How three dance couples make it work on stage and off
Ever wonder about the private lives of your favorite dancer couples, like how they met or what they do for Valentine’s Day? We watch sparks fly between them onstage, but we can only imagine what happens when the curtain comes down. How do they wind down after a show? What makes their relationships work on stage and off? DS caught up with three of the hottest young couples in the dance world to find out these juicy details.
Sara Mearns and Amar Ramasar of New York City Ballet
DS: When did you first know you liked each other?
Sara: When I was at the school and he would take partnering class. We kind of met that way.
Amar: I knew then. For sure.
DS: What’s the best and worst thing about being involved with another dancer?
Amar: The best thing is that they understand your pain. The dance world and dancing is very hard, and no one understands that better than the person who goes through it with you.
Sara: The worst is when you’re really tired, and you can’t revitalize each other because you both need sleep.
DS: Is there a piece you’d like to dance together that you haven’t been able to yet?
Sara: We did Slaughter on Tenth Avenue on a gig, and that was a lot of fun.
Amar: But I want to do it at the theater with her.
Sara: Yeah. It’s coming up this season…
Amar: Six times! So hopefully we’ll get one of them.
Sara: We didn’t learn it with the company, but they know that we’ve done it and that we learned it from people in the company. So hopefully, maybe, we get to learn it this season.
DS: What’s the best gift you’ve given or received?
Sara: I got a really nice pair of earrings that have diamonds in them that I love. That’s my favorite gift.
Amar: The iTouch that you gave me is awesome! And a hat she bought me is nice. Oh! And the piano! She bought me a piano. It’s a keyboard, for my birthday. That would be the best.
DS: Do you remember what you did for Valentine’s Day last year?
Sara: We did something after Valentine’s Day.
Amar: Right, we were working. We exchanged presents, but that was it.
Sara: I left something in his dressing room for him.
Amar: But then we went to a really nice dinner. What was that place? On 86th? The one that had the shrimp ravioli? It was just a nice dinner together, which is rare but sweet.
Broadway dancers Jessica Lee Goldyn and Tony Yazbeck
DS: How did you meet?
Tony: The first time we saw each other was at the publicity photo shoot for A Chorus Line about two and a half years ago.
Jessica: We fell in love out of town…
Tony: We both did the tryouts in San Francisco before we came to Broadway. We spent a lot of time together there and then made the decision to be boyfriend/girlfriend when we came back to NYC.
DS: You did A Chorus Line together and then starred opposite each other in On the Town. What do you bring out of each other onstage that nobody else can?
Tony: We’re very free with each other. All the discomfort when you’re first starting to dance with someone is gone. You recognize their body language…
Jessica: Yes! I was saying to Tony the other night, it doesn’t feel like I’m dancing with another person. It feels like I’m just dancing with myself because I’m so used to being with him.
Tony: All the insecurities are gone. You can just be yourself.
Jessica: In On the Town, we’re playing two people falling in love with each other. There’s nothing produced about it. When we look into each other’s eyes, it’s us looking into each other’s eyes. The chemistry that we have in real life is heightened on stage.
DS: Are there any funny little quirks that most people don’t know about you guys?
Tony: We make each other laugh, and that’s the biggest thing that’s kept us together. Because when you’re in a relationship, things can be tough. But the truth is, if you can find things to get yourself out of a negative mood and laugh…
Jessica: We laugh a lot! We’re like little kids together.
DS: How do you wind down after a show?
Jessica: We go and get our Gatorades from the store because we have to rehydrate after shows. Then we go home and veg out on the couch. He usually passes out first!
Tony: But she usually drinks everything we get—she never leaves me any liquids! I don’t know what’s wrong with her…
Jessica: I’m a camel! I drink a lot of those things. And he’ll pretend to get upset with me even though we both think it’s really funny.
Lauren Grant and David Leventhal of the Mark Morris Dance Group
DS: How long have you been married?
Lauren: We got married April 10, 2005. So that puts us at, what, three and a half years?
DS: Did you meet while dancing for MMDG or had you known each other before?
David: We met in one of the very first productions we did for Mark. This was before we were hired as full-time company members. We were both new, and we became friendly because nobody else talked to us. At that point we were not dating; she was dating somebody else.
Lauren: We were great friends while I was dating someone else until I finally realized that I really liked David a lot. We were well matched in many ways.
DS: How did David propose?
Lauren: Oh, it was really sweet! We do The Hard Nut almost every December… David plays the Nutcracker, and I play Marie, so we get to fall in love onstage every show, which is really fun.
David: What I really wanted to do was propose on stage, to somehow hand her the ring, but I was too nervous to do that. So I went to a nice hotel in Berkeley [where we were on tour] and checked in and put Lauren’s stuff there and rented a car and got everything ready…
Lauren: Not just a hotel. The Claremont, a very magical place.
David: After the show I said to Lauren, “So, I rented a car so we could go out to dinner.” At that point you kind of knew something was up.
Lauren: We had this fabulous dinner, very special, and it was so sweet because we walked in, and I think a lot of the people in the restaurant had been to the show that day, so they started clapping when we walked in!
David: After that I said maybe we should go to The Claremont for a drink. There’s a beautiful room there that overlooks San Francisco, and it was a wonderfully clear night, and you just saw the lights sparkling. That’s actually where I proposed.
DS: So what has been your favorite place to travel together?
David: Boy, there have been a lot of good places. Japan was definitely a favorite tour for us partly because Lauren is a huge fan of Japanese cuisine, and I was fascinated by the culture in general and loved being there. It was a place that neither of us had been to before, so we were both exploring it together for the first time.
Lauren: We were on equal footing. David speaks French really well, and if we go to France, he’s able to communicate and I’m not. So in Japan, we were in the same boat of being completely confused!
David: We were lost together…
Lauren: It was a really fun adventure.
Photo: Paul Kolnik
In our "Dear Katie" series, MCB 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!
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Samantha Figgins is currently in her fifth season with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (and was a Dance Spirit cover girl back in 2013!). But what many people don't know is that the gorgeous dancer suffers from single-sided deafness. As a baby, Figgins contracted spinal meningitis, which caused her to lose all hearing in her right ear. She never gave up on her dance dreams, though, and fought her way through uncomfortable situations, never missing an opportunity to learn and grow. Now, after getting her first pair of hearing aids, she opens up about her path to success. —(As told to Courtney Celeste Spears)
Sara Esty's ethereal grace and sophisticated charm have won over ballet and Broadway audiences alike. The bunhead-turned-Broadway-baby began training near her hometown in Gorham, ME, at the Maine State Ballet's School for the Performing Arts (with her equally fabulous twin sister, Leigh-Ann). She enrolled full-time at the Miami City Ballet School in 2004, and joined Miami City Ballet as an apprentice in 2005. In 2006, Esty won the Princess Grace Award, and she was promoted to soloist at MCB in 2011. After leaving MCB in 2014, she made her Broadway debut in An American in Paris as the understudy for Lise, and went on to share the role of Lise with her sister on the show's national tour. Most recently, she was seen in 5th Avenue Theatre's production of Marie, Dancing Still in Seattle, WA. —Courtney Bowers