Carolina Ballet’s SarahAnne Perel is Pursuing a Career Without Limits

November 10, 2023

New York City native SarahAnne Perel spent 10 years at the School of American Ballet before securing a corps contract with Los Angeles Ballet and moving cross-country to pursue her longtime dream of dancing professionally. But Perel had other dreams, too. After her second season with LAB, she enrolled at Duke University. “At the time, LA Ballet had a part-time season,” explains Perel, “and maximizing everything that I do has always been super-important to me. I never wanted to stop dancing professionally, but I did want to explore other parts of myself.”

a female dancer wearing white pants sitting in a chair while looking at the camera
Photo by Yevgeny Shlapko.

Perel earned a BA in international comparative studies while also maintaining performance commitments with LAB. “During Nutcracker season, I would fly out to L.A. to do weekend rehearsals, then fly back to Durham,” she says, recalling flights filled with writing essays and preparing presentations. Perel’s minor in dance introduced her to Carolina Ballet ballet master Debra Austin, resulting in an invitation to perform with that company as a student and a contract after her 2020 graduation. “College enhanced my dancing, and it gave me an incredible ability to balance multiple projects,” says Perel, who also served as the artistic director of Duke’s student-run ballet organization. “Sometimes you have to go with the less traveled path—just keep pushing, and don’t doubt yourself.”

Her First Move:

“I had never been to California when I got my corps contract at LA Ballet. My best friend at the time also got a contract, so he and I went online and found an apartment near the studio—we didn’t even look at it in person.”

A Very Hollywood Show:

“At LA Ballet, we performed The Nutcracker at the Dolby Theatre, where the Oscars are held. I danced the Rose lead in the Waltz of the Flowers, a dream role for me since I was a child. It’s a huge theatre, 3,200 seats, and the stage is humongous. But I remember I had no nerves; I was beaming from ear to ear.”

Her Pre-Performance Ritual:

“I go up to the stage very early, when it’s quiet and the house lights are on, so that I can engage in the movement and the emotion of the piece. I like to walk around the stage and think about where I’m going to focus my gaze, so that I can engage with as many people in the audience as possible.”

Being Present:

“As a dancer, I’m enjoying the moment that I’m having in my career. With ballet and Duke, I was always thinking about that next step. But for the past few years with Carolina Ballet, I have felt myself mature into my dancing so much more because I’m taking the time to say, ‘What can I do today? How can I fix these steps or make my body feel the best that it can in this moment?’ And that is what’s helping me grow as a performer and grow as an artist.”