Ballet Careers
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Early in Carrie Imler's 22-year career with Pacific Northwest Ballet, she was excited to be cast in Balanchine's The Four Temperaments. But immediately following dress rehearsal, she was removed from her role in "Melancholic." "My artistic director at the time pulled me aside and said, 'We can't put you out there,' " she remembers. "My weight fluctuated my entire career. Just when I felt like I had figured it out, I would gain it back and have to start all over again." Despite becoming one of PNB's most celebrated principal dancers, Imler never shook the fear of what might happen when a leotard ballet was in the repertoire.

Ballet prides itself on high standards, and the classical ballet physique is not the least of those expectations. Fear of the "fat talk" still lurks in studios, but, as Imler points out, weight is a challenge that many dancers face, while others may struggle with the arches of their feet or turnout. If you are confronted about your weight, know that many talented dancers have been there. Having "the talk" doesn't mean you can't become a professional, but if you take a mindful approach to the conversation, it will show your maturity and ultimately your ability to navigate a career.

Has Something Changed?

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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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A class taught by American Ballet Theatre principal David Hallberg sounds like a dream come true. And after watching him give a quick lesson to a video producer at Business Insider, we're going to need Hallberg to start a regular class, ASAP. While promoting his new memoir, A Body of Work: Dancing to the Edge and Back, Hallberg taught Business Insider's Kevin Reilly some essential ballet steps. But while Reilly begins by confessing to Hallberg that he's in need of some new dance moves when he's going to a wedding or a club, the steps he learns aren't quite what the average viewer would expect to see. As a bunhead though, the balancés and changements are exactly what we find ourselves wanting to do at parties.

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Having trouble with your attitude turns? Susan Jaffe has some tips to offer. Our sister publication Dance Teacher filmed a short how-to video with the former ABT icon to help you find that beautiful place where you can simply soar around. Check it out on dancemedia.com.

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