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By Joseph Carman
During New York City Ballet’s last winter season, Lauren Lovette stepped into the mysteriously serene solo in Christopher Wheeldon’s Polyphonia. The variation, originally choreographed for Alexandra Ansanelli and performed to Ligeti’s haunting music, demands complete control, superb balance, and immediate authority. Lovette delivered it with such success that audience members were whispering, “Who is that?”
Though she is a petite 5' 4", Lovette moves big and has the requisite physical assets—long legs, strong, arched feet, and graceful posture—that signal she’s ready for anything. Her youthfully radiant face reads beautifully onstage.
“She shows a willingness to work in the studio,” says Kathleen Tracey, a ballet master with NYCB. “And she has a wonderful disposition. She will do whatever is asked of her. A lot of people have that going for them, but she also has that ‘it’ factor—charisma, a natural glow about her when she performs. That’s what separates her from the rest.”
For Lovette, it’s really just about getting to dance, which she loves to do. “The beauty of the solo in Polyphonia—what makes it so much fun to dance—is how slow it is,” she says. “I could really think about every step. The challenge of it was my nerves. Being so nervous and it being so slow, I had to remember to breathe!”
Lovette was born in Thousand Oaks, California. At 10, she was whirling around her aunt’s dancewear store when the owner of a nearby studio, California Dance Theatre, asked if she had taken a ballet class before (she hadn’t). She started classes there and, when her family moved, continued her studies at the Cary Ballet Conservatory in Cary, North Carolina. At 13, Lovette was given a full summer scholarship to SAB. The next summer she stayed for the winter term. After she graduated in 2009, she became an apprentice with NYCB and a member of the corps de ballet the following year.
Lovette’s repertoire already has a wide array of roles, including Maria in West Side Story Suite. “It was my first time doing anything like that,” says Lovette. “You get to act. And I got to dance with my friend Chase Finlay, who was Tony. That was awesome.”
She also caught the eye of Susan Stroman, who had cast her in a funny cameo in the winter premiere of For the Love of Duke. To her surprise, when the ballet was reprised in the spring, she saw that her name was on the rehearsal schedule for an hour alone with the choreographer. Stroman told her she was adding a solo for her titled “Sunset.” The variation is a bubbly, tailor-made confection set to Duke Ellington’s infectious swing music.
Like most dancers, Lovette can be hard on herself in the critique department. “I’m not a ‘tricky’ dancer,” she says. “I’m always working on pirouettes and fouettés. I’ve also been trying to work on my hands, my arm movements, trying to get my back engaged. I’m pretty hyper-mobile. I have to concentrate on my core, especially when pieces are fast.”
Aptly surnamed, Lovette, who turns 20 next month, seems to adore dancing everything—the corps in Fearful Symmetries and Symphony in Three Movements, even the snow scene in Nutcracker. This fall she is scheduled to dance the girl in apricot in Dances at a Gathering. But her dream roles are Juliet and the leads in Chaconne, After the Rain, and Valse-Fantaisie.
Tracey says Lovette’s versatility allows her to look as comfortable in neoclassical works as in tutu ballets. “She has it all. She is going to keep rising,” says Tracey. “Her potential has yet to be tapped.”
Joseph Carman is a Dance Magazine senior advising editor.
Lovette in Wheeldon’s Mercurial Manoeuvres. Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.