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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Complexions Contemporary Ballet's Tatiana Melendez Proves There's No One Way to Have a Ballet Career

This is Pointe's Fall 2020 cover story. Click here to purchase this issue.

Talk to anyone about rising contemporary ballerina Tatiana Melendez, and one word is bound to come up repeatedly: "Fierce." And fair enough, that's a perfectly apt way to describe the 20-year-old's stage presence, her technical prowess and her determination to succeed. But don't make the mistake of assuming that fierceness is Melendez's only (or even her most noteworthy) quality. At the core of her dancing is a beautiful versatility. She's just as much at ease when etching pure classical lines as she is when boldly throwing herself off-balance.

"Selfish choreographer that I am, I want Tatiana to stay with Complexions for all time," says her boss Dwight Rhoden, Complexions Contemporary Ballet's co-artistic director and resident choreographer. "She has a theatricality about her: When the music comes on, she gets swept away." Not too shabby for someone who thought just a few years ago that maybe ballet wasn't for her.

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#TBT: Gelsey Kirkland and Mikhail Baryshnikov in "Coppélia" (1976)

Gelsey Kirkland and Mikhail Baryshnikov share the unique experience of having danced at both American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet during their careers. The two overlapped at ABT in the mid-'70s, where they developed one of the best-known partnerships in ballet. They were both celebrated for their dynamism onstage; however, in this 1976 clip of the pas de deux from Coppélia, Kirkland and Baryshnikov prove they are also masters of control.

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Natalia Voronova, Courtesy Bolshoi Ballet

The Bolshoi Is Back Onstage: We Went Inside Bryan Arias' Latest Work

This summer, when parts of the world were slowly emerging from the COVID-19 lockdown, all live performing arts events having been canceled or postponed, choreographer Bryan Arias found himself in Moscow creating a brand-new work for the Bolshoi Ballet.

Arias, who was born in Puerto Rico, grew up in New York City's Spanish Harlem, and danced with Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Nederlands Dans Theater 2 and Kidd Pivot, had been invited by Bolshoi artistic director Makhar Vaziev to be part of an impromptu program of contemporary choreography titled Four Characters in Search of a Plot. Three other international choreographers—Martin Chaix (France), Dimo Milev (Bulgaria) and Simone Valastro (Italy)—had also been asked to participate. This program, unusual by all standards for Russia's esteemed classical ballet company, opened the Bolshoi's 245th ballet season on September 10. Eager to resume live events, the theater introduced a number of safety regulations for audience members, including limited and spaced-out seating, temperature checks upon entry and audio messages reminding patrons to wear masks and maintain social distance.

Below, Arias talks about his trip to Russia and his experience of creating his new piece, The Ninth Wave, on the Bolshoi Ballet dancers.

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