Letter to My Teenage Self: Lesley Rausch

For dancers who dream of perfect feet, Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Lesley Rausch may be the ultimate poster girl. But it’s not just those daggers that set this principal dancer apart. Rausch’s pristine technique (carried by mile-long legs) and luxurious port de bras take her from classical roles, like Princess Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, to the more contemporary, like Ulysses Dove’s Red Angels and Jiří Kylián’s Petite Mort.

At age 15 (photo courtesy Lesley Rausch)

Rausch grew up in Columbus, OH, and trained at Columbus Youth Ballet and PNB School before joining PNB’s corps in 2001. She was made a soloist in 2007, and promoted to principal four years later. This month, you can see Rausch in George Balanchine’s Jewels. —Jenny Dalzell

Dear Teen Lesley,

Don’t give up when people say you are too weak. Explore how your body changes with Pilates, physical therapy exercises, gym workouts, yoga and more. You’ll figure out what works for you—trust your intuition. Learning how to coordinate your body will be an ongoing process that will continue far into your career. But becoming a smarter and more efficient dancer will ultimately help you overcome the challenges that come with being hyper-mobile.

Rausch in costume for Kent Stowell's Firebird (photo by Angela Sterling, courtesy Pacific Northwest Ballet)

Trust yourself, and know that you won’t always be perfect. Don’t be embarrassed to try something that may not work the first time—especially when it comes to acting, or difficult steps. Some of the movements you think you’ll never be able to do just require a lot of practice. And with acting, the more you allow yourself to be vulnerable, the more realistic your portrayal will be.

Remember the biggest challenges you face will be the moments that shape you the most. Acknowledge the difficulty, but know you’re strong—stronger than you realize. Try to maintain a sense of humor. Your weaknesses will become your greatest strengths, and the hard times will provide you with material to draw on artistically. You already have so many of the skills you need to be successful. Stay true to yourself, and enjoy the journey.

Your Somewhat Wiser Self,

Lesley

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