Ballet Careers
Sanjay Saverimuttu with Tiffany Bovard in rehearsal for Alun Jones' The Sleeping Beauty. Courtesy Louisville Ballet.

When Sanjay Saverimuttu graduated from college, he had no idea that a professional ballet career lay in store. After training on a pre-professional ballet track throughout high school, Saverimuttu earned a degree in biology from Stanford University. But college only reignited the 29-year-old Louisville Ballet dancer's love of the art form.

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Gianna Forte reveals her scars. Stark Photo Productions, Courtesy The Washington Ballet.

Before I was born, my parents found out that I had a condition called an omphalocele. All of my organs were outside my stomach. I was rushed into surgery as soon as I was born, and they put a little patch in, pushed in my organs and sewed me up. When I was 1 1/2, I had another surgery to remove the patch. Ever since, I've just had a scar on my stomach—I didn't have a belly button, but I had no problems other than malrotation, which means all of my organs were going the opposite way.

I was raised in Connecticut, and stayed there until I graduated high school. It was the year Julie Kent and Xiomara Reyes were taking over The Washington Ballet company and school, and I sent my video and got accepted into their professional training program.

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Ballet Stars
Broad as the Mat Hatter with his Alice, Orlando Ballet's Kate-Lynn Robichaux. Michael Cairns, Courtesy Orlando Ballet.

Arcadian Broad has music in his mind. More and more, the Orlando Ballet leading dancer is making his mark behind the curtain—as a choreographer and composer. "I just hear things in my head that make sense for dance and music together," says Broad, who has no formal training in composition. "So I follow my instincts."

Broad, 23, is creating Wonderland: Mad Tales of the Hatter, inspired by the familiar story of Alice and her trip down the rabbit hole. He's not only choreographing the full-length work for Orlando Ballet; he has composed the music and will dance the leading role of the Mad Hatter when the show opens April 26.

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Ballet Stars
Melika Dez, Courtesy LINES Ballet

No matter where her career has taken her, Ashley Mayeux has never strayed too far from her first love, ballet. Even while dancing for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Mayeux would try to fit in ballet class as often as possible. After two seasons with the modern company, she decided to audition for Alonzo King LINES Ballet, despite not feeling entirely prepared. "Somehow it came back to me and was pretty natural," says Mayeux. Natural enough that she landed the job and, in 2018, moved across the country to restart her contemporary ballet career.

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Ballet Stars
Courtesy of Belleza Athletica

Dancer designers seem to be a dime a dozen these days. With three already in Pacific Northwest Ballet's ranks (principals Elizabeth Murphy and duo Lindsi Dec and Karel Cruz), it might seem like an over- saturated market for another dancewear brand to be able to turn heads. Enter Angeli Mamon. With her new line, Belleza Athletica (pronounced "bay-yes-ah"), the corps member is carving out a niche in studio wear with leotards and skirts that match her confident personality.

Mamon in Belleza Athletica.

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Vanessa Woods in Saint Louis Ballet's Swan Lake. Pratt + Kreidich Photography, Courtesy Woods.

During her second season at Saint Louis Ballet in 2012, Vanessa Woods' search for a fulfilling side job led her to start her own. With a reputation of being "the business ballerina" (she earned her degree in marketing from Washington University in St. Louis' night program while dancing with SLB), Woods began brainstorming ideas with her mom.

After realizing seniors were overlooked in the dance world, Woods decided to create Vitality Ballet, a program for senior citizens. "I think as dancers we're used to being told what to do," she says. "At times it's hard to figure out what to do next, and how do you properly launch a website, and figure out pricing, and hire teachers?"

Woods teaching Vitality Ballet. Pratt + Kreidich Photography, Courtesy Woods.

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Dancer Spotlight
Adams in Balanchine's "Rubies." Photo by Luke Isley, Courtesy Ballet West.

In 2015, Ballet West dancer Emily Adams was promoted to principal; the milestone achievement left her feeling inspired—but also a little unbalanced. "Through the daily intensity, I wasn't enjoying everything as much as I should have been," she says. To unwind, Adams turned to yoga classes, where she found a renewed sense of self-love and an unexpected business idea: an eco-friendly activewear line called State of Bodhi. At 30, Adams is now a community-minded entrepreneur as well as a principal dancer.

Sewing classes never factored into Adams' extracurricular activities while growing up. Instead, the Pennsylvania native took as many ballet classes as possible before settling into the School of American Ballet's advanced division.

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Ballet Careers
Photo by Chad Riley, Courtesy Hammond.

Most dancers might be found grabbing a bite or a nap between performances at the height of Nutcracker season. Not San Francisco Ballet's Jordan Hammond. The corps member renovates furniture in her spare time, a hobby that has morphed into a fledgling business called Rénové. At first, she rented extra storage space that doubled as a workshop. "It was on the same street as the ballet," she says. "I'd sell pieces during breaks between shows." Now married to Diablo Ballet dancer and former SFB corps member Raymond Tilton, she uses their living room for her projects.

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Larsen in The Nutcracker. Photo by Jana Carson, Courtesy OKC Ballet.

In her first season as a corps member with Oklahoma City Ballet, Devin Larsen stood among the 17 dancers who made the audience gasp as the curtain came up on Balanchine's Serenade. But her path to getting there would make anyone gasp.

At age 3, Larsen was diagnosed with epilepsy. She averaged 20 complex partial seizures per day, which eventually turned into the more serious kind, generalized tonic seizures, where she would fall and completely lose consciousness. “Your brain just shuts down," she says.

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Roper took her first ballet class in college. Photo by Theik Smith, Courtesy Roper.

At first glance, Ballet Hispanico second-company member Stefanie Roper looks as though she has been dancing since she could walk. Her perfectly arched feet and petite, athletic frame accentuate a particular fluidity of movement that only the most seasoned dancer tends to be able to harness. But Roper didn't follow the conventional ballerina's path, where training from age 5 is the norm.

The Utah native first encountered dance as a freshman at Utah Valley University in Orem. Roper's pride in her Colombian and Venezuelan heritage led her to audition for a cultural-folklore dance company. Within a couple of months, she was choreographing, producing and directing most performances.

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Alexis Fletcher rehearsing Crystal Pite's Solo Echo. Photo by Michael Slobodian, Courtesy Ballet BC.

Vancouver, British Columbia's 2010 Olympic Winter Games were golden for more than just big-name athletes.

Like so many Vancouverites at that time, Ballet BC dancer Alexis Fletcher and her husband, former rehearsal director Sylvain Senez, struggled to keep pace with the skyrocketing cost of living. The couple wondered if they could rent out two empty bedrooms to Olympic visitors to help make ends meet. “We posted our place on Craigslist, just to see what would happen," Fletcher explains.

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They say injury can be a great teacher: When Texas Ballet Theater dancer Carolyn Judson was sidelined with a back injury in 2007, her interest in health piqued. “I wondered how I could heal myself, so I began to research and read,” she says. “I was amazed at what I found. I turned to food that reduced pain and inflammation.” She credits the dietary changes she made, in addition to getting introduced to Gyrotonic, with helping her recover more quickly.

Judson in The Sleeping Beauty (photo by Ellen Appel, courtesy TBT)

As time went on, Judson decided to expand her education. She enrolled in an online health coach training program at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, graduating in 2013. “I would come home from rehearsal and go right to class. The program also covered how to start up a business.” Judson has since built her own website, which features many of her popular recipes. See below for her healthy veggie tacos!

Ingredients

Serves 3 to 5.

3 zucchini squash, ends trimmed, cut lengthwise

3 carrots, peeled

1 sweet potato, peeled, cut lengthwise

1 onion, peeled, cut into quarters

sea salt

1 15-ounce can black beans

1 avocado

crumbled feta cheese

corn tortillas

juice from 1 lime

cilantro, chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil or coconut oil

salsa or hot sauce (optional)

  1. Grate the vegetables in a food processor, keeping each one separate after grating.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium pan and add the onion, carrots and sweet potato. Add a pinch or two of salt. Once they begin to soften, add the zucchini. Meanwhile, heat your canned black beans in a small sauce pan.
  3. Place the cooked vegetables on top of your tortillas. Top with beans, sliced avocado, crumbled feta cheese, chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lime. Serve with salsa or hot sauce. Enjoy!

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