Ballet Stars
All photos by Jayme Thornton for Pointe

From marriage to career transitions to injuries, our 2018 cover stars have had a busy year.

Find out what they've been up to since they graced the cover of Pointe and what they're aiming for in 2019.

American Ballet Theatre's Betsy McBride

Photo by Jayme Thornton for Pointe

New Year's Resolutions: School and Self-Care

My New Year's resolutions are to complete my Associate of Science degree, sleep more, and slow down from time to time to appreciate the little things in life.

Life Updates: Star Studded Performances

Since appearing on Pointe's cover, I performed in the New York Ballet Stars Gala in Cape Town, South Africa in honor of Mignon Furman. I also performed in a very exciting Balanchine Tribute Festival at City Center with American Ballet Theatre alongside Joffrey Ballet, The Mariinsky Ballet, Miami City Ballet, New York City Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, The Royal Ballet and San Francisco Ballet.

McBride also recently got engaged to longtime boyfriend and former ABT dancer Simon Wexler.

You can read our February/March 2018 cover story on Betsy McBride here.

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Xiomara Reyes racked up invaluable experience as a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre. Now, she's sharing that wisdom with students as head of The Washington School of Ballet. Pointe asked Reyes her best advice for dancers as they head back to class in 2017.

Reyes and Jared Nelson in TWB's production of Sleepy Hollow. Photo by Theo Kossenas, Courtesy TWB.

What's your goal for your students right now?

For me, the most important thing is that they get confident enough with their technique so they can move forward and incorporate their artistry.

 

How can dancers do that?

By following the music and trying to hear the differences in it. Like an adagio has a different kind of movement energy than a frappé. All the steps have their own energy.

 

What about students who feel like they're going through the motions at barre?

I was the kind of dancer who loved rehearsal, loved performing, but class was the hard part. So I completely understand. But I found that even when you are tired and burned out, if you are present in the moment and you try to feel the music in your body, it gives you new energy.

 

Reyes with a TWB student. Photo by Jim Lafferty, courtesy Dance Teacher.

Do you have any advice for the more timid dancers who stand at the back of the studio?

This may sound funny, but create a role, a persona that is not scared of being out there. But if you are really uncomfortable pushing your way forward, don't. Sometimes kids think they need to be in front, but when someone is really concentrating and focusing on getting better, the teacher can see them anywhere.

 

Any extra advice you'd offer to dancers going into 2017?

My main thing is whatever you do, enjoy it. Try to learn how to make that show. Sometimes we think, I’m going to smile bigger—that’s not necessarily what I’m talking about. I’m talking about really, truly enjoying something just because you love doing it. If we love dancing, it should show in a natural way. If you don’t feel comfortable with that, go back to the point of why you dance. Why are you spending so much time in the studio with the music and other people around? If you can enjoy that, all the time you are spending will make sense.

 

For more news on all things ballet, don't miss a single issue.

Inside PT
Leaping into the New Year: Isabella Boylston, photo by Gene Schiavone

Love it or hate it, this is the time of year when people start talking about New Year's Resolutions. While it's exciting to think about what you want to work on in 2017, it can also feel daunting—especially because we often set unrealistic goals for ourselves, and wind up frustrated a few months in. Breaking resolutions down into small, attainable steps can help keep you motivated, and seeing positive results. To get you started, we pulled together a few tips for tackling some common dance-related goals.

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Inside PT

How dancers read. Photo by Jordan Matter, via dancersamongus.com

As a dancer, you're used to thinking kinetically, physically, actively. Your language is movement. But curling up with a good book after a long day of rehearsal may be just what you need to add balance to your in-motion lifestyle. Reading has more dancer-friendly benefits than you may realize.

Relieves stress. A study from the University of Sussex found that reading was the most effective stress reducer out of all those tested, beating out standbys like listening to music, drinking a cup of tea and going for a walk. Getting lost in the world of a book is believed to help ease tension in the muscles and heart.

Improves sleep. The National Sleep Foundation suggests spending the hour before bed winding down with a calming activity—like reading—to help you relax and transition into sleep mode. (Skip the e-readers at night, though. The type of light that emanates from their screens may make it harder to fall asleep.)

Expands your mind. Research shows that reading fiction may make people more empathetic. That broader perspective could come in handy the next time you're interpreting a difficult role or working with a demanding director or partner.

Looking for some great dance-related reads? Check out our list of 2015's best ballet books.

 

For more news on all things ballet, don't miss a single issue.

 

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When I was a young ballet student, I remember writing out a lengthy list of New Year’s Resolutions on a small piece of paper and taping it to the headboard of my bed. It included things like “stretch every day,” “180 degree penché,” "get foot to ear in grand battement," “high arabesque,” and “triple pirouettes.” Each morning when I woke up, my list stared back at me, giving me a boost of motivation. But when I went to bed at night, I’d look at the list and feel discouraged—I was stretching more, but my extensions were stubbornly imperfect, and I was still having trouble nailing double pirouettes to the left. Before long, that list became a constant reminder of everything that was wrong with me and I stopped paying attention to it.

 

Herein lies the problem with New Year’s Resolutions: they’re hard to keep. According to a Journal of Clinical Psychology study, 46% of New Year’s Resolutions fail within six months. In my case, it was because I set the bar too high. I know—this sounds counterintuitive, especially for ballet dancers. But while it’s healthy to have ambition, we often forget that in our endless quest to be “perfect” we’re only capable of achieving so much. That’s why the best way to transform your resolutions into a daily habit is to make them small, specific and manageable. My problem is that I wanted it all—and I wanted it overnight. If I had tight hamstrings and struggled to lift my arabesque to 90 degrees, how could I achieve a 180 degree penché? How could I perfect a triple pirouette when I was still having trouble with doubles? A better resolution would have been to improve my double pirouettes to the left by, say, mid-March. I would have had a more realistic goal, with a deadline to keep me motivated.

 

I did succeed at one resolution that year: each day, I spent 15-20 minutes stretching. And guess what? My extensions started improving bit by bit as a result. And while my arabesque wasn’t as high as I wanted it to be by year’s end, it was higher than it was on January 1. So if you’re making a list of resolutions today, keep it short, realistic and take one thing at a time. You may be surprised at the results!

Ballet Stars
Yuriko Kajiya and artists of Houston Ballet in Stanton Welch's Paquita. Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy HB.

Whether attacking a new role with gusto or finally finishing that book, dancers are a goal-oriented lot. The New Year is a natural time to reflect on one's life and put forth goals for the season ahead. Pointe spoke with six dancers about their big dreams for 2015—and their plans extend beyond the studio and stage.

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