Most corps members have one thing in common: little rest. When you're the backbone of the company, you're cast in almost every major ballet, and expected to give just as much to each character and peasant role as you do the rare soloist opportunities thrown your way. Recently, Dance Magazine followed Boston Ballet's Hannah Bettes and Lawrence Rines through a typical rehearsal day as they juggled a nonstop load of dance.
Bettes is an early riser, up by 7 to have a slow breakfast and watch the news. “I like to stay up to date," she says. “It makes me feel more productive." The company is known for its fashion, and most dancers put together separate street and studio outfits each day. Bettes says, “Lawrence has taught me a lot about fashion actually—he's taken me shopping. I think my style is 'hobo chic.' When I arrived, it was just 'hobo.' "
Bettes starts her day in the PT room so she can get occasional advice from the PT team while she warms ups with hip and shoulder stabilization exercises. Then she uses company class to focus on improving her technique. “Recently it's been all about shoulder and arm placement."
Hour-long rehearsal for Swan Lake, which opens later in the season.
Bettes eats her lunch early, since she has a coaching session during the company break. Her typical lunch includes a peanut butter chocolate chip Zing Bar; a beet, kale and chicken dish; and a small lentil salad with cherries and hazelnuts.
Bettes runs downstairs to the costume shop for a hairpiece fitting for Gaîté Parisienne and grabs an extra pair of pointe shoes from her cubby in the shoe room.
Her one-on-one rehearsal is with Peter Stark, with whom she trained at the Patel Conservatory before he moved to Boston last year to head up the men's program and become the associate director of Boston Ballet II. Bettes is preparing for the Helsinki International Ballet Competition. “Competitions give dancers that little extra push," Stark says. As Bettes runs through Aurora's Act I variation, he calls out simple cues that evidence their history together: things like “fingers," “audience, audience" and “chin down."All photos by Liza Voll
Bettes uses her five-minute break to switch gears by marking through choreography on her own before a run-through of portions of Onegin, which the company is performing later in the week.
“I probably go out to dinner with friends every other night," says Bettes. “It's where the majority of my salary goes."
Rines wakes up with just enough time to shower, eat and walk the 10 minutes to the studio for pre-class exercises.
Loose in his lower back and hips, Rines warms up for the day by strengthening his rotators and core. “That way, instead of using my bones and ligaments at the barre, my muscles are ready to work," he says. He uses company class to prepare for the day ahead. On tough rehearsal days, he might practice steps from his rep in the back of the room towards the end of class. On lighter ones, he'll push full-force to make sure he gets in a good workout.
Pushing the limits of extension in William Forsythe's The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude. All photos by Liza Voll
Rehearsals start with a full-out run of the intense The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, which opens in two weeks. Rines is known for excelling in neoclassical rep.
Next is a rehearsal for Balanchine's Kammermusik No. 2. Rines manages the quick transitions between one-hour rehearsal blocks by mentally compartmentalizing each ballet. “I don't think ahead, because that would drive me crazy," he says. “I take it like the chapters of a book—I walk in and say, 'What am I doing now?' "
Rines runs out to grab lunch (which changes daily, but he stays away from anything too heavy).
Rines uses his break for a quick visit to the PT room for maintenance on a prior calf issue. The treatment includes massage and an exercise on the Pilates chair equipment.
Onegin rehearsal. Tomorrow the dancers will switch over to their theater schedule, beginning their day at noon and finishing with a 7:30 pm show.
In Gaîté Parisienne, Rines is learning three different roles and must stay on top of his "live in the moment, don't anticipate" approach to mental multitasking.
All photos by Liza Voll
Rines believes after-work time is essential to maintaining a balanced life. “I like to keep myself social—I get angry at myself when friends want to do something and I'm like, 'No, I'm tired,' " he says. “You can't let ballet run your whole life."
Bettes dancing "Coppélia" at the Cape Town International Ballet Competition. Courtesy Patel Conservatory.
Even before taking her first professional bow with Boston Ballet this fall, Hannah Bettes was one of the best-known teens in ballet. Her bright, lyrical presence, together with a stunning facility (those feet), has won her numerous competition medals and a devoted following. Now in her first season as a corps member, she’s discovering how competition fame translates into a career.
Company: Boston Ballet
Hometown: DeLand, FL
Training: Central Florida Ballet School, Next Generation Ballet at the Patel Conservatory, The Royal Ballet School
Accolades: Youth America Grand Prix gold medal, junior division; World Ballet Competition silver medal, pre-professional division; Prix de Lausanne second prize, Audience Choice
Breakout moments: After winning at Prix de Lausanne in 2012, she spent her last two years of training at RBS, where Liam Scarlett chose Bettes as a soloist for a ballet he set on the school.
On transitioning into company life: “Ballet can be selfish at times—you’re always working on yourself—but now, being part of a corps de ballet where everyone has to be the same, it’s not really a selfish thing anymore.”
What she’s working on: ”I’m still constantly working toward holding my turnout. And a lot of my base technique, I find, is still kind of weak. From the competitions, I learned how to do a lot of tricks, but it’s the little in-between steps that I’m still faulty with.”
What Nissinen is saying: “She was a top-level student, but it’s a very different thing to be a student than a professional—I was willing to take that big step and start her in the company,” says Boston Ballet artistic director Mikko Nissinen. “And she has been able to handle it. Now, it’s just: How do we hone those qualities? How do we make her a top-rate artist? This is just the beginning.”
Her first year at Boston: Bettes has already rehearsed soloist roles, including Neapolitan and four little swans in Swan Lake, and she performed the ballerina doll in Nutcracker. This spring, she is thrilled to revisit her contemporary roots. “We’re doing Episodes and Chroma in the same triple bill. Just being around it will be incredible.”