There's Something About Lauren
Photo by Erin Baiano
It’s hard to describe star quality. Eighteen-year-old Lauren Lovette has luxuriously archy feet, elegant lines and an animated, pretty face—but that doesn’t quite explain the New York City Ballet apprentice’s unique magnetism. “I don’t know what it is, but she’s got it,” says NYCB ballet master Kathleen Tracey. “She’s physically perfect for
the work we do, but she also has something different, something you don’t see every day. There’s a special life in her eyes.”
Even as one of dozens of dancers in The Sleeping Beauty’s “Garland Waltz,” Lauren seems to have her own spotlight. She etches the dance’s simple choreography on the stage, the delicate precision of her technique making its balancés and waltz steps sparkle. Add in her mysterious charisma—the “it” factor—and it becomes difficult to watch anyone else.
The first person to notice Lauren’s spark was the director of a local dance studio in her hometown of Thousand Oaks, CA. Though as a youngster Lauren knew little about ballet, she’d often twirl around in her aunt’s dance store, which was a few doors down from the studio. “One day, when I was 10, I was dancing in the store—just playing—when the studio director dropped in,” Lauren remembers. “She asked me if I’d ever taken ballet, and before I knew it I was in my first ballet class.” Almost immediately, Lauren was hooked. “I loved that ballet was very precise and exact, but there was freedom in it, too,” she says.
When Lauren was 12, she and her family moved to North Carolina, where she began training at the Cary Ballet Conservatory. She noticed that the conservatory’s star pupil was attending summer programs at the School of American Ballet, the feeder school for NYCB. “I didn’t know anything about SAB then, but I knew this girl was good and she went there—so I wanted to go too,” Lauren says. Though she didn’t get in when she first auditioned, Lauren was accepted to SAB’s summer course the following year, at age 13, on full scholarship. After two “amazing” summers at the elite school, she moved to NYC to study there full-time.
Lauren with Adam Chavis in "Serenade" at a School of American Ballet 2009 workshop performance. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
Lauren adjusted quickly to SAB’s heavy class schedule, and found that the school’s Balanchine technique suited her. While at SAB, Lauren also started attending NYCB performances regularly. (SAB students receive free tickets to company performances.) “I picked out my favorite dancers and started obsessively checking out the casting—always asking ‘Who’s dancing tonight?’—and I realized that I wanted to be one of those dancers,” she says. Her wish was granted in October 2009, when artistic director Peter Martins made Lauren an apprentice with the company.
Since then, the bubbly, cheerful teenager’s life has been a whirlwind: She’s performed in NYCB’s productions of classics such as The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake and The Nutcracker; understudied many roles from the company’s large repertoire; and even originated a part in Christopher Wheeldon’s May 2010 premiere, Estancia. Tracey enjoyed watching Lauren “bloom and blossom” in Wheeldon’s rehearsals. “She was so alive and so spirited, and so much fun, that [Wheeldon] kept adding her into section after section,” Tracey says. “And she could give him what he was asking for before he’d even said it.”
One reason Lauren might have clicked with Wheeldon? She’s a budding choreographer herself. Twice chosen to participate in SAB’s annual Student Choreography Workshop, she recently made a 10-minute ballet for the school’s summer program students. “It’s like a puzzle, figuring out the dancers’ strengths, and then figuring out what I love about the music, and seeing how that creates a ballet,” she says. “I never thought that I would be very good at it, or even like it, until I tried it—and then it was really fun.” Sounds like this prima-to-be might just have the “it” factor as a choreographer, too.
Birthday: November 10, 1991
Dream role: Juliet in Romeo and Juliet
Most-played song on her iPod: “This is really embarrassing, but right now I’m listening to the soundtrack from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.”
NYCB stars she admires: Sara Mearns, Daniel Ulbricht and Sterling Hyltin. (Lauren and Hyltin wear the same size pointe shoes, and sometimes the company’s pointe shoe coordinator will give Hyltin’s extra pairs to Lauren!)
Favorite NYCB costume: “I like the hound costume from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. When else do you get to wear a dog head onstage? It’s
Hidden talent: “I’m an excellent cleaner. Is that a talent?”
Advice for DS readers: “Don’t get down on what other people say. Listen to everything your teachers tell you, but when it comes to other students and peers, learn how to put the wall up.”
Much of Janelle Ginestra's career has been about helping others shine. She's dedicated herself to supporting and cheerleading her partner, WilldaBeast Adams; the emerging talents in their dance company, ImmaBEAST; and the countless dancers she inspires at master classes and conventions. Her YouTube channel has become a launching pad for young talents like "Fraternal Twins" Larsen Thompson and Taylor Hatala, thanks to viral videos featuring Ginestra's creative vision.
But Ginestra's a skyrocketing success in her own right—an in-demand choreographer, a social media influencer, and a dance entrepreneur, building a legacy one eight-count at a time. It's time for her turn in the spotlight. And she's more than ready. "I want to be a legend in whatever I do," she says. We'd argue that she already is.
If you've ever seen a Janelle Ginestra class video, you know how lit her combos are. What you don't see in those clips is how devoted Ginestra is to her students. We went behind the scenes at one of her sold-out IMMA SPACE classes to see Ginestra in her element, mentoring some of L.A.'s most talented dancers. It was an inspiration feedback loop.
All photos by Joe Toreno.
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 for a chance to be featured!
I love ballet, and I've been told that I have a lot of potential. I can see myself dancing professionally one day. But I'm also working toward my black belt in karate—and I'm passionate about that, too. How can I keep up my technique while also making time for the other things I love? Is that even possible?
What do you get when you combine a Beyoncé anthem, fierce girls from all over the world, and choreography by legends like Ellenore Scott and Lamar Lee? You get the epic music video below. The viral video features little girls who live everywhere from Tanzania to Washington D.C. dancing and lip-syncing to Queen Bey's song "Freedom," and the result is electrifying. These littles can dance—and they bring a determination and enthusiasm to their movement that's truly inspiring.