Ballet Stars
Pacific Northwest Ballet's Seth Orza and Noelani Pantastico in Balanchine's "Stravinsky Violin Concerto." Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB.

It's rare for a professional ballet career to extend two decades or more. But there are indeed dancers who've been gracing the studio and stage for that long—learning, adapting and growing along the way. Today, Pacific Northwest Ballet's Noelani Pantastico, National Ballet of Canada's Guillaume Côté and Ballet Memphis's Crystal Brothers reveal what physically, artistically and emotionally sustains their careers.

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Nathalia Arja in George Balanchine's "Emeralds." Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Miami City Ballet.

Whether it's a wardrobe malfunction or a spectacular, opera-house–sized fail, onstage mistakes happen to everybody. See how these four professionals survived their worst mishaps—and what they took away from them.

Sterling Baca

Baca in Ben Stevenson's Cinderella. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet.

"There I was on my very first day at the Metropolitan Opera House: on my hands and knees, center stage," recounts Pennsylvania Ballet principal Sterling Baca. He had joined American Ballet Theatre from the ABT Studio Company two weeks prior and didn't see a crucial casting sheet for the Don Quixote dress-tech rehearsal until minutes before it started.

In a domino-like sequence of unfortunate events, Baca had managed to get only half-dressed, and he missed his entrance and his character's dance with Kitri. Then he remembered too late that he was also supposed to catch Basilio's guitar. He turned around from setting down a tambourine to see the guitar already soaring through the air. He dove for it, but it grazed his fingertips, hit the floor and broke.

Baca had some literal and metaphorical pieces to pick up and apologies to make to the wardrobe and props departments, artistic staff and his fellow dancers. Luckily, everyone understood that he was new and "showed mercy," he says.

The Lesson: Although Baca can laugh about the incident now, he warns that "it only turns into a joke when you don't do it again." His advice? Double- and triple-check every single piece of paper on the call board.

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Nathalia Arja in George Balanchine's "Emeralds." Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Miami City Ballet.

Whether it's a wardrobe malfunction or a spectacular, opera-house–sized fail, onstage mistakes happen to everybody. See how these four professionals survived their worst mishaps—and what they took away from them.

Sterling Baca

Baca in Ben Stevenson's Cinderella. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet.

"There I was on my very first day at the Metropolitan Opera House: on my hands and knees, center stage," recounts Pennsylvania Ballet principal Sterling Baca. He had joined American Ballet Theatre from the ABT Studio Company two weeks prior and didn't see a crucial casting sheet for the Don Quixote dress-tech rehearsal until minutes before it started.

In a domino-like sequence of unfortunate events, Baca had managed to get only half-dressed, and he missed his entrance and his character's dance with Kitri. Then he remembered too late that he was also supposed to catch Basilio's guitar. He turned around from setting down a tambourine to see the guitar already soaring through the air. He dove for it, but it grazed his fingertips, hit the floor and broke.

Baca had some literal and metaphorical pieces to pick up and apologies to make to the wardrobe and props departments, artistic staff and his fellow dancers. Luckily, everyone understood that he was new and "showed mercy," he says.

The Lesson: Although Baca can laugh about the incident now, he warns that "it only turns into a joke when you don't do it again." His advice? Double- and triple-check every single piece of paper on the call board.

 

For most ballet dancers, just dancing Odette/Odile once would be the opportunity of a lifetime. Few are lucky enough to reprise the role. But that's just what longtime Ballet Memphis dancer Crystal Brothers is doing when the company presents the full-length Swan Lake for the first time in 15 years. Pointe spoke with Brothers before this weekend's performance.

How have you grown as an artist since you first danced Odette/Odile?
I certainly know more about myself as a dancer now, what I'm capable of and what I want to strive for. It's not about executing arabesques, pliés and tendus. It's about the feelings and what's happening inside me when I'm doing those steps. Maybe I understand and fully appreciate the story and characters more. It feels like a brighter and bigger rainbow to me, and now there are more colors for me to access.
Do you gravitate more toward Odette or Odile?
I love them both so differently, but it's probably easier for me to access Odile, simply because she's very forward. She's manipulative, large and in charge and powerful, and I can connect with that. However, my sweet Odette is as delicate as a snowflake, but she's got this iron will and selfless love. I have to approach each character differently. The way I hold my fingers for Odette, the inclination of the head, the softness, is completely different from Odile's more energetic fingers, playful eyes and sharp head movements. 
Have you had to adjust your cross-training to help you prepare?
Yes, absolutely. I already have a very strict regimen that I do to keep myself in shape. I wake up, I take a hot bath, I ice my feet, I work on the Pilates reformer at home, I do my stretching. But I laugh because my hot baths have increased two-fold. If I was taking two hot baths a day, now I'm taking four. 

What do you love most about Swan Lake?

First of all, hearing the score played live gives me goosebumps every time. And I love to fall in love onstage--I'm a romantic at heart. I also love to be very sassy, so the fact that I get to do both is right up my alley. It's the hugest gift wrapped up into one ballet. Yes, it's hard. I get blisters and bruised toenails, and I cry and I hurt, but at the end of the day, I'm doing what I love.

 

For even more interviews, tips, audition info and giveaways, sign up for our FREE e-newsletter. 

Photo by Ari Denison, Courtesy Ballet Memphis.

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