Photo by Travis Kelley, courtesy Kathryn Morgan

In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email dearkatie@dancespirit.com for a chance to be featured!

Dear Katie,

I want to dance in a ballet company, but I'm insecure about my body. I'm not skinny, and I don't think I ever will be, because that's just not the way I'm built. Please be honest with me: If I don't have the traditional ballet body, do I have a future in professional ballet?

Lucy

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Dancer to Dancer
Nardia Boodoo (photo by Rachel Neville)

"I had a unique path to dance," says Nardia Boodoo, a luminous, elegant apprentice with The Washington Ballet. She briefly studied ballet as a child, but didn't start serious training until she was 14 years old, attending Baltimore School for the Arts. "I didn't know what a pirouette was," she says. "I would wake up really early to stretch and remember my corrections." But, a focused student, she advanced quickly: Soon she was attending prestigious summer intensives, and she earned a spot in The Washington Ballet Studio Company in 2014. Now, Boodoo is working with her childhood idol, TWB artistic director Julie Kent, and dreams of someday dancing the title role in Giselle.

Boodoo is acutely aware of the power of representation. "It has only recently become OK to have a Misty Copeland," she says. "It's no longer socially acceptable to only have girls who look exactly the same, in any aspect of entertainment. But at the same time it feels like a trend, and I'm not a trend, I'm a human being." Boodoo wants to see genuine diversity, from top to bottom. "You need teachers and directors, ballet masters and répétiteurs," she says. "Diversity on every single level is progress."

Dancer to Dancer
Alexandra Terry (photo by Rachel Neville, courtesy Terry)

Alexandra Terry didn't always dream about pointe shoes and tutus. Though she took dance class as a child, it was competitive gymnastics that originally captured her interest. (She credits the powerful strength that undergirds her ballet technique to years of repetitive routines on beams and mats.) At 13, Terry started commuting an hour and a half from her home in Connecticut to NYC, so she could study at the Joffrey Ballet School. After training with Karin Averty and Irina Dvorovenko, she realized that ballet was her calling, and following a vigorous summer intensive at Ellison Ballet, she transferred to that school year-round so she could fully immerse herself in the art.

Now, as a Ballet West second company member, Terry is excited to be a part of the professional ballet world. "I was watching demi-soloist Katlyn Addison, who's also black, in rehearsal the other day, and I got so emotional seeing someone like me out there performing a lead role," she says. While Terry appreciates the racial progress the ballet world has made recently, she also recognizes the need for a constant push towards diversity. "You look around the room in some auditions and you don't see anyone who looks like you, which is just so isolating," she says. "I think the ballet world needs to give every dancer a chance to work hard and prove herself, no matter what she looks like."

Dancer to Dancer
Jasmine Perry (photo by Reed Hutchinson, courtesy Los Angeles Ballet)

Most of us first met Jasmine Perry back in 2014, during her turn on Teen Vogue's web series "Strictly Ballet." At that point, Perry was a coltish teenager finishing up her last year at the School of American Ballet. Since then, she's taken a job with Los Angeles Ballet and matured into a dancer of refinement and charm—but fans still relate to her 18-year-old self. "Doing 'Strictly Ballet' was great because it taught me how to be professional, how to work with public relations teams, how to communicate with adults," she says. "But it's funny because, especially when I come back to NYC, people always recognize me from the show. There's this one part of my life on the internet—once it's out there, it never disappears!"

Perry, who trained at North Carolina Dance Theatre (now called Charlotte Ballet Academy) before enrolling at SAB, grew up in a diverse home, with a black father and a Filipino mother. "My whole family is from different places, so I didn't really see color until I went to school," she says. "Realizing that I was one of the only kids at SAB who wasn't white was eye-opening. But I used that as motivation to work harder." She admires Misty Copeland's groundbreaking advocacy, and hopes to follow her example. "It's heartwarming to come out after a show and have kids asking for autographs because I look like them," she says. "There's someone onstage they can relate to, and that's progress."

Dance News
George Birkadze is a ballet dancer and a professional martial arts fighter (courtesy Great Big Story)

George Birkadze spends some of his mornings as a guest teacher at Boston Ballet. But this ballet dancer and choreographer also spends much of his time training as a professional martial arts fighter. In fact, Birkadze has a black belt in not one but three different styles including Brazilian jiu-jitsu, judo, and Kyokushin karate. (He's like a ballet ninja!)

Though martial arts and ballet may seem extremely different, Birkadze says the two actually share more similarities than you might think. Both require discipline, dedication, and daily training. In fact, Birkadze credits ballet for having helped him improve as a martial artist.

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Dancer to Dancer
Dores André (Photo by Erik Tomasson, courtesy San Francisco Ballet)

San Francisco Ballet principal Dores André's flair for onstage drama and powerful, picture-perfect technique have solidified her as a company standout. She joined the company in 2004 as a corps member, was promoted to soloist in 2012, and in 2015 was awarded the title of principal dancer. Born in Vigo, Spain, André started studying ballet at age 9 before moving across the country to train seriously at the Estudio de Danza Maria de Avila in Zaragoza at age 13. Later, she headed to the States to audition for SFB and was offered a contract. Catch her dancing this month with the company. —Courtney Bowers

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Dancer to Dancer
Photo by Travis Kelley, courtesy Kathryn Morgan

In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email dearkatie@dancespirit.com for a chance to be featured!

Dear Katie,

I really want to improve my pas de deux skills, but there are no boys at my studio—or at any of the studios nearby! How can I practice partnering without a partner?

Caroline

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Dancer to Dancer
Photo by Travis Kelley, courtesy Kathryn Morgan

In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email dearkatie@dancespirit.com for a chance to be featured!

Dear Katie,

I'm applying to some summer programs by video this year, and I can't afford a professional videographer. Is it OK to film an audition video on my phone? What can I do to make it look polished?

Lindsay

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