Sara Mearns on Preparing For Her New Role in Matthew Bourne's "The Red Shoes"
Matthew Bourne's dramatic ballet The Red Shoes, which earned rave reviews in England last year, is heading stateside this month. Based on the Academy Award–winning 1948 movie of the same name, the show follows the passionate aspiring ballerina Victoria Page as she tries to dance her way to the top, but ultimately must choose between her love of dance and the love of her life. Joining Bourne's company, New Adventures, as guest artists are New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns, who will perform the role of Victoria for select performances at New York City Center; and American Ballet Theatre principal Marcelo Gomes, who will tour with the company, dancing the role of Julian Craster in select cities. DS chatted with Mearns to see what the rehearsal process has been like, and how it's been different from preparing for a typical NYCB season.
What do you identify with most in Victoria?
Sara Mearns: She's dying to succeed. Everybody has this push inside of them where you want to make it to the top, you want to be in the front. I'm still always pushing my boundaries and going out of my comfort zone.
What kind of character research did you do?
It was a lot of watching old movies and studying that generation of actresses. I watched the film a lot. Moira Shearer, who played Victoria, paid so much attention to detail in her acting. I wanted to stay true to the character she portrayed in the movie, but also have my take on it.
What's been the most challenging part of the process?
In this show I'm in character shoes, I'm barefoot, I'm in flat shoes, and I'm in pointe shoes. I perform many forms of dance, which I don't get to do a lot, and that's fun for me. It was a lot of work, though. I'm pretty stable in a pointe shoe, but sometimes when I put a character shoe on I can't even walk.
What's it been like working with New Adventures?
I got to work with the whole company onstage in Liverpool, and I was so intimidated by the dancers. But they couldn't have been nicer. They acted like I was already part of the family, which let me relax and really focus on what I needed to do.
What are you most excited about?
I'm very excited to perform at City Center again. It's kind of like my second home in NYC. I'm also excited for everyone to see another side of myself. And to just be in that character. Every time I watch the show, I'm in tears at the end. I just can't wait to be in that moment onstage with everybody.
A version of this story appeared in the October 2017 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "A Film Classic, Reimagined."
You've seen it a million times: A glamorous, toned dancer posts a perfectly styled shot of her colorful smoothie bowl. The caption gushes about how great you'll feel if you eat "clean"—but what does that actually mean? DS asked registered dietitian/nutritionist Rachel Fine and holistic health coach (and founder of The Whole Dancer) Jess Spinner for all of the dirt.
In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email firstname.lastname@example.org a chance to be featured!
I'm being bullied by one of the girls at my studio, and it's awful. I've talked to my dance teacher and confronted the bully directly, but it hasn't made a difference. What should I do?
Bunheads, this one's for you. They say you can tell a Nutcracker by its "Snow" scene—and we fully believe it. There are so many versions with extra goodies—olive branches! Fake snow! Sleds! Choirs! Snow queens!—and each brings a special something to the holiday favorite. But do you know which ballet has what?
You're probably already following your favorite dancers on Instagram, but did you know that you can follow many of their dogs, too? We rounded up some of our favorite dog-centered accounts and hashtags to keep you pawsitively entertained (sorry, we can't help ourselves).
Consistent turns are a must for aspiring professional dancers, but pretty much everyone struggles with pirouettes at some point. Luckily, since we're all beholden to the same rules of physics, there are concrete steps every dancer can take to reach his or her top turning potential. “Three is the new two when it comes to pirouettes, but the secret to turning is technique, not magic," says Bojan Spassoff, president and director of The Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia.
Falling out of your doubles? Aspiring to go revolution for revolution with your class's star turner? No matter where you lie on the turning spectrum, our 360-degree guide to pirouettes will help you improve.
Let's face it—spare time is pretty tough to come by when you're a dancer. You're either rushing to get ready for rehearsal, rushing to rehearsal, a combo of the two, or in rehearsal (or performing, or in class, or at an audition...you get the picture). Well here at DS, we understand the struggle is REAL, which is why we've rounded up our favorite foolproof makeup hacks, approved by resident #LazyGirl when it comes to makeup (spoiler alert: it's me). On to the hacks!
Kalea (pronounced kah-LAY-uh) Hidalgo knows how to move. Her decisive, dynamic dancing commands the stage: She gobbles up space so confidently it's hard to believe you're watching a mere tween. Unsurprisingly, that presence and power have started turning heads in a serious way. Not only did Talia Favia choreograph one of her solos in 2017, but Kalea also recently signed with Bloc Talent Agency in L.A. and, last summer, placed first overall in the junior contemporary solo category at Radix Nationals.
"When you're out on the dance floor, don't ask for permission—ask for forgiveness."—Kalea Hidalgo
Taylor Swift is #blessed in many ways: She's got a great voice, insane song writing skills, and, to quote her new hit single, she's "Gorgeous." She is not, however, blessed in the dance department. But that doesn't stop her from busting out the occasional dance move. In fact, Swift likes to playfully show off her less-than-stellar dancing, be it in her music videos (hello, "Shake It Off") or at music award shows. So we weren't surprised when during the latest episode of her "Making of a Song" series for AT&T, she unveiled a new endearingly awkward maneuver, which she's dubbed the "dolphin body roll"—and it practically had friend and producer Jack Antonoff rolling on the floor!🤣
You rehearse your group routine to perfection, but when the big performance rolls around, everyone turns into speed demons. It's the runaway-train effect—and it only takes one loud tapper, or zippy turner, to throw the whole group off the music.
While nerves and excitement are partly to blame, the ability to keep to tempo begins in the studio. A well-developed sense of musicality is your best defense against the dreaded speed trap. "When you understand how the steps fit with the music, going too fast won't just feel like rushing," says Jeremy Arnold, lecturer of tap at the University of Texas at Austin. "It'll feel wrong." How can dancers develop that musicality? It all starts with learning to listen.