Ballet Careers

Seeing Green: Jealousy in the Studio

Learning from your competition can help rechannel jealous feelings. Photo by Eric Ostling.

They are the urban legends of the dance studio: glass in a dancer's pointe shoes, ribbons cut before she goes onstage. The film Black Swan took things a step further, depicting a dancer so wracked with obsessive jealousy that she turns into a monster.

While these caricatures of the jealous ballerina are far from reality, it is not surprising that most dancers will battle bouts of green envy at least a few times in their careers. “It happens to all of us," says American Ballet Theatre corps dancer Paulina Waski, who despite signing a contract with ABT at 16 admits she's felt envious of fellow dancers. “Especially when you are at the point of transitioning from a student to a professional dancer."

According to Dr. Nadine Kaslow, a psychologist who works with dancers at Atlanta Ballet, jealousy is completely normal. However, it creates both physical and mental tension. “It can get in the way of relationships," she says. When Waski was promoted into ABT, she sensed that some of her colleagues from the ABT Studio Company grew distant. Later, she experienced jealous behavior from older company members. “It felt lonely," she says.

Thinkstock.


If jealousy is allowed to fester, it can affect the entire class. "A class should always be pushing each other, but in a healthy way," says Arantxa Ochoa, director of faculty and curriculum at Miami City Ballet School. Healthy competition may sound like a contradiction, but Kaslow notes that "competition can also motivate people to do their best and try their hardest." It becomes unhealthy when winning becomes paramount, especially at the expense of others.

Don't be disheartened if you feel jealous of another dancer from time to time. Here are some tips to reframe your thinking so that it doesn't become a detriment to your dancing and friendships.

Stay Focused on Yourself

It takes a lot of energy to continually measure yourself against those around you. “One of the best things you can do is stay focused on yourself and your own progress," says Kaslow. She advises that instead of worrying about whether your leg is the highest in the room, focus on making it is as high as you, personally, can get it. “Otherwise you're going to end up in a competition and you're not really going to do what you need to do to get better," she adds.

Keep in mind, too, that some dancers simply bloom earlier. “Don't compare yourself to others, because our paths are very different," says Ochoa. She notes that she has seen the underdog make it many times, “because they don't get discouraged."

When you see a dancer who has something that you lack, remember that we all have unique attributes. “I think that often people end up feeling jealous because they are feeling badly about themselves," says Kaslow. She advises dancers to focus inward. Try not to become so distracted by what another dancer has that you miss all the wonderful qualities that belong only to you.


Arantxa Ochoa teaching at Miami City Ballet School. Photo by Iziliaev, Courtesy MCB.

Maintain Perspective

If someone is getting more attention in class, receiving better parts or leveling up, remember that the teachers or directors making those decisions have their own subjective preferences. “Ballet is all about perspective," says Ochoa. “Some people love a certain principal and others don't like her. But that is a beautiful thing about it," she says. “You cannot put a number on it; it is an art form." Another teacher or choreographer may see even more in you.

Learn from Your Competition

Let's face it—if a dancer has you turning green, they are probably doing something you wish you could do yourself. Instead of comparing yourself to her, see it as an opportunity to learn her secrets. “It is good to see that another dancer jumps higher," says Ochoa, “because then you will want to jump higher, too."

Waski isn't a born turner, so at times she would grow jealous of others who could do more rotations, especially when she was competing for an ABT corps contract. She learned to rechannel her feelings. “I want to learn from other dancers if they have a strength I don't have," she says. “Jealousy can take you back a few steps because you get insecure and you try to be like that person. Then you lose sight of who you are as a dancer."


Thinkstock.

Appreciate the Beauty in Others

When you started dancing some time ago, you likely did so because you saw a dancer or performance that inspired you. Hold on to the motivation that came from that sense of awe. “Oftentimes we feel jealous of something because we respect and admire it," says Kaslow. “Try to allow yourself to have more of those positive feelings." One of the best ways to do this is to get to know the dancer that you are jealous of. “The better you get to know someone and their strengths and challenges," she says, “the more of a complete picture you have. You start to see them as just another human being, not an unattainable idea."

Related Articles Around the Web
Show Comments ()
Ballet Stars
Elisabeth Beyer. Photo Courtesy VAM Productions.

Congratulations to the 2018 YAGP winners! After months of semi-finals, 1,800 dancers from around the world were chosen to attend a week of finals in New York, competing for ballet scholarships and contracts. We've been following the action all week (you can catch up on our backstage coverage, here). The 2018 competition wrapped up on April 19 with the Stars of Today Meet The Stars of Tomorrow gala which featured performances from pros like American Ballet Theatre's Isabella Boylston and New York City Ballet's Tiler Peck. Following today's awards ceremony, YAGP has just announced this year's winners (aka the dancers you're going to want make note of). Check out the full list and highlights from the competition below.

Senior Women

1st Place: Elisabeth Beyer (15), Ellison Ballet - Professional Training Program, NY, USA

2nd Place: Guo Wen Jin (16), Shanghai Dance School, China

3rd Place: Seon Mee Park (18), Korea National University of Arts, Korea

3rd Place: Basia Rhoden (15), Master Ballet Academy, AZ, USA


Guo Wen Jin; Courtesy VAM Productions

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
Photo by Rob Becker, courtesy DePrince.

In January, a commercial for Chase's QuickPay Mobile App starring Michaela DePrince aired on national television. In March, it was announced that Madonna would be directing the movie version of DePrince's autobiography. And in April, she graced the cover of Harper's Bazarre Netherlands. With all the buzz, it's easy to forget that the Dutch National Ballet soloist has been sidelined since August 2017 with a ruptured Achilles tendon. Pointe checked in with DePrince to see how her recovery is going.

Last fall, you ruptured your Achilles tendon. How did that happen?

It was the first of August. I was in Sicily doing an event with Google. We had dinner at a temple and it was just absolutely incredible. I'm kind of clumsy outside of ballet, so I thought it would be safer if I took my shoes off. Then Lenny Kravitz starts to sing a song and he dedicates it to me. I got up and went to go sit next to him on the stage. When I got up from sitting, I stepped in the wrong place at the wrong time. I knew right away that I ruptured my Achilles. They brought me to an ambulance and took me to the hospital. I flew back to the Netherlands the next day and had an appointment with the doctors here in Amsterdam. They said, "Yeah, you ruptured three quarters of your Achilles." And then on August 14, I had surgery.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
From left: Jennifer Stahl, Lonnie Weeks and Sasha De Sola in rehearsal for Trey McIntyre's new work. Photo by Christian Peacock for Pointe.

Photography by Christian Peacock

Summer is always a lively time at San Francisco Ballet, as the dancers return from vacation and launch into rehearsals for the upcoming season. But last July through September felt absolutely electric with creativity as the company created 12 world premieres for Unbound: A Festival of New Works, a cutting-edge program that will run April 20–May 6 at the War Memorial Opera House.

Artistic director Helgi Tomasson invited a wish list of international choreographers to participate: David Dawson, Alonzo King, Edwaard Liang, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Cathy Marston, Trey McIntyre, Justin Peck, Arthur Pita, Dwight Rhoden, Myles Thatcher, Stanton Welch and Christopher Wheeldon. Each got about 12 dancers, three weeks' studio time and, aside from a few general guidelines, total artistic freedom.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Careers
Make sure you're comfortable slipping into pointe shoes for center. Photo by Jim Lafferty.

I was offered a company contract (my first!) starting this fall. What should I do in the meantime to make sure I'm as prepared as possible? —Melissa

Keep reading... Show less
News
Olga Smirnova. Photo by Quinn Wharton.

Several weeks ago, Youth America Grand Prix announced that the lineup for tonight's Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow gala at Lincoln Center's Koch Theater would include Bolshoi Ballet principal Olga Smirnova and first soloist Jacopo Tissi. But an article in Page Six published last night states that Smirnova and Tissi were denied visas to enter the US.

YAGP organizers "believe the Department of Homeland Security's decision may be motivated by the myriad tensions between the superpowers," says the piece, noting that "Smirnova is so revered in Moscow that her treatment could create a Russian backlash." The Mariinsky Ballet's Kimin Kim did receive a visa and was allowed to perform as scheduled.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
Houston Ballet principal Connor Walsh getting early practice as a leading man. Photo courtesy Connor Walsh

It's that time of year again—recital season! And not so long ago, some of your favorite ballet dancers were having their own recital experiences: dancing, discovering, bowing, laughing, receiving after-show flowers, making memories, and, of course, having their pictures taken! For this week's #TBT, we gathered recital photos—and the stories behind them—from five of our favorite dancers.

Gillian Murphy, American Ballet Theatre

Murphy gets ready for her role as "Mary Had a Little Lamb." Photo courtesy Gillian Murphy.

"This photo was taken by my mom when I was 11, waiting in the dressing room (the band room of West Florence High School in South Carolina) before I went onstage as 'Mary' for a recital piece featuring 3-year-olds as little lambs.I had so much fun being the teacher's assistant in the baby ballet class each week, particularly because my little sister Tessa [pictured below] was one of the 3-year-olds. I remember feeling quite grown up at the time because I was dancing in the older kids' recital piece later in the program, but in this moment I was just looking forward to leading my little lambs onstage in their number."

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get Pointe Magazine in your inbox

Sponsored

Win It!