Michele Wiles Writes a Letter to Her Teenage Self

Nisian Hughes (courtesy Michele Wiles)

Former American Ballet Theatre principal Michele Wiles, a picture-perfect ballerina, has had a career packed with accolades and critical successes. At age 10, the Baltimore, MD, native moved to Washington, DC, to train at the Kirov Academy of Ballet on full scholarship. She won a gold medal at the 18th International Ballet Competition in Varna, Bulgaria; received the 1999–2000 Dance Fellowship from the Princess Grace Foundation–U.S.A.; and earned the Erik Bruhn prize in 2002. After joining ABT's Studio Company in 1997, Wiles quickly rose through the ranks—she was promoted to the corps in 1998 and earned principal status in 2005. She danced with ABT for six more years before deciding to venture out on her own. Currently, Wiles serves as artistic director, dancer and choreographer at BalletNext, the NYC-based company she founded in 2011. Catch her performing in the company's shows next month. —Courtney Bowers

Dear 16-year-old M,

Life comes in phases. Be prepared for things to be turned upside down sometimes, but remember that those will be the times you grow the most.

Phase 1: Work hard on developing your technique. That work ethic and discipline will carry you through. To become a true professional, there are no shortcuts to putting in hard time. They say it takes 10,000 hours of work to become really knowledgeable about your craft!

Phase 2: Once it's time to join a company, remember it's not easy to transition from being the best in your class to being in a group of 80 dancers who are all amazing. You're now a little fish in a big pond. There are a lot of distractions that will blow in, especially once you've settled into NYC; stick to your strengths and keep focused on your dream. You'll move through the ranks quickly, but be prepared to hit a few roadblocks along the way.

Phase 3: With success comes adversity, and you'll discover that you're no longer the young prodigy. You must also grow personally and artistically. You'll find your mind, body and soul aren't operating in harmony, and that you need to do some questioning about the future. That will result in the decision to begin your own journey with BalletNext. The system didn't prepare you for this leap—there will be no manual to help. You'll have to dig deeper and find a strength you haven't depended upon before.

In life, you have to listen to yourself. You have to make the bold decision to forge your own path. Follow your heart—it's your greatest guide. Embrace it!

All my love,

Grown-up M

Wiles as a teen (Dominic Episcopo, courtesy Primadonna)

Dancer to Dancer
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)

Congratulations to Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers on their profile pages, and then vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.

We also want you to get social! We'll be factoring social media likes and shares into our final tallies. Be sure to show your favorite finalist some love on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, sharing their profile pages and using the hashtag #DanceSpiritCMS.

Cover Model Search
Photo by Erin Baiano

In our "Dear Katie" series, Miami City Ballet 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,

When I sit with the soles of my feet together, my knees easily touch the floor, and most exercises to improve turnout are easy for me. But when I'm actually dancing, my turnout is terrible, especially on my standing leg. Why doesn't my flexibility translate to turnout?


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Dear Katie
Via Twitter

Would that we could all live in Taylor Swift's Pride-topia, booty-popping with Todrick Hall and sharing snow cones with Adam Rippon in our rainbow-flag-bedecked RV park. But much as we're loving "You Need to Calm Down" and other similarly upbeat celebrations of Pride month, this is also a time to recognize the battles the members of the LGBTQIA+ community have fought—and are still fighting. That's one of the reasons why "I'm Gay," a new dance video by Eugene Lee Yang of The Try Guys, is so important.

The dark, deeply personal video is Yang's coming-out moment. We see Yang being rejected by his family, condemned by a preacher, and attacked by a hostile mob after attempting to express himself as a gay man. Though not a professional dancer (as we found out in "The Try Guys Try Ballet"), Yang is a gifted mover; he choreographed the project himself, and gathered a group of talented performers to bring the story to life.

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