Most corps members have one thing in common: little rest. When you're the backbone of the company, you're cast in almost every major ballet, and expected to give just as much to each character and peasant role as you do the rare soloist opportunities thrown your way. Recently, Dance Magazine followed Boston Ballet's Hannah Bettes and Lawrence Rines through a typical rehearsal day as they juggled a nonstop load of dance.
Bettes is an early riser, up by 7 to have a slow breakfast and watch the news. “I like to stay up to date," she says. “It makes me feel more productive." The company is known for its fashion, and most dancers put together separate street and studio outfits each day. Bettes says, “Lawrence has taught me a lot about fashion actually—he's taken me shopping. I think my style is 'hobo chic.' When I arrived, it was just 'hobo.' "
Bettes starts her day in the PT room so she can get occasional advice from the PT team while she warms ups with hip and shoulder stabilization exercises. Then she uses company class to focus on improving her technique. “Recently it's been all about shoulder and arm placement."
Hour-long rehearsal for Swan Lake, which opens later in the season.
Bettes eats her lunch early, since she has a coaching session during the company break. Her typical lunch includes a peanut butter chocolate chip Zing Bar; a beet, kale and chicken dish; and a small lentil salad with cherries and hazelnuts.
Bettes runs downstairs to the costume shop for a hairpiece fitting for Gaîté Parisienne and grabs an extra pair of pointe shoes from her cubby in the shoe room.
Her one-on-one rehearsal is with Peter Stark, with whom she trained at the Patel Conservatory before he moved to Boston last year to head up the men's program and become the associate director of Boston Ballet II. Bettes is preparing for the Helsinki International Ballet Competition. “Competitions give dancers that little extra push," Stark says. As Bettes runs through Aurora's Act I variation, he calls out simple cues that evidence their history together: things like “fingers," “audience, audience" and “chin down."
Bettes uses her five-minute break to switch gears by marking through choreography on her own before a run-through of portions of Onegin, which the company is performing later in the week.
“I probably go out to dinner with friends every other night," says Bettes. “It's where the majority of my salary goes."
Rines wakes up with just enough time to shower, eat and walk the 10 minutes to the studio for pre-class exercises.
Loose in his lower back and hips, Rines warms up for the day by strengthening his rotators and core. “That way, instead of using my bones and ligaments at the barre, my muscles are ready to work," he says. He uses company class to prepare for the day ahead. On tough rehearsal days, he might practice steps from his rep in the back of the room towards the end of class. On lighter ones, he'll push full-force to make sure he gets in a good workout.
Pushing the limits of extension in William Forsythe's The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude.
Rehearsals start with a full-out run of the intense The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, which opens in two weeks. Rines is known for excelling in neoclassical rep.
Next is a rehearsal for Balanchine's Kammermusik No. 2. Rines manages the quick transitions between one-hour rehearsal blocks by mentally compartmentalizing each ballet. “I don't think ahead, because that would drive me crazy," he says. “I take it like the chapters of a book—I walk in and say, 'What am I doing now?' "
Rines runs out to grab lunch (which changes daily, but he stays away from anything too heavy).
Rines uses his break for a quick visit to the PT room for maintenance on a prior calf issue. The treatment includes massage and an exercise on the Pilates chair equipment.
Onegin rehearsal. Tomorrow the dancers will switch over to their theater schedule, beginning their day at noon and finishing with a 7:30 pm show.
In Gaîté Parisienne, Rines is learning three different roles and must stay on top of his "live in the moment, don't anticipate" approach to mental multitasking.
Rines believes after-work time is essential to maintaining a balanced life. “I like to keep myself social—I get angry at myself when friends want to do something and I'm like, 'No, I'm tired,' " he says. “You can't let ballet run your whole life."
With her fearless demeanor onstage, it's easy to see how Washington Ballet apprentice Sarah Steele attracted the keen eye of former American Ballet Theatre stars Julie Kent and Ethan Stiefel. Promoted mid-season from the studio company by artistic director Kent, Steele was cast by Stiefel as the lead in Frontier, his world premiere for The Washington Ballet, this past spring. For the space-themed piece, Steele donned a black-and-white "space suit" onstage, exhibiting dual qualities of strength and grace. Most evocative about Steele's dancing might be her innate intelligence—she was accepted to Harvard on early admission, and plans to resume her studies there in the future. But first, she'll dance.
Lots of college groups do stepping—a form of body percussion based on slapping, tapping and stomping—but Step Afrika! is the first professional dance company to do it. They are currently at New York City's New Victory Theater, presenting The Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence, a show based on the painting series by Harlem Renaissance artist Jacob Lawrence about The Great Migration of the 1900s, when millions of African Americans fled the Jim Crow South and traveled by train to the North for a better life. The Great Migration transformed the demographics of the country, and Jacob Lawrence's paintings became famous for their bold color and evocative power.
As we approach Thanksgiving, there's much to be grateful for. Perhaps one of the most important things on your list is dance. Whether you're a full-time company member, an aspiring professional, an audience member, or you simply delight in dancing in your daydreams, this art form is a creative escape.
That's not to say that being a dancer is easy: Pursuing such a competitive career can be heartbreaking, especially when you're faced with rejection.
La Folía, a short dance film by director Adam Grannick that was recently released online, echoes these sentiments in under 12 minutes.
It took two years of intense nutrition counseling and psychotherapy to pull me out of being anorexic. My problem now is that I've gained too much weight from eating normally. Is there no middle ground? I can't fit into my clothes, but I don't want to go back to being sick.
—Former Anorexic, Weston, CT
We always figured that stretching made us more flexible by loosening up our muscles and joints. Some of us, ahem, might have even tried to fall asleep in our middle splits to get our stubbornly stiff inner thighs to let go.
But it turns out that might not actually be how stretching works.
A new review published in the Scandinavian Journal of Science & Medicine in Sports suggests that increased flexibility actually comes from your brain growing more used to the tension.
Efficient movement is easy to recognize—we all know when we see a dancer whose every action seems essential and unmannered. Understanding how to create this effect, however, is far more elusive. From a practical perspective, dancing with efficiency helps you to conserve your energy and minimize wear and tear on the body; from an artistic point of view, it allows you to make big impressions out of little moments, and lasting memories for those watching.
So much struggle and determination goes into your training that it can be difficult for early-career dancers to recalibrate their priorities toward simplicity and ease, says Laurel Jenkins, freelance performer and Trisha Brown Dance Company staging artist. "Your aesthetic might shift, and you might have to find new things beautiful." Mastering the art of effortless movement requires a new perspective and a smart strategy—on- and offstage.
Whatever your feelings about Wayne McGregor's heady, hyper-physical choreography, we can all probably agree on one thing: We'd really, really love to pick his brain. And tomorrow, Dance Umbrella, a UK-based dance festival, is giving everyone the chance to do exactly that.
"Women are often presented as soft, fragile little creatures in ballet," says Léonore Baulac. "We're not." The Paris Opéra Ballet's newest female étoile is discussing her unease at some of the 19th-century narratives she portrays. "It was real acting," she says with a laugh of La Sylphide. "James kills her by taking away her wings, yet she tells him not to worry and goes to die elsewhere onstage!"
Sitting in the canteen of the Palais Garnier, Baulac embodies some of ballet's contradictions in the 21st century. With her fair curls and dainty features, she could easily pass for a little girl's fantasy princess. As Juliet, she exuded a girlish ardor that felt entirely natural; her reservations notwithstanding, her Sylphide was committed and carefully Romantic in style.
Yet the 27-year-old is no ingénue. At Garnier that day, her sweater reads "I can't believe I still have to protest this s**t," a feminist slogan; last winter, Baulac proudly wore it over a Kitri tutu on Instagram. And her repertoire is as thoroughly modern as she is offstage. A versatile performer even by Parisian standards, she is equally at home in Nutcracker as she is in the works of Pina Bausch and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker.
You know Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo as the men who parody your favorite ballet variations—and make it look good. But there's more to the iconic troupe than meets the eye.
A new documentary, Rebels on Pointe, goes behind the scenes of the company, and it's full of juicy tidbits about what it's like to be a Trock. These were some of our favorite moments:
After 30 years of pioneering work in physically integrated dance, AXIS Dance Company co-founder Judith Smith has announced plans to retire from the Oakland, California, company. Throughout her tenure, she strived to get equal recognition for integrated dance and disabled dancers, commissioning work from high-profile choreographers like Bill T. Jones. Her efforts generated huge momentum for expanded training, choreography, education and advocacy for dancers with disabilities.
By phone from her home in Oakland, Smith reflected on how far the field has evolved since the early days of AXIS, and what's yet to be done.