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San Francisco Ballet principal Frances Chung with her dressing room pal, Iggy. Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB.

A dancer's dressing room is often her "home away from home." We went backstage with Boston Ballet principal Lia Cirio, San Francisco Ballet principal Frances Chung and Richmond Ballet dancer Cody Beaton to see how they personalize their space and get performance-ready.

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Ballet Stars
Stella Abrera at the Genée International Ballet Competition in 1995. Photo by Pete Jones, Courtesy Royal Academy of Dance.

On September 7, The Genée International Ballet Competition—the Royal Academy of Dance's flagship event—gets underway in Lisbon, Portugal. Founded in 1931, the Genée recognizes top talent with medals and cash prizes, as well as exposure to company and academy directors. Competitors perform a classical variation, a commissioned piece by an emerging choreographer, and a "Dancer's Own" solo, choreographed by either the competitor, their teacher or a peer.

The 10-day competition, which hosts young dancers trained in the RAD syllabus from around the world, has helped launch the careers of many of today's ballet stars. Just who, exactly? Take a walk down memory lane as we reveal eight familiar faces.

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San Francisco Ballet principal Frances Chung. Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB.

A dancer's dressing room is often her "home away from home." In our August/September issue, we went backstage with three ballerinas, including San Francisco Ballet principal Frances Chung. Below, she shows us how she personalizes her space and walks us through her pre-performance routine.

The setup: Chung basically moves in to her theater's dressing room once the season starts. She shares her space with three other dancers, and notes that the vintage metal vanities come down a little too low. "We hit our knees on them all the time—it's the most painful thing!"


Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB.

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ABT's Calvin Royal III in Alexei Ratmansky's Serenade after Plato's Symposium. Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy ABT.

Miami City Ballet's National Tour

Artists of Miami City Ballet in Justin Peck's Heatscape. Photo by Gene Schiavone, Courtesy Miami City Ballet.

In late April at the Harris Theater, Chicagoans found Miami City Ballet firing on all cylinders, following the company's Lincoln Center debut and an engagement at Northrop in Minneapolis. Stage-filling Balanchine classics like Bourrée Fantasque, Serenade and Symphony in Three Movements struck a perfect balance between relaxed exuberance and clean execution, while seasoned stars like Jeanette Delgado and Renato Penteado shone in contemporary works by Justin Peck (Heatscape) and Liam Scarlett (Viscera), respectively. Most memorably, a dream team of 23 artists—including the irrepressible Nathalia Arja—gave a commanding presentation of Symphonic Dances, created for MCB by Alexei Ratmansky.

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Chung with Vitor Luiz in Coppélia. Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy San Francisco Ballet.

Frances Chung, as told to Julie Diana

All of Swanilda's actions come from a place of pure fun. She's kind of sassy, but I like bringing out her playfulness instead of taking a more bratty approach. The role comes quite naturally to my personality. When my partner and I are in the studio, we're very playful even though we're working hard and refining everything. I try to have a good time and I think that it translates onstage.

As Swanilda, my love for Franz is very youthful, like when you hit someone because you like him. I'm quite confident in myself and in our love, even though I see him blowing kisses at another girl (really a doll). I get mad for a second, but at the end of the day I know he's going to choose me. That's my underlying feeling. When I finally make the connection that she's a doll, I think it's hilarious!

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Frances Chung and Vitor Luiz in Balanchine's Coppélia
(Photo by Erik Tomasson, courtesy SFB)

In Balanchine's comedic Coppélia, San Francisco Ballet's Frances Chung brings out Swanilda's playful side.

All of Swanilda's actions come from a place of pure fun. She's kind of sassy, but I like bringing out her playfulness instead of taking a more bratty approach. The role comes quite naturally to my personality. When my partner and I are in the studio, we're very playful even though we're working hard and refining everything. I try to have a good time and I think that it translates onstage.

As Swanilda, my love for Franz is very youthful, like when you hit someone because you like him. I'm quite confident in myself and in our love, even though I see him blowing kisses at another girl (really a doll). I get mad for a second, but at the end of the day I know he's going to choose me. That's my underlying feeling. When I finally make the connection that she's a doll, I think it's hilarious!

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Kyle Froman for Pointe

What gets top billing in San Francisco Ballet principal Frances Chung's dance bag? Oil. Massage oil, first of all. "I do self-massage all the time," she says. "It's extremely relaxing, and it really helps your muscles recover." That explains her array of massage tools, too, including a hot-pink foot roller she's had since she graduated from Canada's Goh Ballet Academy. Usually she doesn't get oiled up until after rehearsal, though: "I don't want to be a slippery partner!"

And then there's her dance bag itself, a small tote reading "Je suis Prodigieuse." "Prodigieuse is this other oil that's amazing for skin, hair, everything," she says. "I have a bottle of it with me at all times—I'm obsessed. I got this bag for free, but it's kind of perfect because I'm a walking ad for Prodigieuse anyway."

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