Ballet Stars

Tiler Peck on The Honor of Dancing Balanchine's "Emeralds"

Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

George Balanchine's glamorous three-act Jewels celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Three New York City Ballet stars share their insights on their signature roles in "Emeralds," "Rubies," and "Diamonds." Here's Tiler Peck on "Emeralds."

I think "Emeralds" is more of an acquired taste than "Rubies" or "Diamonds." There aren't really any difficult steps, but it's extremely hard to pull off because of its simplicity. You can't just "sell it." But the musicality and simplicity come together so perfectly to make it dramatic and sweeping, and just so much fun to dance.


"Emeralds" is a really special role for me. I think that, really, I'm right for "Rubies," so to be given "Emeralds" was a refreshing change—it pushed me and was more challenging than "Rubies" would have been. As I've grown with the role, I've learned to be more comfortable in it's subtlety. When you're younger, sometimes "just" doing a port de bras is hard, but as I've gotten older, those are the moments I treasure most.

Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

It's always been really important to me to see and hear knowledge that's passed down, because a lot can get lost. Even though I didn't get to work with her on "Emeralds" myself, I watched a video of Violette Verdy, who originated the role, coaching a Paris Opéra Ballet dancer. She explained how the very first port de bras is more reserved. Then the second time, it's as if you've been there before and know what you're doing, so it's bigger and your arms carry you into the bourrée. Seeing her explain the simplicity of the steps gave me images to carry in my head that inform my movement. No one can ever look like her, but for me, it's about gathering her knowledge, listening to the music and finding my own voice. I loved Violette so much as a person and a dancer, so to carry on her role is such an honor.

Click here for Sara Mearns on "Diamonds" and here for Teresa Reichlen on "Rubies."

Ballet Careers
Gray Davis with wife, ABT soloist Cassandra Trenary, after his graduation from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. Courtesy Trenary.

When Gray Davis retired from American Ballet Theatre in July of 2018, he moved home to South Carolina, unsure of what would come next. Last month, just over a year later, Davis graduated from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. Today, he's working as a deputy for the Abbeville County Sheriff's Office.

Though Davis danced in ABT's corps for 11 years and is married to soloist Cassandra Trenary, to many he's best known for saving the life of a man who was pushed onto the subway tracks in New York City in 2017. The heroic effort earned him the New York State Liberty Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by a member of the New York State Senate. We caught up with Davis to hear about how the split second decision he made in the subway affected the course of his life, what it's been like starting a second career and what he sees as the similarities between ballet and law enforcement.

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Sponsored by BLOCH
Courtesy BLOCH

Today's ballet dancer needs a lot from a pointe shoe. "What I did 20 years ago is not what these dancers are doing now," says New York City Ballet shoe manager Linnette Roe. "They are expected to go harder, longer days. They are expected to go from sneakers, to pointe shoes, to character shoes, to barefoot and back to pointe shoes all in a day."

The team at BLOCH developed their line of Stretch Pointe shoes to address dancer's most common complaints about the fit and performance of their pointe shoes. "It's a scientific take on the pointe shoe," says Roe. Dancers are taking notice and Stretch Pointe shoes are now worn by stars like American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston, who stars in BLOCH's latest campaign for the shoes.

We dug into the details of Stretch Pointe's most game-changing features:

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Ballet Stars
Megan Amanda Ehrlich, Courtesy LEAP Program

Claire Sheridan wanted to change the status quo. Leading up to the 1990s, she recalls, "there was a 'shut up and dance' mind-set," and as the founder of the dance program at St. Mary's College of California and a longtime teacher in professional companies, she had seen too many dancers retire with no plan for a successful career transition. "At that time, if you thought about education and the future," she says, "you were not a committed dancer. I wanted to fight that."

With the support of St. Mary's, Sheridan developed the Liberal Education for Arts Professionals program, or LEAP, an innovative liberal-arts bachelor's degree program designed especially for professional dancers. She first presented her idea to executives at San Francisco Ballet. "Kudos to that company, because they said, 'This is great,'" she says. "Eleven of the first 18 dancers who started in August 1999 were from SFB."

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Ballet Training
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I'm a college freshman, and my dance program isn't challenging enough. We only have ballet three times a week and a few hours of modern, and my classmates aren't as dedicated as I am. There's a small dance company nearby, where I was hoping to take extra classes, but I don't have a car. I want to transfer, but I feel like I won't be in good enough shape for auditions. —Tara

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