Sarah LaPointe, here in class at Charlotte Ballet, uses her summer layoff to teach and catch up on college. Todd Rosenberg, Courtesy Charlotte Ballet.
For a new professional dancer, the concept of a summer layoff—when ballet companies go on an unpaid hiatus for several weeks (or months)—can be a welcome change of pace, an anxiety-riddled uncertainty or a bit of both. While it should feel rejuvenating to take a break after an intense season, fear of financial instability or getting out of shape can overshadow the good. Here, six dancers share how they leverage their summer layoffs to be both productive and restorative.
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Richmond Ballet's Maggie Small in "Portrait of Billie." Sarah Ferguson, Courtesy Richmond Ballet.
We love ballet live streams. No matter where we are , they give us a chance to see different parts of the ballet world up close and on the go. Tomorrow (Thursday, January 24) marks two exciting streams. Read all about them below.
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Maggie Small as the Butterfly in Stoner Winslett's "The Nutcracker." Photo by Sarah Ferguson, Courtesy Richmond Ballet.
You've gone from Clara to Sugar Plum in one place. What made that possible?
I was lucky to grow up here, in a school that fed directly into a company, so as a child I could visualize exactly what I wanted. I think my career is due in part to being aware of how lucky I am, being grateful for it and preserving it.
What does it mean to be a "ballerina" in a non-ranked company?
It means you do it all. The last time we did Romeo and Juliet I was a harlot, and it was so much fun. If we did the same thing all the time it wouldn't be as stimulating or exciting.
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Jan. 02, 2017 07:00AM EST
Have a question? Click here to send it to Suzanne Farrell Ballet dancer Amy Brandt.
I am very self-conscious about my breast size, to the point where I always wear a T-shirt over my leotard. All the other girls at my studio are flat-chested. Any advice? —Britanny
Don’t feel embarrassed—if you look closely, you’ll find plenty of successful dancers who have bigger busts. You just need to learn how to work with it. Richmond Ballet’s Maggie Small, for instance, has tailored her leotard wardrobe to ensure adequate coverage and support. She avoids low-back camisoles, opting for shelf-lined zippered turtleneck and racer-back styles that allow her to wear a sports bra discreetly underneath. “There are a lot of form-fitting workout clothes, such as Under Armour, that fit like a leotard, too,” she says. Try revamping your wardrobe so you feel more comfortable.
But most importantly, be proud of your curves—I’d be willing to guess that your pancake-flat classmates are a little envious of you! Small, for one, doesn’t let her bustline bother her. “Learn to accept what you look like,” she says. “It’s one part of your whole package.”
I recently found out that my left hip is slightly higher than my right. Is this bad? What should I do to make sure it doesn’t affect my alignment? —Beth
Off-kilter hips may be a signal that one of your legs is longer than the other. According to Laura L. Ossowski, MSPT, a New York City physical therapist who works with dancers, leg-length discrepancies fall into two categories: functional and true. With a functional discrepancy, the leg bones are the same length, but the hips are misaligned due to postural habit. “For instance, a past foot or ankle injury will affect how you make contact with the ground,” says Ossowski. “You’re not at your most stable, so you compensate elsewhere.” A true leg-length discrepancy means exactly that: Your leg bones are literally not the same length. This discrepancy can manifest itself during puberty, especially if you suffered an injury during a growth spurt.
You’re right to feel concerned about your alignment. “A centimeter off is fine for the general public, but for a dancer, that’s huge,” says Ossowski. She recommends you seek treatment from a physical therapist to identify the cause of your hiked hip and help correct it. Depending on the diagnosis, your therapist can offer a specific exercise program to help you strengthen your core and other problem areas. “Whether it’s true or functional, you will be compensating—and compensation leads to inefficient movement, and that leads to injury.”
My dream is to be in a professional ballet company. I’m 17 and not sure where to start. Should I send out audition DVDs, look for second companies or consider traineeships? —Michaela
First, assess whether you’re technically and emotionally ready to enter the professional world—it’s competitive out there, and you’ll be held to higher standards. Since you lack experience, focus on auditioning for traineeships and second company positions—both serve as transitional periods between student and professional life. Traineeships tend to focus more heavily on classes and may require tuition, while second companies often pay a stipend. But keep an open mind: Many companies only offer one or the other. Check out our trainee listing on page 69, and scour company websites for additional info.
Ask yourself what type of company you’re most interested in (Balanchine? Contemporary? Mixed repertoire?) to narrow your focus. Determine whether directors look for dancers at open calls or during their school’s summer program (that’s how I got my start at the Milwaukee Ballet). Try not to limit yourself—if you can go to an audition, go!
If you’re not able to attend, send a DVD, cover letter, resumé, headshot and dance photos. Take some time preparing these—you don’t need to spend a fortune, but go the extra mile (clean video editing, higher-grade paper, writing free of spelling and grammatical errors) to show you are serious and professional. Keep your DVD to 10 minutes max. In addition to hard copies, post a version online and include the link on your resumé. Finally, follow up! Companies are often swamped with audition materials—no response could just mean that they haven’t gotten around to looking at yours yet.
Jul. 12, 2011 07:07PM EST
Part of what makes the spectacle of ballet so astonishing is the way dancers' bodies seem to defy the laws of physics. To the average onlooker, a ballerina can effortlessly lift her leg to her ear while balancing on her toes; she can soar so high it looks like she can fly. But in accomplishing these seemingly magical feats, there's actually little magic involved. Instead, they take a whole lot of hard work.
Even the most talented dancers aren't born with perfect ballet bodies. But no matter what you struggle with, there are practical ways to reach the maximum potential within your set of genetic limits. Instead of forcing your turnout at the knees or lifting your hip to yank your leg higher, use these techniques to reach your absolute best.
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Richmond Ballet is currently making its international debut in a tour to London. Dancer Maggie Small sent Pointe a dispatch from England:
Just touched down in London town! After a long flight we had a day to regroup. Today I've successfully dealt with my jet lag, been to the bank and grocery, strolled around the city, stretched out the post plane pains, enjoyed coffee and pastries at a local restaurant and taken in a Royal Ballet show. Whew, what a day. As if we weren't already excited to be a part of the exciting and ultra-relevant dance scene here in London, after finally seeing the beauty all around I can't wait to be in it! The Royal Opera House is incredible and evoked little girl giddiness in me. The performance offered similar sentiments, reminding me what it was like when I was first inspired to pursue a career as a ballet dancer. The only thing I didn't accomplish today was curbing my excessive use of the word y'all so as not to reveal my southern identity immediately upon meeting strangers. There's always tomorrow...
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Richmond Ballet is currently making its international debut in a tour to London. Dancer Maggie Small is giving Pointe the inside scoop. Read her earlier post here.
The past two days we have been rehearsing in the Royal Ballet School studios and at the Linbury Theater where we'll be performing tonight and tomorrow. It's so interesting how we can cross an ocean and be in a different country, but once we get to the studio or theater we're back in familiar territory. There is almost always a barre, a piano and mirrors or in the theater, a dark quietness that separates us from the outside world until an audience fills the seats, which is what will happen tonight. One more rehearsal this afternoon and it's game time.
We've completed our weekend of performances at the Linbury Theater! The audiences were responsive both evenings with more than a few "Bravos!" plus a "Come back anytime!" from a particularly enthusiastic front row center patron. There's nothing like the energy of an opening night show or the bittersweet feeling of putting a ballet to bed; having experienced both in the past 48 hours I am a touch bone-weary, very satisfied and can't believe that not only do I get to do something I truly love every day, but it comes with all kinds of amazing perks like international travel and realizing childhood dreams. Now for a day off!
Nov. 29, 2001 07:00PM EST