An SFB ballet master spills on the most common mistakes she sees. Here, SFB in Sleeping Beauty, Photo by Erik Tomasson.

The 4 Most Common Acting Mistakes Dancers Make

When conveying a story onstage, portraying a character convincingly is just as important as nailing the steps. But that's often easier said than done. We talked to Anita Paciotti, ballet master at San Francisco Ballet, about the biggest acting mistakes she sees dancers making:


1. Being shy about eye contact.

These National Ballet of Canada dancers have no problem with eye contact. PC Cylla von Tiedemann

"You have to connect with peoples' eyes to be able to react in real time onstage."

2. "Talking" on top of others.

In big scenes, the audience needs to know where to look. PC Erik Tomasson

Dancers often react too fast, says Paciotti. "Give your dancing some breathing room. If you're in a scene with another dancer, know where the focus is supposed to be at all times. It takes the audience a long time to move from one character to another."

3. Ignoring your hands.

Yuan Yuan Tan acts through her hands in Giselle. PC Erik Tomasson

"Give yourself a stock list of things to do with your hands, especially if you tend to always hold them in ballet positions. Gesture is completely different from port de bras."

4. Not dressing the part.

SFB dancers wear long skirts in rehearsal with Liam Scarlett. PC Erik Tomasson

"Wear the appropriate thing to rehearsal, whether that's a practice tutu or a long skirt. It determines the way you walk. And the way you walk determines everything else."

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How I Deal with Racist Remarks as a Ballet Dancer of Color

After years of rigorous training, ballet dancers become accustomed to constructive and oftentimes harsh criticism. Being scrutinized is something that comes with the territory.

I myself spent the better half of my high school years in Russia, where political correctness does not get in the way of progress. We were trained to use criticism as fuel to propel us forward. Everything said in class or rehearsal was meant to help better ourselves and not to be taken personally.

But where is the line between helpful advice and offensive language?

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