Jin Zhang, Erica Lall and Betsy McBride in Swan Lake. Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy American Ballet Theatre

This ABT Corps de Ballet Dancer Performed in 73 Shows Over 11 Weeks

Erica Lall, a member of American Ballet Theatre's corps de ballet, accomplished an impressive feat this spring: she danced in every single one of ABT's spring Metropolitan Opera House season performances. That's 64 shows—actually, as Lall notes, "it would technically be 69 shows at the Met," since she performed in all of the ABTKids performances as well.


On top of the Met season, she traveled with the company to Wolf Trap in Virginia, adding another three shows to her tally, and then on to Vail Dance Festival for one more performance, bringing her total up to 73 shows. Lall shows no signs of stopping. She has several more summer gigs lined up before ABT heads back into rehearsals for the fall season.

We caught up with Lall just after she returned from Vail to chat about her season highlights, staying healthy through so many shows, and what's up next for her this summer.

Lall and Arron Scott in In the Upper Room.

Marty Sohl, Courtesy American Ballet Theatre

Her Highlights from the Met Season

Among the many roles she performed, Lall enjoyed cutting her acting teeth playing young schoolgirl Adele in Cathy Marston's Jane Eyre and Red Riding Hood in Alexei Ratmansky's The Sleeping Beauty. "It was a lot of fun to get to portray Adele as a character," she says, and just like Adele she's "very peppy in real life, and just always wanting to have fun."

Another highlight was performing the "Little Swans" pas de quatre in Swan Lake. "I've been kind of learning it for two years now, and I finally got the opportunity to perform it this season," she says. The experience was made even more special by her fellow cygnets: soloists Skylar Brandt, Luciana Paris and Cassandra Trenary. "I've looked up to them for years, so it was an honor to be next to them and performing with them," she says.

And, Twyla Tharp's marathon of a ballet In the Upper Room she describes as "one of the highlights of my career thus far."

Lall (far right) with (from far left) Luciana Paris, Skylar Brandt and Cassandra Trenary, in costume for Swan Lake.

Courtesy Lall

How She Stays Healthy

Lall credits a few tricks for maintaining her energy and strength throughout the season: Gyrotonics, Epsom salt baths ("every night after the show I would take one, no matter how late it was"), "snacking and eating three full meals a day," drinking Sqwinchers before shows "for added electrolytes," and a banana before the ballets she knew might cause muscle cramps.

ABT's Star Game

Every year during Met season, ABT dancers play what they've dubbed the "Star Game," according to the company's Instagram page. Tallies are kept on each female corps dancer to determine who has danced the greatest number of shows, and acts, during the Met season.

Lall took the crown this year with the most shows, Virginia Lensi danced in the most acts, and Betsy McBride was the runner-up.

While Lall's not sure where the tradition originated, she says that corps dancer Alexandra Basmagy "usually does the Star Chart, but she's pregnant this year." Scout Forsythe, another corps member, took on the task this time.

What's Up Next

Alongside some of her ABT colleagues, Lall is currently in rehearsals for the Hamptons Dance Project's debut performances next week. Then she's off with ABT principal James Whiteside to Paraguay and Buenos Aires where they'll be performing the pas de deux from Le Corsaire and the choreography from Whiteside's Wallflower music video in IX Gala Internacional de Ballet at the end of the month.

After that, she finally gets a vacation: "I'm going to Jamaica with my family."

Advice for Fellow Corps de Ballet Dancers

Lall tells fellow corps members who face similarly challenging seasons to have confidence in themselves: "This is what we've trained our entire lives for, and our body is capable of doing it."

While Lall wasn't initially scheduled to dance in every Met show ("we get our casting two weeks before the performance week"), she had a feeling in her gut at the beginning of the season that she wasn't going to have a single show off. Looking back at her achievement, she reflects, "It's really just great to be in every show, honestly. It's very hard but...you feel very accomplished once the season is over and you've made it."

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Rachel Papo

Our 8 Best Pointe Shoe Hacks

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.