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

(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

Imagine attending American Ballet Theatre's prestigious NYC summer intensive, training among classical ballet legends. Imagine taking the stage at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, competing against some of the country's best contemporary dancers. Now, imagine doing both—at the same time.

Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."

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Amblin Entertainment

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