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Nathalia Arja in George Balanchine's "Emeralds." Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Miami City Ballet.

Whether it's a wardrobe malfunction or a spectacular, opera-house–sized fail, onstage mistakes happen to everybody. See how these four professionals survived their worst mishaps—and what they took away from them.

Sterling Baca

Baca in Ben Stevenson's Cinderella. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet.

"There I was on my very first day at the Metropolitan Opera House: on my hands and knees, center stage," recounts Pennsylvania Ballet principal Sterling Baca. He had joined American Ballet Theatre from the ABT Studio Company two weeks prior and didn't see a crucial casting sheet for the Don Quixote dress-tech rehearsal until minutes before it started.

In a domino-like sequence of unfortunate events, Baca had managed to get only half-dressed, and he missed his entrance and his character's dance with Kitri. Then he remembered too late that he was also supposed to catch Basilio's guitar. He turned around from setting down a tambourine to see the guitar already soaring through the air. He dove for it, but it grazed his fingertips, hit the floor and broke.

Baca had some literal and metaphorical pieces to pick up and apologies to make to the wardrobe and props departments, artistic staff and his fellow dancers. Luckily, everyone understood that he was new and "showed mercy," he says.

The Lesson: Although Baca can laugh about the incident now, he warns that "it only turns into a joke when you don't do it again." His advice? Double- and triple-check every single piece of paper on the call board.

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Nathalia Arja in George Balanchine's "Emeralds." Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Miami City Ballet.

Whether it's a wardrobe malfunction or a spectacular, opera-house–sized fail, onstage mistakes happen to everybody. See how these four professionals survived their worst mishaps—and what they took away from them.

Sterling Baca

Baca in Ben Stevenson's Cinderella. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet.

"There I was on my very first day at the Metropolitan Opera House: on my hands and knees, center stage," recounts Pennsylvania Ballet principal Sterling Baca. He had joined American Ballet Theatre from the ABT Studio Company two weeks prior and didn't see a crucial casting sheet for the Don Quixote dress-tech rehearsal until minutes before it started.

In a domino-like sequence of unfortunate events, Baca had managed to get only half-dressed, and he missed his entrance and his character's dance with Kitri. Then he remembered too late that he was also supposed to catch Basilio's guitar. He turned around from setting down a tambourine to see the guitar already soaring through the air. He dove for it, but it grazed his fingertips, hit the floor and broke.

Baca had some literal and metaphorical pieces to pick up and apologies to make to the wardrobe and props departments, artistic staff and his fellow dancers. Luckily, everyone understood that he was new and "showed mercy," he says.

The Lesson: Although Baca can laugh about the incident now, he warns that "it only turns into a joke when you don't do it again." His advice? Double- and triple-check every single piece of paper on the call board.

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Putting an elite ballerina next to an NFL player is inherently comedic. There's the sheer size difference, to begin with, and the contrasting nature of their movement quality. But when the context of such an unexpected pairing is that Miami City Ballet soloist Nathalia Arja (sporting what has to be her favorite leotard) will give New England Patriots tight end Robert Gronkowski "a ballet lesson," you know you're in for an especially absurd time.

Gronkowski is approximately three times bigger than Arja, who, despite having a firecracker reputation onstage, barely comes up to his armpit. Gronkowski is noted for his agility on the field, but he's hopelessly inept at mimicking Arja. Though, to be fair, he has hops.

We love a good publicity stunt that features ballet, but it's a little bit frustrating to see these scenes play out under the assumption that anyone can waltz into a studio and learn technique. Here's to more scenarios where dancers and pro athletes can learn from each other in a meaningful way.
P.S. Arja was our April/May 2015 cover star, and she was recently promoted! Next season she'll step into the rank of principal soloist with MCB.
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From historic promotions to ballerina retirements to groundbreaking new work, 2015 was an incredible year for ballet. We can't wait to see what the new year has in store, but first let's take a moment to reflect on some of our favorite Pointe stories from the past year. Happy 2016!

 

"Better than perfection is the ability to let it go"—American Ballet Theatre's Veronika Part, photo by Gene Schiavone

Amy Brandt, Editor in Chief

"My favorite was April/May's 'In Pursuit of Perfection,' by Laura Jacobs. Her essay delves into dancers' driving, unattainable quest for the ideal, and the fractured relationship all artists have with perfection. I think it's something we can all relate to, and it holds a very important message for young dancers. 'Artistry that possesses a flashing life force—daring, reaching, giving—will always contain moments that are not quite correct,' Jacobs writes. '...it's the life we remember: the singing of the self.' "

 

 

 

 

Madeline Schrock, Managing Editor

"I loved the cover and accompanying story for Miami City Ballet soloist Nathalia Arja. At her photo shoot, I was blown away by Arja's infectious energy and the pure joy in her dancing. (Yes, she really is as genuine as she seems!) When I read the cover story, I became even more excited about her. I was inspired by her courage to move from her mother's dance school in Brazil to Miami, where not only the language but the Balanchine style was completely foreign to her. Now, Arja seems at home in Balanchine works, and her success is even more thrilling because of her perseverance."

 

Taylor Stanley, photo by Nathan Sayers

Suzannah Friscia, Assistant Editor

"When I saw Justin Peck's new Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes at New York City Ballet in early 2015, I was mesmerized by Taylor Stanley, and his performance stuck with me throughout the year. So it's not surprising that one of my favorite stories was our cover and feature on Stanley's journey at NYCB. I loved reading about his ability to be both a great partner and a true individual onstage—and how this has made him an inspiration to Peck and other choreographers."

 

 

 

 

Nicole Loeffler-Gladstone, Assistant Editor

Dylan Gutierrez and Victoria Jaiani in Wheeldon's Swan Lake, photo by Quinn Wharton

" 'From Studio to Stage,' the Joffrey Ballet photo essay of Christopher Wheeldon rehearsing his Swan Lake with the company, from the February/March issue. Photographer Quinn Wharton captures the sweat and the glamour and conveys a sense of intimacy with the photographs."

 

Hannah Foster, Research Editor

"In 'Ballet's Not Dead.' Allan Ulrich argues exactly that (definitive period included). I agree! When I look towards all the exciting projects in store for 2016—from digital stages to diversity initiatives, large-scale story ballets to collaborative side projects—I think our beloved art form is taking off anew.

Ballet Stars
Nathalia Arja photographed by Nathan Sayers for Pointe.

This is Pointe's April/May 2015 Cover Story. You can subscribe to the magazine here, or click here to purchase this issue.

It's the day after Christmas and Miami City Ballet's dancers are taking class onstage in West Palm Beach, where, in a few hours, they will begin the last run of their Nutcracker season. Soloist Nathalia Arja throws herself into a final combination, leaping and turning with abandon in a display of strength and speed that defies the expectations set by her delicate and diminutive body. As she nears the end of the stage, she realizes she's done the wrong step. But instead of slinking off in embarrassment, she throws an arched arm up in a dramatic pose, lifts her chin and flashes a triumphant smile, as if it's what she'd intended to do all along.

That athleticism, energy and confidence have marked Arja's dancing since she came to the U.S. from her native Brazil to study at the Miami City Ballet School at age 15. But it is the honing of those natural gifts under MCB's artistic director Lourdes Lopez that has fostered a more mature poise and polish, earning her the most prominent roles of her still-blossoming career.


Arja with Renan Cardeiro in "Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux." Photo by Daniel Azoulay, Courtesy Miami City Ballet.

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