Meet the Houston Ballet Dancer Who Performed an Iconic Sylvie Guillem Role While Still in the Corps
With her curly red tresses, Houston Ballet soloist Alyssa Springer may look like she stepped out of a Botticelli painting, making her a natural fit in classic story ballets. But watch her in contemporary work, and you see the great bones of her versatile technique. A favorite of visiting choreographers, Springer was promoted to demi-soloist in 2017 and soloist earlier this year. She continually stands out for her acting skills and ability to morph her style to whatever the choreographer in the room needs.
Company: Houston Ballet
Hometown: Orange County, California
Training: Houston Ballet Academy and private coaching with John Gardner and Amanda McKerrow
Springer with Houston Ballet Principal Charles-Louis Yoshiyama in Jiří Kylián's Dream Time.
Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet.
Breakout role: Springer wowed audiences in William Forsythe's In the middle, somewhat elevated in 2014 while still in the corps. She danced the iconic role originated by Sylvie Guillem. "He was so encouraging," she says. "He urged me to push my limits, but he also wanted me to enjoy the process."
First item on her bucket list: "I know it sounds cliché, but I have to dance Giselle. There's so much to learn from her about forgiveness and unconditional love. The range of emotion creates such a dramatic arc."
What she's working on: Balancing the humanity and physicality of her characters. "I want my dancing to look natural, to connect to the audience and really share authentic emotions and experiences," says Springer. One example is Princesse de Lamballe in Stanton Welch's Marie. "I had to remember that this was an actual person who has a tragic ending."
Springer with Artists of Houston Ballet at Jacob's Pillow in Trey McIntyre's In Dreams.
Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Houston Ballet.
What the director says: "You are always drawn to her charisma and vulnerability onstage," says Welch. "She shows great strength in her acting ability, bringing maturity into her roles."
Putting things into perspective: After Springer danced the Sugar Plum Fairy last season, she received a letter from a 5-year-old girl who drew a picture of her. "It was such a reminder that I could be inspiring the next generation."
Offstage: Springer can be found out and about with her dog, Bella, a rescue dachshund mix. Or, if she's visiting family back in California, she might be on a horse. "I've been riding since I was a kid."
Going digital: She is also teaching herself to code and has built a personal website. "I stumbled upon coding and thought it might be a useful skill," she says. "I find it so rewarding when the jumble of letters and symbols I enter becomes a webpage!"
Just hearing the word "improvisation" is enough to make some ballet dancers shake in their pointe shoes. But for Chantelle Pianetta, it's a practice she relishes. Depending on the weekend, you might find her gracing Bay Area stages as a principal with Menlowe Ballet or sweeping in awards at West Coast swing competitions.
She specializes in Jack and Jill events, which involve improvised swing dancing with an unexpected partner in front of a panel of judges. (Check her out in action below.) While sustaining her ballet career, over the past four years Pianetta has quickly risen from novice to champion level on the WCS international competition circuit.
Sean Dorsey was always going to be an activist. Growing up in a politically engaged, progressive family in Vancouver, British Columbia, "it was my heart's desire to create change in the world," he says. Far less certain was his future as a dancer.
Like many dancers, Dorsey fell in love with movement as a toddler. However, he didn't identify strongly with any particular gender growing up. Dorsey, who now identifies as trans, says, "I didn't see a single person like me anywhere in the modern dance world." The lack of trans role models and teachers, let alone all-gender studio facilities where he could feel safe and welcome, "meant that even in my wildest dreams, there was no room for that possibility."
It's hour three of an intense rehearsal, you're feeling mentally foggy and exhausted, and your stomach hurts. Did you know the culprit could be something as simple as dehydration?
Proper hydration helps maintain physical and mental function while you're dancing, and keeps your energy levels high. But with so many products on the market promising to help you rehydrate more effectively, how do you know when it's time to reach for more than water?