Doctors Doubted She'd Be Able to Run Again. Now She's Dancing Principal Roles at Atlanta Ballet
Emily Carrico in Stanton Welch's Tu Tu, Photo by Kim Kenney, Courtesy Atlanta Ballet
In just two seasons with Atlanta Ballet, Emily Carrico has emerged as a lead dancer with depth and dimension beyond her years. Her Sugar Plum Fairy sparkled. Her Black Swan was cunning and treacherous. In a recent rehearsal, her Sylph appeared effortless as she darted along the floor, evoking a fairy here, a dragonfly there. Watching her excel, you'd never know that Carrico has had a partially fused spine since childhood.
In costume for Bournonville's La Sylphide
Rachel Neville, Courtesy Atlanta Ballet
Companies: Kentucky Ballet Theatre, Columbia City Ballet, Atlanta Ballet
Hometown: Lexington, Kentucky
Training: Kentucky Ballet Theatre Academy, The Harid Conservatory, Magaly Suarez's The Art of Classical Ballet School
Defying diagnosis: At age 3, Carrico was diagnosed with spondylolisthesis, or slippage of the vertebrae. Doctors surgically fused her two lowest lumbar vertebrae with her sacrum, and she was immobilized in a full-body cast for three months. After more than a year of rehabilitation, Carrico began studying ballet. "I've been back to the surgeons and they said, 'We did not anticipate you'd be able to run again, let alone do what you're doing.' "
Finding what works: Because her fused lower vertebrae were shaped to simulate a natural lumbar curve, Carrico has to work extra-hard to keep her pelvis properly placed. For arching movements, she thinks of lengthening the spaces in between her vertebrae, and she works with an open hip line in arabesque.
What Gennadi Nedvigin is saying: "Courage, determination and an almost fanatic drive are some of the significant qualities needed to become the kind of dancer that Emily is," says Atlanta Ballet's artistic director, who chose Carrico as one of his first new hires. "Her ecstatic joy for ballet radiates as she performs, which gives her a special ability to connect with an audience."
In Don Quixote
Kim Kenney, Courtesy Atlanta Ballet
Mind over matter: Carrico has learned to discipline her mind, so thoughts about pain or fatigue don't overwhelm her during a full-length ballet. Silent words of encouragement, like "Yes, you can. Keep going," help push her to her max. "The mind is very powerful," she says, "especially onstage."
James Whiteside (Jayme Thornton for Dance Magazine)
Say you're perpetually impeccable designer Thom Browne. Say you're planning your Spring 2020 Paris menswear show along a "Versailles country club" theme. Say you want a world-class danseur to open the show with some kind of appropriately fabulous choreography.
Who do you call? James Whiteside, of course. On Saturday, the American Ballet Theatre principal—wearing pointe shoes and a glorious pinstriped tutu—kicked off Browne's presentation at the École des Beaux-Arts with a 15-minute, show-stealing solo. Whiteside choreographed the piece himself, with the help of detailed notes from the designer.
I'd been a professional dancer for five years when I realized the pain I'd been feeling in my hip and down my sciatic nerve was not going away. I had been treating it for two years as we dancers do—with regular visits to my masseuse, physical therapy, baths, ice and lots of Aleve—but I never stopped dancing. It finally dawned on me that if I kept going at the speed I was going (which was, well, speedy), the pain would only get more severe and unrelenting, and I might never dance again.
I told myself I'd take two months off, and all would be better.
That first morning when I woke up at 10 am, I had no idea what to do with myself. My life until that moment had been dictated by class and rehearsal, every hour accounted for. How should I fill the huge swath of time ahead of me?