Angle and Kowroski in Christopher Wheeldon's Liturgy. Photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy NYCB

Maria Kowroski and Jared Angle Answer These New NYCB Corps Members' Biggest Questions

When I joined the New York City Ballet, I had a million questions. How soon before a performance should I get ready? When should I eat dinner—before or after the performance? How long should I wear my false eyelashes before I throw them out? Should I practice hard steps onstage before the curtain goes up or save them for the show? How long should my warm-up be? How do I do well in this career?

Before long, I discovered that the older dancers were willing to help us newbies. Wendy Whelan, for instance, took me under her wing and helped me with everything from my hair and makeup to what to eat for energy before a performance.

I wanted to see what questions NYCB's newest batch of corps members Mira Nadon, Kennard Henson and Gabriella Domini had. To answer their questions, I spoke to two of our most senior dancers, Maria Kowroski (who's been with the company 24 years) and Jared Angle (who's danced here 21 years).


In your early years in the company, how did you develop your individuality as a dancer while still trying to fit into the corps de ballet?

Kowroski: Every time I stepped onstage I pretended that I was the only one out there. I never tried to balance in a position longer than anyone else, or stand out in other ways, but I always tried to perform like I was a principal dancer. Even when I was standing in the line of swans in Swan Lake I thought, "What would I do if I was out here by myself?" I think that mentality helped me feel natural and comfortable in my own skin.

Angle: I actually don't think I was thinking about individuality at all when I was in the corps. I was just trying to absorb everything that I had been told by the ballet masters and to apply the corrections towards every single step that I did onstage.

What do you believe is biggest sacrifice you had to make in your outside life to get where you are today in your career?

Angle: Actually, nothing felt like a sacrifice when I was younger. I suppose looking at it from an outside perspective, leaving my family to go live in New York City at age 16 was a sacrifice for the whole family. But I was so ready to get to New York and just dance! I also remember having pangs of jealousy when my friends back home were going off to college and doing a "normal life."

Our life at 18 is already 12 hours of working—rehearsing and performing. So, I felt that I missed out socially. But in hindsight, I've gotten so much more out of this career and I wouldn't change anything.

Kowroski: I also left my home in Michigan to move to New York at 16. It was hard for me to leave home then. My mother died in her 50s and looking back, it was a major sacrifice not to have those years with her.

Also, when I first started dancing principal roles, I felt like there was a sacrifice there. I lost a lot of friends because to take the plunge and do all the work necessary to be the "chosen" one, I felt very alone. I had to take care of myself and focus on what I needed to do and not all my friends at the time were supportive.

What areas of your technique do you feel you’ve had to work the hardest towards mastering?

Angle: I had to work hardest on mastering classical solos because much of my early repertoire was focused only on partnering. Partnering has always come easy to me, so I didn't have to worry about it—and I know I'm very lucky. But at the same time, my ease with partnering made my anxiety about dancing alone worse. I found that I was rarely out onstage in a solo, so I felt like I had to work much harder to get to dance certain roles. I also couldn't just "whip out" a classical solo without lots of rehearsal. I still haven't figured out how to do double tour en l'airs, but I'm still trying every day! One day I think, "I just figured out ballet technique—PERIOD," but then the next day it doesn't work the same, so…

Kowroski: Balanchine technique has always been a struggle for me. It hasn't been natural because instinctively I like to move slower. With my stature, I've always had a hard time getting my body to move fast. I've tried to learn to move fast in an efficient way so I don't feel flustered. I want to dance fast but still be on top of the music, without rushing.

Having enough stamina has always scared me, too. In my early years in the company, we would never "run" the ballets, or dance a piece straight through without stopping. We always stopped for corrections at various moments, which allowed me to catch my breath when I normally would be tired. So, by the time I got to the performance, when I obviously couldn't stop to rest, I didn't know if I had the stamina to make it through. I inevitably doubted myself, which made things worse. Then I would hold my breath…it was a horrible combination! But there's always something to work on—that's the good thing and the bad thing about this career. I'm still watching videos of myself, and trying to improve.

Do you have a favorite memory from your first years in the company?

Angle: Getting "thrown on" (replacing an injured dancer at the last minute) during my first years in the company. I got thrown on a bunch which was so scary, but wonderful. It was always so exciting because the other dancers and ballet masters rally around you and everyone wants you to do well. I also loved learning a whole ballet in a day from scratch and then performing that night.

Looking back, what’s one thing you would change about your mentality as a young dancer?

Angle: I would've been more positive about myself and my dancing! Easier said than done…

Kowroski: I would tell myself this: Try not to focus on the negative things in your performance. When you go out onstage, leave everything out there...and have no regrets...dancers are so hard on themselves and you will never be perfect in your own eyes. This career will always be challenging and you will always find new things to work on. Enjoy the moment and know that the special time is onstage and it will feel different every time you step out there—which is what makes it so great!

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It turns out that TikTok is good for more than just viral dance challenges. Case in point: We recently stumbled across this genius pointe shoe hack for dancers with narrow heels.

Dancers are full of all kinds of crafty tricks to make their pointe shoes work for them. But don't fear: You don't need to spend hours scrolling TikTok to find the best pro tips. We rounded up a few of our favorites published in Dance Magazine over the years.

If your vamp isn't long enough, sew an elastic on top of your metatarsals.

Last year, Pacific Northwest Ballet principal Elizabeth Murphy admitted to us that her toes used to flop all the way out of her shoes when she rose up onto pointe(!). "I have really long toes and stock shoes never had a vamp long enough," she says.

Her fix? Sewing a piece of elastic (close to the drawstring but without going through it) at the top of the vamp for more support...and also special-ordering higher vamps.

Solve corns with toe socks

Nashville Ballet's Sarah Cordia told us in 2017 that toe socks are her secret weapon: "I get soft corns in between my toes because I have sweaty feet. Wearing toe socks helps keep that area dry. I found a half-toe sock called 'five-toe heelless half-boat socks' that I now wear in my pointe shoes."

(For other padding game-changers, check out these six ideas.)

Save time by recycling ribbons and elastics.

Don't waste time measuring new ribbons and elastics for every pair. Washington Ballet dancer Ashley Murphy-Wilson told us that she keeps and cycles through about 10 sets of ribbons and crisscross elastics. "It makes sewing new pairs easier because the ribbons and elastic are already at the correct length," she says. Bonus: This also makes your pointe shoe habit more environmentally friendly.

Close-up of hands sewing a pointe shoe.

Murphy-Wilson sewing her shoes

xmbphotography, by Mena Brunette, courtesy The Washington Ballet

Tie your drawstring on demi-pointe.

In 2007, New York City Ballet's Megan Fairchild gave us this tip for making sure her drawstring stays tight: "I always tie it in demi-pointe because that is when there's the biggest gap and where there's the most bagginess on the side."

Find a stronger thread.

When it comes to keeping your ribbons on, function trumps form—audiences won't be able to see your stitches from the stage. Many dancers use floss as a stronger, more secure alternative to thread. Fairchild told us she uses thick crochet thread. "Before I go onstage I sew a couple of stitches in the knot of the ribbon to tack the ends," she says. "I do a big 'X.' I have to make sure it's perfect because I'm in it for the show. It's always the very last thing I do."

Don't simply reorder your shoes on autopilot.

Even as adults, our feet keep growing and spreading as we age. Atlanta podiatrist Frank Sinkoe suggests going to a professional pointe shoe fitter at least once a year to make sure you're in the right shoe.

You might even need different sizes at different times of the year, says New York City Ballet podiatric consultant Thomas Novella. During busy periods and in warm weather, your feet might be bigger than during slow periods in the winter. Have different pairs ready for what your feet need now.

Fit *both* feet.

Don't forget that your feet might even be two different sizes. "If you're getting toenail bruises, blood blisters or other signs of compression, but only on one foot, have someone check each foot's size," Novella says. The solution? Buy two pairs at a time—one for the right foot and one for the left.

Wash off the sweat.

Blisters thrive in a sweaty pointe shoe. Whenever you can, take your feet out of your shoes between rehearsals and give them a quick rinse off in the sink. "If feet sweat, they should be washed periodically during the day with soap and water and dried well, especially between the toes," says Sinkoe.