Dear Katie

(photo by Jayme Thornton)

Dear Katie,

I have good technique, but I carry a lot of tension in my wrists and hands—they look like claws! How can I fix them?


Dear Kayleigh,

This is such a common problem. At the School of American Ballet, we were taught to separate all five fingers, so we didn’t look like mannequins. To achieve that look without getting into claw territory, pretend you’re gently cradling a golf ball in the palm of your hand. If you imagine holding anything bigger (a softball, an orange), your fingers will tense up. Aim for a subtle, soft roundness—which will help with wrist tension, too.

Also, make sure your hand always follows your arm, rather than the other way around. For example, when moving from second position to bras bas, the elbow should lead the way, followed by the wrist and hand. That prevents stiff “Barbie arms.” Maintaining a sense of resistance in your port de bras—as though your arms are moving through water—will help those transitions happen naturally.

Dear Katie,

I love dancing, but it’s such a huge time commitment, and I’m always canceling on my non-dance friends. Is it worth missing things like prom for dance? Am I going to have regrets?


Dear Mikaela,

Sacrificing “normal” high school experiences is a problem every serious dancer faces. And we all react differently when asked to choose between our dance lives and our non-dance lives.

If you’re feeling bad about missing football games and dances, that’s OK! In fact, evaluating those feelings can help you figure out if you want to pursue dance professionally. As a professional, you’ll constantly be expected to give up “normal” experiences for your job. Your life will revolve around dance; your social life will center on rehearsals and performances with your colleagues.

If you decide that’s not what you want, you’ve learned something valuable about yourself. And if you decide that is what you want, you’ve learned something just as valuable. The most important thing is that you’re happy and fulfilled in the path you ultimately take. 

For what it’s worth, I don’t regret any of it. I always wanted to be in class or rehearsal—I’d have been far more worried if I’d had to miss class to attend prom! Most of my best friends were dancers, so I didn’t feel like I was missing all that much. Whenever I’d get a little pang of doubt, I’d work on reframing my thinking. For example, I may not have gone to “official” prom, but my version of prom was wearing a tutu onstage with New York City Ballet. Not too shabby!

Dear Katie,

I’m almost six feet tall (6' 6" on pointe)! I’m frustrated—I’m put in the back of every group, and none of the guys are tall enough to partner me. Do I have a future in ballet?


Dear Amelia,

Oh, what many dancers wouldn’t give for an extra few inches of leg! I’m sure you look stunning onstage. But I know this is a “grass is always greener” situation, and I understand that being a tall dancer can pose problems, too.

I definitely think you have a future in ballet. Companies tend to look at technique and artistry first, and then worry about height. My advice would be to seek out companies that already have taller dancers—companies you know will have no qualms about taking a beautiful Amazon. Many European groups have very tall women, and Pacific Northwest Ballet and The Joffrey Ballet have lots of leggy dancers, too.

The most important thing you can do right now is “dance your height.” Don’t try to shrink yourself; slouching and slumping are never pretty. If you stand tall, the audience will be drawn to you—and company directors will be, too. Be proud of those legs!

Latest Posts

Photo by Jayme Thornton

How Paloma Garcia-Lee Manifested Her Dream Role, in Steven Spielberg’s "West Side Story"

On a rainy day in November 2018, Paloma Garcia-Lee got a call from her agent that brought her to her knees outside her New York City apartment: She was going to play Graziella in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story.

The call came after a lengthy audition process with Spielberg in the room, and the role, originated by Wilma Curley on Broadway in 1957 and later portrayed by Gina Trikonis in the 1961 film, was her biggest dream. In fact, it's something Garcia-Lee says she manifested from the day plans for the movie were announced in January 2018. "I wrote in my journal: 'I am playing Graziella in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story.'"

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo by @mediabyZ

Am I Less Committed to Dance Because I Have Other Passions? (Spoiler Alert: NO!)

Let's face it—dance is HARD, and in order to achieve your goals, you need to be committed to your training. "Still, there's a fine line between being committed and being consumed." Dancers can, and should, have interests outside of the studio.

Not convinced? We talked with dance psychologist Dr. Lucie Clements and two multifaceted dancers, Kristen Harlow (a musical theater dancer pursuing a career in NYC and Kentucky) and Kallie Takahashi (a dancer in her final year at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts), and got the inside scoop on how having hobbies outside of dance can inform your artistry, expand your range and help prevent burnout.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo courtesy of Brittany Conigatti

Go Behind the Scenes of Annie Live! With Brittany Conigatti

Unwrap your candy canes, pour the hot chocolate and round up your fellow theater lovers: NBC is kicking off the Christmas season with its latest live-broadcast TV musical. Annie Live! premieres December 2 and features a star-studded cast, including Harry Connick Jr., Tituss Burgess, Megan Hilty and, as the title character, young phenom Celina Smith.

Luckily, people got a taste of what the special will entail when the cast kicked off the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with a performance last week. But since you’re never fully dressed without a Dance Spirit exclusive, we caught up with Brittany Conigatti, one of the young orphans and adult ensemble members in the show, to learn what it was like putting together a large-scale live production for the small screen.

The cast of Annie Live! poses for a group photo. The cast of Annie Live!Photo courtesy of Conigatti

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

Enter the Cover Model Search