, and the director is under no obligation to hire you. Several times I've seen young dancers, even those who've been verbally promised a job, end up empty handed. Budgets change, sometimes causing rosters to shrink, or directors hire an outside dancer instead of promoting from within. I'm not trying to scare you—I just want to encourage you to protect yourself and be proactive about your future.

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Ballet Training
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I'm at the point in my training where my teachers say that I have the steps down, but my dancing needs something more exciting. They especially tell me to use my face more, but I'm having trouble figuring out how to do that without just plastering on a smile. —Hannah

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Ballet Training
Photo courtesy Catherine Park.

What's the best way to store or hang a tutu? —Leslie

Tutus are very delicate and expensive, so storing them properly is a must—especially if you have pets. (I once woke up to my cat chewing my Marzipan tutu to pieces!) I asked Laura Berry, costume shop manager and tutu designer at The Rock School for Dance Education, for her pro tips.

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Ballet Training
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I have very hyperextended legs, and when I do sauts de chat my teachers say my back leg looks bent, even if I try my hardest and think it's straight. Why is this happening, and do you have any tips? —Eden

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Ballet Training
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I've noticed that my progress has plateaued. Class starts out pretty well, but once we get to center, it seems like I am not improving whatsoever. Help! —Sade

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Summer Intensive Survival
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I'm a young dancer, and I've been accepted to a prestigious summer program. I know intensives are a good way to get my name known in the dance world. How do I give a good impression without seeming nervous? —Lydia

Relax! It sounds like you still have several years before you need to worry about networking for a job. Instead of placing all of your focus on what the school director thinks of you, shift your priority to soaking up as much as you can from your classes. That said, you can make a good impression by working hard, being open to corrections (and quickly applying them) and asking smart questions.

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Ballet Training
Miami City Ballet in Balanchine's "Symphony in Three Movements" ©The George Balanchine Trust.Photo by Joe Gato, Courtesy MCB.

Is it necessary to have significant experience in Balanchine technique to dance in any or most ballet companies in the U.S.? —Madeline

It depends. If you're interested in dancing with New York City Ballet, the company co-founded by Balanchine himself, you'll need substantial training in the style. (Besides, NYCB usually only hires from its affiliated School of American Ballet.) Balanchine experience would also benefit you if you want to audition for other companies that regularly perform his work, such as Miami City Ballet or Pacific Northwest Ballet. Of course, there are always exceptions—I was not initially trained in the style, and I went on to dance with The Suzanne Farrell Ballet later in my career. But I had to go through a challenging learning curve.

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Ballet Training
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I'm 15 and want to be a professional ballet dancer. I have ballet five times a week, contemporary once a week and rehearsals year-round. It is 15 to 20 hours a week. When I hear about dancers doing 30-plus hours a week, I worry that I dance too little. Is my schedule enough? —Caroline

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Health & Body
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How frequent is too frequent for ballet injuries? I'm a college ballet major with a rigorous schedule. Within the past year, I've had two sprained ankles, surgery for a labral tear in my hip and now possibly a stress fracture in my metatarsal. I cross-train and go to physical therapy regularly, and I always do my best to exercise proper technique. —Kyra

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Ballet Training
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I have trouble doing my stage makeup. My eyes look like black holes and my foundation just makes me look tan. Do you have any advice? —Helena

Perfecting the art of stage makeup is tricky business—I could show you some scary photos from my teenage years! But it's easy once you get the hang of it. First, find the right foundation—a creamy base that leaves a smooth, matte finish works best. If you have trouble finding the proper shade at the drugstore, try a cosmetics store that allows you to test different products.

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Ballet Careers
Make sure you're comfortable slipping into pointe shoes for center. Photo by Jim Lafferty.

I was offered a company contract (my first!) starting this fall. What should I do in the meantime to make sure I'm as prepared as possible? —Melissa

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Trending
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I don't have full 180-degree turnout, so I can't make the same beautiful lines that other dancers can. Even if I strengthen my body enough to utilize my full range of motion, will anyone ever hire me? —Carmen

Let's face it—very few dancers are born with a "perfect" ballet facility. Some struggle with their feet or knees; I dealt with an inflexible back. Part of being an artist means learning to work with the body you have. I personally have known several beautiful dancers with less-than-ideal turnout who went on to have successful careers. Sure, sometimes their limited turnout was noticeable. But for the most part, my eye was drawn to their strengths.

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