In December, I had pretty much every illness you can imagine: pneumonia, vertigo, flu, stomach virus. I had to drop out of Nutcracker because I kept fainting. Every time I try to come back, I take steps backwards. I've tried doing as much as I can in class, and I still almost pass out. I've lost so much strength, but dance is my life. What should I do? —Kayla
I never seem to find the right pointe shoes. I break them in very quickly, even with hard shanks. My teachers think it's because my feet lack strength. Should my shoes be more supportive? Or should my feet be strong enough to pull myself up in my pointe shoes (rather than relying on them to hold me up)? —Anna
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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