Take a Chance

(Photo by Nathan Sayers)

A dancer’s road will never be easy. That’s why it’s helpful to look to someone like Mayara Pineiro, whose success is steeped in gutsiness and perseverance. Although the Pennsylvania Ballet soloist had received some of the best training in the world at the Cuban National Ballet School, at age 17 she fled her country to pursue the career path she didn’t believe was possible at home. She was taking a huge risk, and almost had to stop dancing altogether. Pineiro tells us how it turned out in this issue’s cover story.

If you’re thinking about pursuing a dance career, get used to making tough choices, especially if you want to take your training to the next level: Which school is right for me? Should I move away from home? Which path will lead to professional opportunities? It’s hard to predict the future, which is what makes this period so stressful. But you’ll find inspiration from some of today’s top professionals in “ ‘The Best Training Decision I Ever Made.’ ” They share their fears and turning points as students, and show that it’s okay to follow your instincts and take risks.

Of course, the decisions don’t stop there. For those transitioning into professional life through trainee programs and second companies, opportunities for promotions are scarce. It’s now quite common to spend three to four years in unpaid or low-wage entry-level positions. In “Semi-Pro Limbo,” we take an honest look at this reality, and offer advice for those debating whether or not to stick it out.

While being a dancer is challenging, it comes with tremendous rewards—and not just onstage. In this issue, we spotlight two of today’s biggest stars, American Ballet Theatre’s Misty Copeland and English National Ballet’s Isaac Hernández, who are using their talent to give back. Their charity work not only gives them greater career satisfaction—it’s concrete proof that dance has the power to transform lives. —Amy Brandt, Editor in Chief

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Left to right: Dance Theatre of Harlem's Daphne Lee, Amanda Smith, Lindsey Donnell and Alexandra Hutchinson in a scene from Dancing Through Harlem. Derek Brockington, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem

Dancers Share Their Key Takeaways After a Year of Dancing on Film

Creating dances specifically for film has become one of the most effective ways that ballet companies have connected with audiences and kept dancers employed during the pandemic. Around the world, dance organizations are finding opportunities through digital seasons, whether conceiving cinematic, site-specific pieces or filming works within a traditional theater. And while there is a consistent sentiment that nothing will ever substitute the thrill of a live show, dancers are embracing this new way of performing.

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#TBT: Mikhail Baryshnikov in "Fancy Free" (1981)

In Jerome Robbins's 1944 ballet Fancy Free, three sailors on leave spend the day at a bar, attempting to woo two young women by out-dancing and out-charming one another. In this clip from 1981, Mikhail Baryshnikov, who was then both the artistic director of American Ballet Theatre and a leading performer with the company, pulls out all the stops to win the ladies' affections.

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Bethany Kirby, Courtesy Tulsa Ballet

An Infectious-Disease Physician on What Vaccines Mean for Ballet

As the coronavirus pandemic grinds into its second year, the toll on ballet companies—and dancers—has been steep. How long before dancers can rehearse and perform as they once did?

Like most things, the return to normal for ballet seems to hinge on vaccinations. Just over 22 percent of people in the U.S. are now vaccinated, a way from the estimated 70 to 85 percent experts believe can bring back something similar to pre-pandemic life.

But what would it mean for 100 percent of a ballet company to be vaccinated? Tulsa Ballet artistic director Marcello Angelini is about to find out—and hopes it brings the return of big ballets on the big stage.

"I don't think companies like ours can survive doing work for eight dancers in masks," Angelini says. "If we want to work, dance, and be in front of an audience consistently and with the large works that pay the bills, immunization is the only road that leads there."

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