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Sassy Gregson-Williams launched Naturally Sassy while still a ballet student. Photo courtesy Sarah Hall Productions

Some dancers call them "fake" ballerinas. Some resent their lack of serious stage credentials to back up their success. Some feel their accounts are deceitful, since regular people don't know the difference between a great dancer and a great dance model.

But most ballet influencers aren't out to trick anyone. They're simply finding a new way to keep ballet in their lives.

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With nearly 43,000 followers on Instagram, Elisabeth Beyer is a social media sensation. The 16-year-old Ellison Ballet student came in first place in the senior women's category at the Youth America Grand Prix's New York City Finals this year and has been medaling all over the ballet competition circuit since she was 11 years old. But despite the thousands of likes she gets on each post, she also receives criticism. "It happens a lot," says Beyer. "I get accused of being too skinny or being anorexic, and it just isn't true."

The rise of social media has given dancers more visibility than ever before. The Pew Research Center reports that 71 percent of Americans 18 to 24 years old are on Instagram. And in ballet, which strives for the pinnacle of visual perfection in both execution and physicality, it can be deflating to see perfect penchés fill your feed on #whackedoutwednesday. But there are also great benefits for dancers connected on social media: Instagram can broaden your worldview and open up doors to opportunities you never imagined. The following five rules of Instagram will help you to focus on the positives and develop a healthy relationship with your favorite app.

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Ever wonder what life is like on the road? Well, thanks to social media, you can see for yourself. Next week, while Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet makes an East Coast tour of the U.S., apprentice Philippe Larouche will be taking over the company’s Instagram account to provide behind-the-scenes footage. And it should be fun, seeing as the ballet RWB is bringing is Mark Godden’s Dracula. (I’m hoping there will be some hair and makeup videos in the mix.) Set to Gustav Mahler’s Symphony Nos. 1, 2 and 9, the production closely follows Bram Stoker’s 1897 horror novel, complete with flying bats and gargoyles.

Katie Bonnell and Liang Xing in Dracula. Photo by Rejean Brandt, Courtesy RWB.

 

The company, which will tour four cities in New York and Massachusetts, gets going Saturday morning with a 7 am airport call in Manitoba. Here’s is a rundown of the performance schedule:

 

Bronx, NY: Sunday, November 13, Lehman Center for the Performing Arts

 

Worcester, MA: Tuesday, November 15, The Hanover Theatre

 

Buffalo, NY: Thursday, November 17, University at Buffalo Center for the Arts

 

Stony Brook, NY: Saturday, November 19, Stony Brook University - Staller Center for the Arts

While RWB regularly tours Canada, it comes to the U.S. less frequently. For those of you who live near a tour stop, take advantage while you can.

 

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

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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King in Raymonda Variations. Photo by Daniel Azoulay, Courtesy MCB.

On a flight home from a teaching stint in California last summer, Miami City Ballet corps member Rebecca King wrote a letter to her former self to post on her popular dance blog, Tendus Under a Palm Tree. Her hindsight advice to aspiring ballet students—no chit-chatting in class, implement corrections, study ballet videos—ended up going viral, eventually landing a page in Florida's World of Dance Magazine.

“Sometimes what takes off is a surprise," says King, 27, a native of Northern California who founded her blog in 2010. “It's made me realize how important social media can be for all businesses, especially in the way it can affect art."

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The whole reason we log on to Facebook or Twitter is to stay in the know about what's happening with our friends and family. But it turns out that overusing social media can actually deflate your self esteem. Studies have shown that people who spend more time on Facebook tend to have less self-worth and more frequent patterns of disordered eating.

Think about it: How often do you scour Facebook to catch up on all of your dance friends' accomplishments, like nailing a lead role or getting into a prestigious summer intensive, only to end up feeling a twinge of jealousy? Do you ever see a beautiful ballet photo of someone you know on Instagram and think, "If only I had her flexibility..."?

People only share what they want to be seen, which means that even the dancers who look incredible on social media are plagued with insecurities. So focus on what you have to offer onstage, in class and in real life—instead of online.

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