Just for Fun
Lauren Post unwinds by sewing pointe shoes in the tub. Photo via Instagram/@laurencpost

Let's face it. Dancers just do things differently. We can never walk down a grocery aisle—we have to tap. We can never simply pick something up we've dropped—without going into a penché. But it's not a bad thing. We love all the ways that dance bleeds into our daily lives.

Turns out the pros aren't ever really off-duty either. Here's how we caught them dancing through their downtime.

Keep reading... Show less
Just for Fun
Lauren Post unwinds by sewing pointe shoes in the tub. Photo via Instagram/@laurencpost

Let's face it. Dancers just do things differently. We can never walk down a grocery aisle—we have to tap. We can never simply pick something up we've dropped—without going into a penché. But it's not a bad thing. We love all the ways that dance bleeds into our daily lives.

Turns out the pros aren't ever really off-duty either. Here's how we caught them dancing through their downtime.

Keep reading... Show less
Just for Fun
Lauren Post unwinds by sewing pointe shoes in the tub. Photo via Instagram/@laurencpost

Let's face it. Dancers just do things differently. We can never walk down a grocery aisle—we have to tap. We can never simply pick something up we've dropped—without going into a penché. But it's not a bad thing. We love all the ways that dance bleeds into our daily lives.

Turns out the pros aren't ever really off-duty either. Here's how we caught them dancing through their downtime.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancers Trending
Lindsay Thomas for Pointe

Lindsi Dec is one of the pillars of Pacific Northwest Ballet: From Balanchine to Wheeldon, her mastery of principal roles brings a dynamic spark, strength and expansive spirit to the stage. Last year in January, Dec took on the biggest role of her life when she and husband Karel Cruz (also a principal with PNB) welcomed their son, Koan Dec Cruz.

Now back on stage and rehearsing for PNB's first rep of the season, Dec spoke with Dance Magazine about the powerful ways that becoming a mother has influenced her dancing.

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Artistic directors reveal how they decide who gets the top promotion.

Isabella Boylston was promoted to principal at ABT in 2014. Photo by Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT

There is one question at the ballet that might provoke more curiosity than any other: Who will be promoted to the rank of principal dancer? The answer is at times gratifying, and, at others, totally baffling. One dancer may rise quickly, while another waits 10 years for their big break. We spoke to four major artistic directors to take the mystery out of what they look for when it’s time to make the big promotion.

Mikko Nissinen

Boston Ballet

We’ve started a five-year partnership with William Forsythe, so I’m very deliberately shaping the company right now. I need everybody to be somebody he is going to work well with. It’s not easy to ask the same people to do Sleeping Beauty and Forsythe. But that’s when we’re relevant. That’s a ballet company of the future.

I’m definitely not old-school, where you have to sit in the corps for eight years. I just promoted Seo Hye Han [who joined the corps in 2012] to principal because I saw how well she danced the whole season, whether it was Balanchine, The Nutcracker or Odette/Odile. A good job is one thing, but this art form is about brilliance. I want to be excited.

Lourdes Lopez

Miami City Ballet

Going from soloist to principal is about imagination, the ability to take a role and make it your own. You’re responding to the music and the steps; you’re able to dig deep, like an actor, and you’re comfortable with bringing that out.

PC Daniel Azoulay, Courtesy MCB

Mr. B used to say that dancers are like a garden of flowers. I find that some bloom right away and then die; some bloom late and stay for a long time. You can have a really talented dancer hurt themselves, and physically or emotionally they’re never quite the same. Or you give them bigger parts and they can’t deal. But by the time they get to principal level, they should understand how to work well. The 30-year-old is going to be a lot more conscious of that than the 17-year-old.

I do think about looks. You need a leggy Swan Lake, “Diamonds” pas de deux, adagio dancer. You also need someone with the speed, accuracy and technical brilliance for Kitri or Square Dance. You look for those types, but you don’t always get them.

Adam Sklute

Ballet West

Photo courtesy Ballet West

I think the biggest thing is, Can this person lead an entire show? Can they own the entire stage? And can they do it consistently and in many different roles? Some people, like Beckanne Sisk and Chase O’Connell, walk fresh out of school and have it. Most people grow into it.

When I arrived, Emily Adams was very quiet, and seemed to cling to the back of the studio. Over the years she started moving forward, not aggressively, but just owning her technique. Each assignment she was given she gave 1,000 percent of herself. All of a sudden everybody started noticing her. Audience members were asking me when I hired her.

I think when it takes a long time, it’s easier for the person to appreciate where they are in the work. You should always be asking, What is my next step? Whether that’s a new ballet or your 400th Sugar Plum, you can never go on automatic, and the most successful dancers recognize that. I need people who aren’t afraid to work hard and be vulnerable.

Angel Corella

Pennsylvania Ballet

PC Jim Lafferty

It sounds cheesy, but it’s like Spider-Man: With great talent comes great responsibility. It’s not just the capacity to turn and jump, but the way you turn, the way you jump. It’s about work ethic, how fast you learn, how musical you are, how open you are to new things, how willing you are to let people see who you are in a very raw way.

I want people who can transform onstage. For instance, new principal Lillian DiPiazza is a very sweet girl, but when she did Siren in Prodigal Son she came out as a femme fatale—she was such a force.

I was made a principal at 19, but I don’t know if I was completely mature. You have to be careful as an artistic director. If you promote someone too soon and they don’t have a strong sense of who they are, their accomplishments can go to their head. If someone waits too long, they lose hope, and they lose that spark.

At the end of the day we’re doing this for the audience, so yes, there’s an element of star power. What you cast, who you cast—it’s with the audience in mind. But you also have to guide them to new things, whether that’s ballets or dancers. 

Kristin Schwab is a writer in New York City.

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Involving the artistic staff in her recovery helped Lindsi Dec keep her career on track.

 

 

PNB’s Lindsi Dec in Ratmansky’s Don Quixote. Photo by Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB

 

When Lindsi Dec stepped onstage in a dress rehearsal for Cinderella two years ago, a fast fouetté arabesque ended in a torn calf muscle. It was an all too familiar feeling—18 months earlier, she had suffered the same injury on the other leg. “Now I’m even,” she jokes today. More to the point, now she’s a principal. After five years as a popular soloist with Pacific Northwest Ballet, Dec, 32, was promoted this past January.

Dec successfully weathered two calf tears that sidelined her for nine and six weeks, respectively, but an injury can be a career-altering moment for a dancer. In addition to making a full physical recovery, a dancer must communicate effectively with the company’s artistic staff to avoid career setbacks. Many dancers tend to dodge discussing injuries. They don’t want to be perceived as weak or unreliable. “Dancers, like other performer athletes, often are taught from an early age to accept injuries as a part of the job and to perform or compete even if there is mild to moderate pain,” says Chicago-based sports psychologist Dr. Steve Julius. After working so long to achieve a professional career, a dancer may be unwilling to sacrifice even a short-term opportunity. In the end, that can hurt a dancer far more—undermining the artistic staff’s trust if she becomes reinjured or cannot perform the role adequately.

Open and effusive, being communicative is part of Dec’s personality, but it’s also a job strategy. She reached out to PNB artistic director Peter Boal with each injury, keeping him updated with her physical therapist’s assessments. There were times when she acknowledged uncertain progress. “I had to tell him I only knew day to day,” says Dec. “From one day to the next, I couldn’t do a pirouette. Then the following day I could.” Boal did not hurry Dec. “I never want to push a dancer beyond her comfort level,” he says.

No matter how sympathetic the artistic director, there are times when both the dancer and the artistic staff must face tough decisions.  Even though Dec was on the mend after her first calf tear, she and Boal agreed that it would be better for her to withdraw from her roles in A Midsummer Night’s Dream to focus on her debut as Myrtha in Giselle. When a dancer gets injured, Boal always looks at the particulars of an upcoming performance. “We will discuss specific steps that can be executed or still need to be avoided,” he says, “and then we’ll discuss which roles are possible.” In the end, Dec, who had already earned praise for her neoclassicism, felt that Myrtha stretched her stylistically and artistically, and was among the performances that contributed to her promotion.

Every company director has their criteria for how they measure a dancer’s recovery. For Boal, company class is the ultimate testing ground. “Once the dancer can complete grand allégro with confidence, it is only a question of stamina,” he says. Some dancers prefer working slowly in company class during recovery, skipping the parts that stress their bodies. Dec opted to take PNB School’s open classes while she was coming back. “I didn’t want to put pressure on myself to do more than I could.”

Dec believes that her openness with Boal, and her efforts to involve him in her recovery decisions, helped to keep her on track at the company. She says her promotion came as a happy shock, but it was the clear path for a dancer with an ever-growing list of talents that now includes knowing how to come back—all the way back—from injury.

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