Misha Goes to College
This was the most movement Baryshnikov did onstage, but I was pretty much in awe. (Courtesy Northwestern University)
Over the weekend, I traveled to Chicago to see my sister graduate from Northwestern University (Congratulations, Danielle!). And, while I was very proud to see her walk across the stage to claim her diploma, I have to admit, I was most excited by the commencement speaker—the one-and-only Mikhail Baryshnikov.
While he referred to himself as “that old guy from ‘Sex and the City,’” we all know he is much, much more than that. A former dancer with the Kirov Ballet, New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre (where he became artistic director), Misha, as he’s affectionately nicknamed, is recognized as one of the greatest ballet dancers in history. Naturally, I was hanging on his every (heavily accented) word. Here are a few takeaways from his speech:
“A few weeks ago, in the NYC subway, a poster said, ‘Are you a better person today than you were yesterday?’ The only wisdom I can offer is related to the arts, because the arts have made me, in my opinion, a better person.
“Figure out what pushes you. If it isn't the arts, what is it? The key is that it excites you, and challenges you. What issues make you willing to go beyond yourself?
"Once you figure out what you will do with your life, and eventually you will, work hard at it. But remember, you don't have to be brilliant 24/7. Leave yourself time to pause and think, Am I doing something today that will make me better tomorrow? Working to be better is not the same as being the best. Best is something someone else decides. Better is more personal. It's a process. And in my opinion, better is better than best."
Here's to being better tomorrow than we were today. Thanks, Misha!
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.
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.
If you're in need of a piece that's both trendy and sophisticated, look no further than this Só Dança crop top. Featuring elegant long sleeves, a high neckline, and a delicate lace trim, it's both classic and contemporary—perfect for everything from that big audition to a long night in the studio. Enter below for your chance to win it!
Auditioning for summer intensives in person may be the ideal—but for Anna McDowell, a 16-year-old student at Juneau Dance Theatre in Juneau, AK, it's rarely possible. “Living in Alaska, it's difficult to travel to auditions," she says. “It gets way too expensive!" Instead, each year, with help from her teachers and a videographer, she puts together a well-crafted video and submits it to schools around the country. Last year, her high-quality video helped her earn acceptance to nearly every program she applied for. Most summer intensive programs, eager to attract students from far and wide, will accept video auditions from those who can't travel to take class. But major schools look at hundreds of submissions each year, which means video auditioners have just a few minutes—or even seconds—to make a great impression. If you're about to create an audition video, follow these tips from the professionals to put your best digital foot forward.
There are zillions of things to think about when choosing a summer program, but here's one you might not have considered: using an intensive as an opportunity to focus on a new style. Maybe you're a tap dancer who's ready to see where else your rhythm and quick feet can serve you, or a contemporary dancer curious about the more traditional roots of your genre. A summer program can be the perfect place to broaden your horizons, giving you the opportunity to make technical and artistic changes that stick throughout the year.
Happy birthday, George Balanchine! The great choreographer and founder of New York City Ballet would have been 114 years old today. Balanchine revolutionized ballet, especially American ballet—and he also had quite a way with words. To celebrate Mr. B's birthday, we rounded up some of our favorite iconic Balanchine quotes.
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.