What We Learned from “city.ballet.” Season 2, Episode 11
Season 2 of “city.ballet.”—the AOL On series that gives an insider’s look at New York City Ballet—is live now! We’re recapping one episode per week. Watch all 12 at dancemagazine.com.
The ballet world is ruled by the young. Young bodies are just better suited to its crazy demands, which means that it's not uncommon for a dancer to join a company at 16 and retire at 30. But ballet's veterans—those who've been around for 10, 15, 20 years—bring a wealth of wisdom and experience to their performances. The eleventh episode of "city.ballet." looks at some of New York City Ballet's seasoned stars. Here are five things we learned from the ep.
Veteran/goddess Wendy Whelan rehearsing with Tyler Angle in a still from "city.ballet."
1. In the ballet world, you feel ancient when the rest of the world still thinks of you as young. Principal Andrew Veyette, who's in his early 30s, had an epiphany about age while watching a basketball game. "I remember turning to my wife [that'd be fantastic fellow principal Megan Fairchild] and saying, 'You realize most of these guys are younger than us.' All of a sudden, you're 15 years in and 10 years older than you think you are."
2. Veteran dancers learn to look at ballet differently. "As you get older, you get smarter," soloist Craig Hall says. "You have to be more efficient, because you can't just do it day-in and day-out without feeling something. You have to find tricks that allow you to do less physically and more mentally."
3. But the best dancers age like fine wine. Wendy Whelan, who until she retired in October was the company's senior ballerina, is a goddess. Not that we learned that from this video—we've known it for years, along with the rest of the ballet world! But the footage of her rehearsing and performing Alexei Ratmansky's Pictures at an Exhibition (at 3:06 and 5:19) is sublime. She's 47 going on ageless.
4. OMG, these dancers have gorgeous families. We get to meet the husbands of both Hall and principal Maria Kowroski, and—surprise, surprise!—these two extraordinarily beautiful people are married to two other extraordinarily beautiful people.
5. With age comes new challenges, yes—but also new opportunities. "What's interesting is that now, at this late time in my career, I'm getting to do all these ballets I've always wanted to do," Kowroski says. "I feel like there's a maturity I can bring to these roles now. Having more life experience brings a different kind of a depth to them."
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)
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Dancers are naturally "in their heads" all the time—but not always in productive ways. Long days of receiving and applying corrections, taking class, and performing can get to even the most composed individuals. What should you do when you feel like your mind is just as busy as your rehearsal schedule? Try meditation. Dance Spirit turned to Adreanna Limbach, a head teacher at NYC-based meditation studio MNDFL, for a breakdown of this highly beneficial practice.
Liz Imperio teaching at Hollywood Vibe, Courtesy of Hollywood Vibe
It's an increasingly common scenario: A talented dancer wins big at a competition, is offered an assistantship with a famous faculty member, and ends up leaving her hometown studio to travel with a convention. Convention-hopping has obvious benefits. Every event generates new content for dancers to post on social media, gives them a better shot at ending up on their favorite choreographers' accounts, lets them learn from the best of the best, and helps them make valuable connections. "Traveling is a great way for dancers to gain admirers around the country," says Jen Jarnot, owner of Artistic Fusion Dance Academy in Thornton, CO. "That's something every dancer craves." So it's no surprise that weekend FOMO has been blazing through studios like wildfire.
But is this jet-setter lifestyle really the most effective road to take? Can weekends of dancing with top talent truly replace the bread and butter of daily work at your home studio? The answer, according to most industry experts, is no. We asked five pros to explain why.