But pre-show routines are also highly individual, and involve artists preparing their heads for performance just as much as their bodies. That could mean anything from listening to a favorite song, bonding with cast members or meditating.
Feeling like your pre-show ritual could use a bit of inspiration? These 12 pros shared their tried-and-true routines with us:
It can be hard to imagine life without—or just after—dance. Perhaps that's why we find it so fascinating to hear what our favorite dancers think they'd be doing if they weren't performing for a living.
We've been asking stars about the alternate career they'd like to try in our "Spotlight" Q&A series, and their answers—from the unexpected to the predictable—do not disappoint:
Made a resolution to read more books this year? Or maybe just looking for a new source of fuel for your artistry? We asked eight dancers about their favorite books in our Spotlight series, and their answers ranged from cheeky novels to biographies to cookbooks.
So whip out your library card (or your Kindle) and dive into the books that inspire these artists:
The encounter with man-eating female creatures in Jerome Robbins' The Cage never fails to shock audiences. As this tribe of insects initiates the newly-born Novice into their community and prepares her for the attack of the male Intruders, the ballet draws us into a world of survival and instinct.
This year celebrates the 100th anniversary of Jerome Robbins' birth, and a number of Robbins programs are celebrating his timeless repertoire. But it especially feels like a prime moment to experience The Cage again. Several companies are performing it: San Francisco Ballet begins performances on March 20, followed by the English National Ballet in April and New York City Ballet in May.
Why it matters: In this time of female empowerment—as women are supporting one another in vocalizing injustices, demanding fair treatment and pay, and advocating for future generations—The Cage's nest of dominant women have new significance.
When Miami City Ballet's fiery principal soloist Nathalia Arja is onstage, it's impossible to look away. So it comes as little surprise that if Arja weren't a dancer, she'd probably want to be a comedian or an anchorwoman—both careers that demand the effortless charisma that Arja exudes onstage and off.
Her buoyant jump, playful attack and spirited stage presence have made her one of MCB's fastest-rising up-and-comers. But it hasn't gone to her head–Arja still revels in being "the clown of the group," and taking the challenges of the ballet world a day at a time.
We caught up with Arja for the first iteration of our new online series, "In the Spotlight."
Living the #dancerlife is no easy feat. Between daily technique classes, late night rehearsals and numerous side gigs to get the bills paid, dancers often don't prioritize self care. It may seem like the least important item on your never-ending to-do list, but it's vital to make time for your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
Ignoring basic needs can ultimately damage your technique and performance. We could all use some tips from these 10 professional dancers who know how to practice self love.
Ah, pop culture. We'd like to thank you for your endless supply of amusement. Sometimes you blur the lines between life and art. On rare occasions, the unlikely worlds of Sunday Night Football and classical ballet even collide. This is one of those times.
Hey, Gronkowski. Think knees over toes. Photo via GQ.com.
Yesterday, men's magazine GQ released this video featuring newly promoted Miami City Ballet principal soloist Nathalia Arja and New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. As you'll see, they're just about as different as could be. The petite and graceful Arja is a patient teacher. Gronkowski is a good sport with horrible technique, though surprisingly impressive ballon. And their height difference is probably the cutest thing you'll see all week.
This isn't the first time professional ballet dancers have been roped into a lesson/parody with a notable nondancer. A few months ago, Misty Copeland was tasked with teaching Jimmy Kimmel. At the very least, the video will make you appreciate all the hours of countless pliés you've put in at the barre—because we all know a dance career, just like football, takes years of dedication.
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Arja in Balanchine’s Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux. Photo by Daniel Azoulay, Courtesy Miami City Ballet.
She may look delicate, with her long, feathery limbs and filigreed line, but Nathalia Arja’s dancing is powered by a startling speed and daring. The recently promoted soloist snaps through Miami City Ballet’s many Balanchine works with an audacity as joyful as it is thrilling, pushing the physical edges and emotional depths of everything she performs.
“One of Nathalia’s most striking qualities is her fearlessness. It was what I noticed right away when I saw her.”
—Miami City Ballet artistic director Lourdes Lopez
Company: Miami City Ballet
Hometown: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Training: Alice Arja School of Ballet (her mother’s school), Miami City Ballet School
Breakout moment: Arja had just joined MCB’s corps when Alexei Ratmansky chose her for the “war girl” solo in his Symphonic Dances, which the troupe premiered in early 2012. He saw Arja as the embodiment of a fragile-seeming but powerful, chaos-sowing figure, and Arja says his vision brought out a ferocity she didn’t know she possessed.
Bonus confidence booster: A rehearsal visit from Baryshnikov, who mentioned that Arja was his favorite dancer in Symphonic Dances.
In the beginning: When Arja arrived at MCB’s school at 15, she was so overwhelmed by the complexities of Balanchine style (and not speaking English) that she used to break down in tears. Now she’s at home in both languages. “I love that Balanchine has so much feeling—that every movement tells a story,” she says.
On the horizon: This season Arja is dancing the title role of Richard Alston’s Carmen. “Her kind of physical attack is another way of showing the sharpness of Carmen,” says Alston. “She’s fierce—it may be her ambition that’s fierce, and there’s nothing wrong with that—but she’s not a little sweetie.” She is also cast as the lead in Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante and as one half of the “jump couple” in Symphony in Three Movements.
What she’s working on: Pushing past her technical accomplishment to find the distinctiveness of each movement. “I fight myself because I can do things easily, but it’s how you do them that’s going to make you different,” Arja says. “That’s how you become a leader onstage.”