Why I Dance: Paloma Herrera
Retiring principal dancer, American Ballet Theatre
Herrera, here as Odette, takes her final bow with ABT this season. Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy ABT.
For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to dance. At 7 years old, without having anybody in the family who danced or any connections with the ballet world, I told my mom that I wanted to dance on pointe. I have no idea how I knew about it. But whenever my family listened to classical music I danced around the house. I thought people were born knowing what they wanted to do; I never understood that other people had to think about it.
Dance has been my passion, my love, my religion, my bubble—my life! But more than anything, dance has shaped my way of living. I live every part of life to the fullest. If I’m cleaning the house, I’m cleaning full-out, with feeling. If I’m listening to music, it makes me fly. Dance has taught me that everything is better with passion. The experiences that we go through in this career, the way we do things, it’s created my personality. Nothing in my life is light; just as I approach my work as a dancer, everything is intense! And I love it that way.
I never understood why people came to see me dance. I always danced because I love it and it makes me happy, but what could I do for others? Yet the more I sat in the audience myself, the more I understood. Dance performances, books, plays, concerts fulfill my soul in ways that words can’t express. (I guess that is why I became a dancer, so I could express things words can’t.) I hope that my work onstage has done at least a little of what other artists did for me.
I would have thought that after performing for 24 years, I would be over dance. But I’m still waiting for that day to come. I’m retiring, and it’s still not happening. I look back, and realize I couldn’t have asked for a better dream. It was so much more than I ever could have imagined at 7. But I no longer have to be dancing myself. Even watching from the other side of the stage fulfills me because I can see more than ever that dance is not what I do, but it’s a way of life, in everything I do. It is who I am.
On May 5, 2016, I was dancing with some of my best friends in rehearsal for The Chase Brock Experience, where I'm a founding company member. I was thrilled to be back doing a show after taking some time off for graduate school.
My next memory is waking up in the hospital with a ventilator tube down my throat. Unable to talk, I saw a semi-circle of people around my bed: Chase Brock, fellow CBE dancers Drew Heflin and Micki Weiner, my husband, Joel, and his parents. Then I saw my mother, who lives in Florida, with her bright blue suitcase. Because these people are not usually all in one place at the same time, I began putting the pieces together that something major had happened to me.
Showing choreography at a major venue in New York City is a goal and milestone for many dance artists. Yet when such an opportunity comes their way, choreographers frequently find themselves scrambling for time and technical resources to give their work that professional shine. What they end up performing may not have the polish they intended. "Far too often artists are arriving at their presenting house and the piece isn't ready," says Adrienne Willis, the executive and artistic director of Lumberyard Contemporary Performing Arts, an organization that helps dance artists develop new work.
Back when Lumberyard was known as the American Dance Institute and operated out of a strip mall in Rockville, Maryland, it pioneered its Incubator program to whip new pieces into shape, kind of like the "out-of-town" tryout model for theater. Several of the artists it supported ultimately brought their shows to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, one of New York City's most prestigious venues, which quickly recognized the positive influence of the Incubator on performances.
Since Thanksgiving is finally here, it's officially time to talk Nutcracker. With countless productions taking place between now and Christmas (and even some through the new year), we've been keeping tabs on Instagram to check in on rehearsals. Whether you're obsessed with all things Sugar Plum Fairy or the snow scene is more your speed, we've got your first look at the holiday classic.
We have a feeling even the Boston Ballet dancing bear couldn't keep up with second soloist Lawrence Rines' tricks in Russian.
Everyone knows that training is the cornerstone of a successful career in dance. But as a dance educator, I also take comfort in the fact that high-quality dance training helps shape students into genuinely good people (in addition to creating future artists, which is a wonderful goal in itself.) These are the lessons dance teaches that help make students into better humans:
Improvement Takes Commitment Over Time
In my tap courses at Cal State University, sometimes students are shocked when they can't learn something quickly. In today's world, we're used to getting fast results. You need an answer—Google it. You need to talk to someone—text them. The cooking channel wants your dinner to be easy, the physical trainer wants your workout to be five minutes, Rosetta Stone can have you speaking Mandarin in an hour.
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.
For the past 3 years, choreographer Stephen Petronio has been reviving groundbreaking works of postmodern dance through his BLOODLINES project. This season, although his company will be performing a work by Merce Cunningham, his own choreography moves in a more luxurious direction. We stepped into the studio with Petronio and his dancers where they were busy creating a new work, Hardness 10, named for the categorization of diamonds.
'Tis the season to have some fun in the kitchen. If you want to get more creative than simply baking another pumpkin pie, try these Nutcracker-themed treats—created by and for dancers. These recipes from former Boston Ballet and Joffrey Ballet dancers were first published in Dance Magazine's December 1990 issue. Today, they're still guaranteed to turn any holiday party or dressing room into a true Land of the Sweets.
It's no secret that affording college is a challenge for many students. And for dancers, there are added complications, like the relative lack of merit scholarships that take artistic talent into consideration and the improbability of a stable salary to pay off loans post-graduation. But no matter your budget, a smart approach to the application process can help you focus less on money and more on your training.
According to Drexel University performing arts department head Miriam Giguere, figuring out the kind of financial assistance a school offers is just as important as navigating what kind of dance program you want. Here's how to incorporate finances into your decision-making process:
When dancers get injured, they often think they should eat less. The thought process goes something like, Since I'm not able to move as much as I usually do, I'm not burning enough calories to justify the portions I'm used to.
But the truth is, scaling back your meals could actually be detrimental to your healing process.