The Artistry in Arithmetic

Sometimes ballet can feel a bit like arithmetic: Turnout should stay at exactly 180 degrees, arabesque should rise to at least 90 degrees, fifth position should have zero space in between your toes and heels. But although there are certain marks we all aim to hit, the artistry in ballet comes from the limitless ways there are to get there.

 

Last night at the Dance Magazine Awards, former American Ballet Theatre star Susan Jaffe recounted the first time she met legendary ballet master Irina Kolpakova. At the time (1989), Jaffe had already been an ABT principal for six years, but she was so in awe of Kolpakova's talent and background as one of the last students of Agrippina Vaganova that she went up to Kolpakova, stood in parallel with her hands limp at her sides and said, "I know nothing. Teach me."

 

As Kolpakova graciously accepted her award, she spoke of how patient Jaffe was as they went back to the beginning every day so Jaffe could unlearn and relearn everything she knew about technique, and discover an entirely new way of using her head, arms and épaulement. It was astounding to hear how even a principal at one of the top companies in the world would go back to the square one to try a completely different approach to moving. 

 

Even though class can feel like a never-ending quest for perfection, a place where we all try to be "correct," there's never just one right way to dance. Because, if you really think about it, how boring would that be? 

Latest Posts


Maria Kochetkova. Darian Volkova, Courtesy Kochetkova

Maria Kochetkova on How COVID-19 Affected Her Freelance Career, and Her New Home at Finnish National Ballet

When international star Maria Kochetkova embarked on a freelance career three years ago, she never envisioned how a global pandemic would affect it. In 2018, the Russian-born ballerina left the security of San Francisco Ballet, a company she called home for more than a decade, for the globe-trotting life of a guest star. Before the pandemic, Kochetkova managed her own performing schedule and was busier than ever, enjoying artistic freedom and expanding her creative horizons. This all changed in March 2020, when she saw her booming career—and her jet-setting lifestyle—change almost overnight.

After months of uncertainty, Kochetkova landed at Finnish National Ballet, where she is a principal dancer for the 2020–21 season. Pointe spoke with her about her time during the quarantine and what helped her to get through it, her new life in Helsinki, and what keeps her busy and motivated these days.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
DTH's Alexandra Hutchinson and Derek Brockington work out with trainer Lily Overmyer at Studio IX. Photo by Joel Prouty, Courtesy Hutchinson.

Working Out With DTH’s Alexandra Hutchinson

Despite major pandemic shutdowns in New York City, Alexandra Hutchinson has been HIIT-ing her stride. Between company class with Dance Theater of Harlem and projects like the viral video "Dancing Through Harlem"—which she co-directed with roommate and fellow DTH dancer Derek Brockington—Hutchinson has still found time to cross-train. She shares her motivation behind her killer high-intensity interval training at Studio IX on Manhattan's Upper West Side.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Getty Images

As Ballet Looks Toward Its Future, Let's Talk About Its Troubling Emotional Demands

As a ballet student, I distinctively remember being told that to survive ballet as a profession, one must be exceptionally thick-skinned and resilient. I always assumed it was because of the physically demanding nature of ballet: long rehearsal hours, challenging and stressful performances, and physical pain.

It wasn't until I joined a ballet company that I learned the true meaning behind those words: that the reason one needs thick skin is not because of the physical demands, but because of the unfair and unnecessary emotional demands.

Undoubtedly, emotional and physical strength go hand in hand to some extent. But the kind of emotional demand I am talking about here is different; it is not the strength one finds in oneself in moments of fatigue or unwillingness. It is the strength one must have when being bullied, humiliated, screamed at, manipulated or harassed.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks