Working in corporate America can be a grind, so, for many, vacation is a welcome opportunity to relax and unwind. But for Jane Collier, it's a chance to ramp up her ballet training.
Though she's based in Chicago, where she works in global sourcing for Walgreens Boots Alliance, over the last several years she's attended summer intensives at American Ballet Theatre in New York City, the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow and, most recently, the Royal Danish Ballet in Copenhagen.
Dancing in ABT's studios. Courtesy Collier
"Intensives offer me the best of both worlds: travel and great training," says Collier, who looks for strong ballet programs in locations she'd like to visit. "I love meeting other students from around the globe. In a time when so many things are polarizing, dance extends beyond language and borders. The shared experience of striving to be your best is a very galvanizing feeling."
And though most summer intensive participants are pre-professionals who haven't yet graduated high school, Collier doesn't let her age deter her. "I ask if they would consider admitting older students and let my audition speak for itself—the worst they can say is no."
"It's extremely important to me that my dedication and desire come across in my audition and in my participation in the intensive. I want to show up every day prepared to work hard, absorb and grow as a dancer. I might be a little older, but I want to demonstrate how happy I am to be there," says Collier. "No one ever has to remind me to look like I'm enjoying myself."
Collier in front of the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. Courtesy Collier
During the year, she takes technique and pointe regularly, plus CorePower Yoga for cross-training. Natalie Rast, who caters to adult ballet dancers of all levels at Rast Ballet, is a favorite teacher she credits with helping her refine her technique. And when Collier is at her company's downtown offices, she takes class at the Joffrey Academy of Dance.
But no matter how much she prepares, swapping the office for a dance studio at an intensive is still mentally and physically exhausting. "Thank goodness for coffee," she jokes.
Collier with Bolshoi Ballet corps dancer Anastasia Strakhova (left), whom she met while training in Moscow. Courtesy Collier
Collier's love of ballet stems back to childhood. Even when she decided to pursue other career paths, she knew that didn't have to mean leaving ballet behind. "I always intrinsically knew that I didn't have the appropriate physical attributes to be a professional ballet dancer. But I loved training so much it didn't matter." Case in point: She pressed on when she auditioned for an intensive in high school that required a letter of recommendation in which her teacher wrote, "I hope you accept Jane so she realizes the ballet world isn't for her."
When it came time for undergrad, Collier says she even chose her school, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, for its dance department. She trained with the dance majors while earning three degrees (economics, international studies and French) and a minor in Chinese (Mandarin)—and she graduated early. "I realized I could still train at a high level and have other career aspirations."
Even with her impressive collection of degrees (she later got her MBA from Duke University), Collier is quick to credit ballet for helping her career. "It has instilled confidence, work ethic and poise," she says. "When I encounter tough meetings or presentations, I consciously remind myself to pull down through my shoulder blades and up through my collar bones. It works wonders!"
"I might not earn my paycheck from dancing," says Collier, "but it can still be a huge part of who I am and what I do."