With her endless, eloquent legs and serene stage presence, Maria Kowroski is precisely what you would imagine a New York City Ballet principal to be. At 7 years old, the Michigan native started studying at the School of Grand Rapids Ballet, and as a teenager she went on to train at NYC’s School of American Ballet. Kowroski’s hard work and commitment to the Balanchine technique paid off when she became a NYCB apprentice in 1994. That same year, she won a prestigious Princess Grace Award, an honor granted to outstanding emerging artists. Kowroski was invited to join the NYCB corps in 1995 and made a quick rise through the ranks, becoming a principal just four years later. Today, the long, lithe ballerina continues to impress audiences in Balanchine works like Prodigal Son, “Rubies” from Jewels and Agon. Don’t miss her as the Sugar Plum Fairy in NYCB’s Nutcracker, opening November 26th at Lincoln Center. —Katie Rolnick
To My Younger Self,
We strive for perfection as artists, but please don’t obsess over it. Be gentler on yourself. You may get frustrated because you want to be better, stronger or able to do things the way someone else does. You may suffer injuries that feel like the end of the world. But you will soon realize that those struggles are what help you grow. And though there are dancers who inspire you, remember that you are a unique individual. Your gift is precious and unlike that of any other dancer.
Educate yourself by attending the theater, reading books and visiting museums. Take all that life has offered you and let it enhance you as an artist. Be kind to yourself and to everyone around you, and you will receive the respect you desire. Enjoy your time onstage, for that is a very special opportunity that so few experience. But remember that you have a lot of life yet to live, and this is only one chapter in a long book.
Finally, take time for yourself, write in your journal and remain peaceful. Life as a ballerina can seem very glamorous, but it’s also hectic, so it’s important to stay centered.
Love and angels,
Harper Watters is a ballet dancer for today's generation. A social media maestro and a charismatic performer, the Houston Ballet soloist is equally at home in front of the camera hosting his hit YouTube series, "The Pre Show"; interacting with fans on his crazy-popular Instagram account; or showing off his beautiful classical technique onstage. It's a multifaceted identity that's proven to be invaluable to his career—and it's taking him to places he never even dreamed of.
Getting corrections from our dance instructors is how we grow, and as students, it's important that we do our best to apply every correction right away. But sometimes—whether it's because we're in physical pain, or have a lot on our minds, or are just not paying attention—those corrections don't sink in. And from a teacher's standpoint, giving the same corrections time and time again gets old very fast. Here are 10 important corrections dance teachers are tired of giving. Take them to heart!
The dancers who take our breath away are the risk-takers, the ones who appear completely fearless onstage. "When you see somebody trying to travel more, go farther, push the limits of their physical abilities, that's always going to be inspiring," says Ballet BC dancer Alexis Fletcher.
But dance training can feel like it's in conflict with that idea. We spend thousands of hours in the studio trying to do steps perfectly, and that pursuit of perfection can make us anxious about taking risks. What if we fail? What if we fall?
Luckily, fearlessness is a mental skill that you can work on, just as you work on your technique. Here's how you can learn to push yourself past your limits.
When we think of a dancer who's broken barriers, American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland tends to be the name that comes to mind. And though Copeland has been a crucial advocate for equality in the world of ballet, Raven Wilkinson—a mentor of Copeland's—is considered one of the original pioneers of the movement.
In 1955, Wilkinson became the first African American to dance with the renowned Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Her fortitude in the face of bigotry and hate cemented her legacy. Now, with the release of the new children's book Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson, a new generation of dancers will be inspired by her tale of overcoming obstacles to achieve a dream.
The book details Wilkinson's life, from her experience as a young dancer training in Harlem, to her run-ins with the Ku Klux Klan while on tour with Ballet Russe, to her later ballet career in Europe. "There were times where my heart really hurt because of the situations I had to deal with," she says. "But I always had faith that I was made to be a dancer and that I was gonna dance."
Dance Spirit spoke with Wilkinson to discuss the new book and get her take on racial equality within the ballet world.
Postmodern pioneer Trisha Brown redefined how dance is seen and felt. A founding member of Judson Dance Theater, Brown frequently collaborated with other experimental artists like Yvonne Rainer, Merce Cunningham, Twyla Tharp, and Steve Paxton.
She embraced pedestrian movement, pairing everyday gesture with rhythm and fluidity. "It's liquid," says Wendy Perron, who danced with Brown in the '60s and '70s. "Like a river with many tributaries, water coming out of a faucet, or being on a raft and seeing the water move away in different directions." Brown also pushed beyond stages with choreography in fields, museums—even on the sides of buildings.
There's a common misconception that a dancer's body has to be thin. But the truth is that talent knows no body type, and the number on the scale never determines an artist's capabilities. Here are some extraordinary dancers fighting the stereotype of what a dancer "should" look like.