Ballet Stars
Photo Courtesy Elliott Arkin.

You can find Tiler Peck just about anywhere these days—onstage at New York City Ballet, in commercials, on "The Ellen Degeneres Show." And let's not forget starring in 2014's Little Dancer, a musical that followed the creation of Edgar Degas' famous sculpture, "Little Dancer Aged 14." Peck played Marie van Goethem, the young Paris Opéra Ballet School student who modeled for Degas. Now, she's reprising the role—er, her likeness is—for a good cause. Visual artist Elliott Arkin has created a series of limited edition sculptures of Peck as the Little Dancer. Proceeds will go to Dance Against Cancer, the annual benefit concert for the American Cancer Society produced by NYCB principal Daniel Ulbricht and Manhattan Youth Ballet programming director Erin Fogarty (both of whom lost a parent to the disease). Peck will also be part of the event's star-studded cast; all of the dancers donate their time, and most perform in memory of a loved one.

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Trending
CPYB student Alyssa Schroeder in "Sleeping Beauty." Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy CPYB.

Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet's founding artistic director Marcia Dale Weary shares how she coaches renversés of sigh-inducing beauty.

Practice it slowly: To help her students tackle renversé, Marcia Dale Weary first gives it in adagio. Take a développé to croisé devant. "Think about the shape of the right foot coming front," she says. "Show off a jewel on your heel." Pivot to effacé, then carry the leg through a high écarté, into an attitude that "circles around you. As the right arm opens, both legs bend and the left arm circles to frame your face."

Maintain turnout: Weary notices that many dancers lift their working hip in the rond de jambe. "Rotate that leg so the hip stays down and the sole of the foot stays facing front, and then carry it back without letting the knee turn over." Feel the standing leg turning out too. "Keep that knee back over your little toe."

Weary at work in the studio. Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy CPYB.

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Ballet Stars
Maggie Small as the Butterfly in Stoner Winslett's "The Nutcracker." Photo by Sarah Ferguson.

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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Ballet Training
Deborah Wingert teaching class. Photo by Erin Baiano, Courtesy Manhattan Youth Ballet

Deep down, Dara Oda knew she wasn't ready. Despite 15 years of solid training at the School of DanceWest Ballet near her hometown outside of Chicago, by the end of high school she realized she still didn't have the technique or maturity for a realistic shot in a company audition. "It was terrifying," Oda recalls. "I was unsure of where I stood in terms of my dancing abilities, but I didn't really know where, or how, to improve." She did find a path to her career—she's now a member of Texas Ballet Theater—but she wishes she'd figured out that she was behind a lot sooner. "I'd had good training, but was oblivious to the fact that I needed to be doing so much more than I was."

Many students fear being in a situation like Oda's: arriving at a company audition only to discover that they haven't progressed technically and artistically as far as their peers. And with an endless supply of ballet prodigies online and in competitions, it's hard not to worry that you're not advancing fast enough. How can you make sure you're on track to meet your professional goals?

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New York City Ballet principal dancer Lauren Lovette, a prolific user of Instagram, discovered she had an eager following of aspiring ballerinas while guest teaching at Manhattan Youth Ballet and other summer intensives. “They would come up to me and say, 'I follow you,' " she says. “I realized early on the kind of influence I have on younger girls. Now I like to cater my Instagram that way."

Almost by accident, Lovette had built a "brand"—a successful ballerina whose lively photos, sparkling personality and keen fashion sense speak directly to a target audience. While "dancer as brand" may sound strange or distasteful, it has permeated the ballet world: Think of how American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland has built her empire through social media, a shrewd publicist, television appearances, film and touring with rock star Prince. Now, more dancers are finding ways to market themselves by finding and promoting their unique qualities.

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