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Why I Dance: Sarah Lane
Dancing with authority and poise, American Ballet Theatre soloist Sarah Lane has made her mark in roles that range from Aurora to Vera in Ashton's A Month in the Country. She began ballet classes as a child in Memphis, and continued her studies with Timothy Draper at the Draper Center for Dance Education when her family moved to Rochester, New York. She joined ABT as an apprentice in 2003, and became a soloist in 2007. Her technical mastery has also brought her acclaim in contemporary works by Tharp, Morris, Elo and others. During ABT's upcoming spring season at New York's Lincoln Center, she will dance leads in Coppélia and Theme and Variations.
I started dancing at the age of 4. Unlike many, I was never inspired to start because I saw a dance film or performance. I didn't go to a full-length ballet until I was 16. I was just in my own world, doing something that I truly loved. There were even times that I needed to be brought back to earth. My teacher, the late Timothy Draper, once said, “Sarah, the lights are on, but nobody's home!"
I've never been a frivolous girl. I spent my early childhood living in the country outside of Memphis, Tennessee. I was a regular hillbilly along with my two younger brothers. We rode the neighbor's horses, picked cotton in the cotton field and smashed pennies on the railroad tracks. I had a creative side, though. I wrote poetry and I liked to sing. My brother, Micah, would drum away on a plastic bucket while I tried to carry a tune.
My parents were very involved in contemporary Christian music and that was the primary influence that led me to dance. My dad was a sound engineer for several artists in that genre. It was something that he was passionate about and it was contagious. I understood in a sincere and personal way what worship was. It's being humbled by a grace that is far more exquisite than anything you can imagine. For me, worship is doing what I do to honor something greater than myself. My first ballet teacher, Pat Gillespie, was religious as well. She instilled in me a deeper meaning for dancing and connected the dots between music, ballet and faith.
Another part of dance that drew me in was acting. When I was young, I would play make-believe with my brothers. Becoming a character onstage at this point in my life is still fun, but it is not a game anymore. Developing a persona requires a constant thought process that melds my own experiences and feelings with those of the character I'm dancing.
At times, of course, I doubt myself. Life is not easy and neither is ballet. I'm a perfectionist, which has not always been to my advantage. I get frustrated when I don't measure up to my own standards. Perfectionism can be a trap: I understand now that the process every day is more important than the finished product.
I appreciate my craft more and more as I get older. As the late, great Frederic Franklin said, “It is a privilege to be a dancer." What dancers experience goes beyond what words can express. To put it feebly, it is the ability to set your soul free in a moment that can't be captured or replicated. It's being real and vulnerable enough to share who you are as a unique human being. It's believing that imperfection can still create something beautiful. There is so much in life that motivates me now in my dancing. I find inspiration in the love I share with my husband, the laughs I have with my brothers and my niece, in how happy my two dogs get when I come home.
What we do as dancers is very different from the Hollywood version of ballet life. Ballet is more than steps, or pyrotechnics. When I finally saw that first ballet, it was Amanda McKerrow as Giselle at the Metropolitan Opera House. What I took away with me I can't explain, but it was something special. I want to give that to others; true ballet can give that to others. That is why I dance.
Photo: Sarah Lane as Aurora in ABT's Sleeping Beauty. By Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy ABT.
One of the biggest myths about ballet dancers is that they don't eat. While we all know that, yes, there are those who do struggle with body image issues and eating disorders, most healthy dancers love food—and eat plenty of it to fuel their busy schedules.
Luckily for us, they're not afraid to show it:
Looking for your next audition shoe? Shot at and in collaboration with Broadway Dance Center, Só Dança has launched a new collection of shoes working with some pretty famous faces of the musical theater world! Offered in two different styles and either 2.5" or 3" heels, top industry professionals are loving how versatile and supportive these shoes are! Pro tip: The heel is centered under the body so you can feel confident and stable!
When I wrote about my struggle with depression, and eventual departure from dance because of it, I expected criticism. I was prepared to be challenged. But much to my relief, and horror, dancers from all over the world responded with support and stories of solidarity. The most critical response I saw was this one:
"Dance isn't for everyone."
This may as well be a mantra in the dance world. We have become entrenched in the Darwinian notion that the emotionally weak will be weeded out. There is no room for them anyway.
Growing up in a family-owned dance studio in Missouri had its perks for tap dancer Anthony Russo. But it also earned him constant taunting, especially in high school.
"There was a junior in my sophomore year health class who was absolutely relentless," he says. "I'd get tripped on my way to the front of the classroom and he'd say, 'Watch out, twinkle toes.' If I raised my hand and answered a question incorrectly, I'd hear a patronizing 'Nice one, Bojangles.' "
What does a superstar like Carlos Acosta do after bidding farewell to his career in classical ballet? In Acosta's case, he returns to his native country, Cuba, to funnel his fame, connections and prodigious energies back into the dance scene that formed him. Because of its top-notch, state-supported training programs and popular embrace of the art of dance, Cuba is brimming with talented dancers. What it has been short on, until recently, are opportunities outside of the mainstream companies, as well as access to a more international repertoire. That is changing now, and, with the creation of Acosta Danza, launched in 2016, Acosta is determined to open the doors even wider to new ideas and audiences.
There's so much more to the dance world than making and performing dances. Arts administrators do everything from raising money to managing companies to building new audiences. With the growing number of arts administration programs in colleges, dancers have an opportunity to position themselves for a multifaceted career on- or offstage—and to bring their unique perspective as artists to administrative work.
While Solange was busy helping big sis Beyoncé give Coachella its best performances of all time, an equally compelling project was quietly circulating on Instagram:
New York City Ballet continues its first year without Peter Martins at the helm as our spring season opens tonight.
When he retired at the start of the new year, we plunged headfirst into unknown, murky waters. Who would the new director be? When would we know? Would we dancers get some say in the decision? Who would oversee the Balanchine ballets? Who would be in charge of casting? Would a new director bring along huge upheaval? Could some of us be out of a job?
In the world of ballet, Arcadian Broad is a one-stop shop: He'll come up with a story, compose its music, choreograph the movement and dance it himself. But then Broad has always been a master of versatility. As a teenager he juggled school, dance and—after the departure of his father—financial responsibility. It was Broad's income from dancing that kept his family afloat. Fast-forward six years and things are far more stable. Broad now lives on his own in an apartment, but you can usually find him in the studio.
Bales of hay, black umbrellas, bicycles—this Midsummer Night's Dream would be unrecognizable to the Bard. Alexander Ekman's full-length, inspired by Scandinavian solstice traditions and set to music by Mikael Karlsson, is a madcap celebration of the longest day of the year, when the veil between our world and that of the supernatural is said to be at its thinnest. The Joffrey Ballet's performances mark the seductively surreal work's North American premiere. April 25–May 6. joffrey.org.