nature of the business


In the September issue of Pointe Magazine (wow, shit bunheads say) there is an interview with Mikko Nissinen regarding what’s lacking in pre-professional training, in which the Boston Ballet Artistic Director makes a very valid point; “It takes three steps to be a professional: You have to learn how to dance, how to perform, and how to deal with injuries.”

There is such a high probability of becoming injured in this career that knowing how to handle an injury is literally the most important skill a dancer can have, second only to learning to dance and perform.  Of course, dealing with actually becoming injured is difficult, but straight forward: something hurts, you seek medical advice, you are diagnosed.  The part that comes next, the whole “being an injured dancer” aspect, well that is a bit more complicated.

In the closing sequence of Breaking Pointe’s Season 2 finale (I really need to take the bobbypins out of my brain before making references), Ballet West Artistic Director Adam Sklute says, “Ballet can be vicious” and flashbacks to the variety pack of injuries incurred by the dancers during the season fill the screen.  He’s right.  Behind the rhinestones and tulle, we hide pain.  Serious, at times crippling, pain.  It may sound dramatic, but that’s because it is.

Being an injured dancer is so much more than physical therapy, acupuncture, x-rays, and massages.  It hurts so much more than the sprain, fracture, or blister itself.  Your world as you know it flips upside-down.  Everything you have worked so hard for up until this point is taken away in the twist of an ankle, and only time, patience, and optimism will bring it back.  It’s like every hardship you’ve experienced in your ballet career thus far has been a little test of your dedication, and this is a 10-chapter exam.  Are you willing to stay true to something you can’t even do right now?  Will you be able to return to something that damaged you so physically without letting it break you emotionally?  The answer has to be yes.  Or you’re in the wrong business.

breaking silence

So how many of you watch Ballet West’s reality show, Breaking Pointe, on the CW?


I must admit, despite the lack of dancing and frequent “scriptnyness” (yes, I just made that word up, go with it), Breaking Pointe is a guilty pleasure of mine.  Not because of the struggling romances or catty dancers all vying for the same part, but because I can relate to so much of the company life that really makes up the bulk of the show.  The tension during casting week, the constant uncertainty of status, the strict hierarchy, the fear of being displaced the following season, the exhaustion and frustration of long rehearsals, the disappointment of being overlooked…it’s all too familiar.  Feeling the need to finally speak out about her reasons for supporting the production of Breaking Pointe‘s second season (despite the disapproval of much of the ballet-involved public), company member, Allison Debona posted a lengthy status on her Facebook fan page prior to the reality show’s season 2 premiere.


Shedding light onto an issue most people are completely naive to, Allison bravely discussed the financial struggles shared by ballet companies around the country.   She also points out the high level of responsibility and maturity involved in pursuing ballet as a career.  Allison draws attention to the fact that the dancers on the show are all human, and with that comes mistakes, obstacles, and drama.  While these issues may not be directly addressed on the show, giving ballet exposure on such a large scale could lead to a greater understanding of the “mysterious” profession, snowballing its popularity and perhaps saving this beloved, yet slowly corroding art form.  Huffington Post wrote an interesting article in response to Allison’s bold status.  Read it here, and let me know what you think!

a gala performance

Last night, I had the immense honor of taking the stage with some truly amazing dancers for Festival Ballet Providence‘s first performance of the new season.  Along with my fellow company members, an inspiring lineup of guest artists from across North America gathered in the ocean state to support FBP in raising a greater awareness of the arts in our community.  Among the celebrated dancers performing in the gala last night were New York City Ballet’s Daniel Ulbricht, National Ballet of Canada’s Greta Hodgkinson and Etienne Lavigne, Boston Ballet’s Adiarys Almeida and Avetik Karapetyan, and Ballet West’s Tom Mattingly and Beckanne Sisk (who also stars in the CW’s Breaking Pointe).  It was insanely cool to be a part of this star-studded performance, and even cooler to watch some of the world’s best ballet dancers perform from the wings.  Safe to say I won’t be forgetting this experience anytime soon!

when ballet became trendy

To quote a friend’s recent Facebook status, “Ballet is sooooo IN right now”.

Last night, the CW’s newest reality series “Breaking Pointe” (which chronicles the unconventional lives of the dancers of Utah’s Ballet West) premiered, and I have to admit I kind of loved it.  I did not have very high hopes for the show- lumping the distinguished art of ballet in with the likes of Snooki and Teen Mom?  yuck!- but was pleasantly surprised by the overall realness and lack of dramatization.

“Breaking Pointe” is especially interesting for me, because while competing in the Youth America Grand Prix ballet competition finals during my junior year of high school, I was offered a traineeship with the very company being featured on the show!  I also worked closely with Ballet West’s artistic director, Adam Sklute, at the intimate Jacob’s Pillow summer intensive in 2010…the ballet world is so very small!

Speeeeeaking of Youth America Grand Prix, has anyone heard about the newly released documentary following 6 young dancers as they compete in the world’s largest international ballet competition?  Well needless to say, as a former competitor, I was extremely excited to see the film.  And when I did, the funniest thing happened: on the screen was footage of the featured dancers preparing to take the stage in the final round, but coming through the speakers and filling my ears was the sound of my own voice!  Back in 2009 when the documentary was being filmed (and I was in NYC competing alongside all of the amazing dancers seen in the movie), a cameraman pulled my friend and I aside for a quick interview- a 5 minute questionare I assumed would never resurface.  But to my shock, there was the voice of my 16-year-old self, loud and clear, speaking about typical ballet misconceptions:

“People think that football players and lacrosse players are the ones with the injuries.  In ballet, we are getting injuried every day.”

Amen.  Words of wisdom spoken well, if I may say so myself (proud accomplishment for me, what with my serious fear of both live and on-camera public speaking).  If you haven’t seen the documentary yet, go check it out!  And watch listen for my special (vocal) appearance!

…and just for fun here’s a photo of my friend, Kristi, and I just before doing the interview: