Make Way for Juliet

Joe Toreno

In the summer of 2012, Juliet Doherty gave a talk at a TEDx conference in her hometown of Albuquerque, NM. She was the only teenager to speak that day—and, in a ballet costume and pointe shoes, the only person not wearing a suit. After her speech, during which she encouraged listeners to “be great," Juliet performed a solo. That was the day she got her first standing ovation. “The amazing thing," she says, “is that it wasn't just about my dancing. It was about the message I was trying to put out there."

It's safe to say that won't be Juliet's only standing ovation during her ballet career. Now 16, Juliet is a student in the San Francisco Ballet School's pre-professional training program, and she's already collected a handful of professional performing credits (as Clara in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular and in San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker) and competition wins (she won gold at the Youth America Grand Prix finals when she was 14). Earlier this year, Juliet competed at Prix de Lausanne in Switzerland. She talked to Dance Spirit about ballet competitions, Broadway and “being great."

By the time this issue comes out, you will have competed at Prix de Lausanne, which was a longtime goal of yours.

Juliet Doherty: This will be my first overseas competition. When I came to San Francisco Ballet two years ago, I talked to Patrick [Armand, the associate director of the SFB School] about it. He said I could compete right away, but I chose to train for a year with the school first so I could get the full experience without the added stress of competition. After a year of training, I filmed my competition application video. In November, I found out I had been selected to compete. Since then it's been a lot of rehearsing, working on my variation, learning my contemporary solo and adding my own artistry to the pieces.

Which pieces did you prepare?

JD: My age division had 10 variations and four contemporary selections to choose from. I chose the Swanilda Scene 1 Act 1 variation from Coppélia, and for my contemporary I picked “Saraband," from Vasos Comunicantes. Most of the contemporary options were a minute long, but this one is almost three minutes. I wanted to be challenged.

Performing at the Youth America Grand Prix finals in 2012 (courtesy Juliet Doherty)

Not everyone in the ballet world is on board with competitions. What's your take?

JD: When you're dancing in a company, you're constantly under the pressure of performing and being looked at. I think the best way to get a taste of that at a young age is through competitions. Then, down the road, you can think, “OK, this has happened before. I know how to handle it."

I try to bring everything I've learned at competitions into my performances. I have a solid technical base; my competition experiences won't hinder that.

The SFB School is a big supporter of ballet competitions. Did that factor into your decision to attend?

JD: Yes. I was competing at the YAGP finals in NYC in 2012 and took the scholarship class on the last day of the competition. That's when Patrick offered me a summer scholarship. I was 14 and starting to consider moving away from home to a pre-professional school. I got a few different offers that day, but I had a good feeling after talking to Patrick.

I spent the summer at SFB and I loved it, so I stayed for the entire year. Now I'm back for my second year. I've also been lucky enough to perform with the company for two years as Clara in Nutcracker.

As Clara in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular in NYC (photo by Gene Schiavone)

How'd you get that role?

JD: People just came into class for five minutes with a clipboard and watched us during barre combinations. Then four of us got calls later saying we'd been cast.

It's neat because I got to work one-on-one with Helgi Tomasson [SFB's artistic director]. As a student, we're always looking at Helgi wondering, “Who is this mysterious guy?" The first time we ever danced in front of him, he said, “Are you nervous?" We were hesitant to say yes, so we just nodded, and he said, “OK, you should be."

But dancing Clara with SFB wasn't your first time being Clara.

JD: I was Clara in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular for three years—two years on tour, and one year in NYC. Dancing at Radio City Music Hall, on that huge stage, was incredible. During our first dress rehearsal, we were doing our center bows, and I had to run off after my bow. I didn't realize how far I actually had to run to get into the wings! I could hear the director, Linda Haberman, yelling at me, “Keep running, keep running!" It took me so long to get offstage.

Have you always known you wanted to be a ballerina?

JD: No! I've danced my entire life—I grew up dancing at my great-grandmother's studio, Fishback Studio of the Dance—but even when I was doing Radio City, I wasn't set on ballet. I thought I might want to sing and act more. It was my mom's idea to take me to YAGP—she was my main teacher and coach until I was 14—so I went for the first time when I was 9.

I was a brat then. I never wanted to practice my variation. But that summer, something clicked. I realized I had to change my attitude or no one would work with me. From then on, I decided I would pursue ballet, and I've become a totally different person.

“I look back at when I was 6 years old and I had no idea how to do a jazz square. I was just onstage having fun. That's what audiences enjoy. They don't come to see a perfect performance—they come to be moved and to feel something."
—Juliet Doherty

(Photo by Oliver Endahl/Ballet Zaida)

Walk us through a day in your life.

JD: I wake up around 7:30 am. I live in the student residences at the SFB School. The first thing I do in the morning is make my breakfast, which is usually a green drink.

I take the public bus to get to SFB. I usually start with technique class or floor barre, then pointe or pas de deux, or special extra rehearsals. Each class is 90 minutes to an hour and 45 minutes.

After my last class, I go about my day. I shop for groceries, do laundry or clean my room. Then I'll cook my dinner and squeeze in some schoolwork. I go to sleep between 10:30 and 11 pm. Any later than that and I can't function the next day. I have one class on Saturdays at 9:30 am, but I have the rest of the weekend free.

How do academics factor in?

JD: I'm doing an independent study online. I read a lot, and my work doesn't have due dates. I want school to be a part of my life, but it's not my main focus right now.

What's your dream role?

JD: Juliet in Romeo and Juliet!

(Photo by Oliver Endahl/Ballet Zaida)

Any idea which company you'll be doing that with?

JD: I'd love to go to Europe—not necessarily with one company, but to dance on multiple stages, working with as many choreographers as possible.

You were part of the workshop for Susan Stroman's Little Dancer in 2012. Now the show is potentially coming to Broadway, starring New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck. Might we see you on the Great White Way someday?

JD: It's really cool seeing dancers cross over into acting. I love when dancers are versatile and get opportunities to do more than just one thing. I don't think they've had auditions yet for the part I was workshopping, so I'm considering going out for it—we'll see!

What's the most valuable advice you've ever received?

JD: Every dancer struggles with being in her head. There's always that voice saying, “You're not good enough." Before competitions, my parents will remind me, “You're your own biggest competitor. Let go of everything you're holding on to. It will just get in your way. The only person trying to pull you down is the little voice in your head." Once I remember that, everything gets easier. It's an ongoing thing with me. Some days are horrible. But some days I exude all the confidence in my dancing that I want to have. It's just about quieting that voice.

“You are already good enough to get where you want to go. You have greatness inside of you and it can be discovered at any moment. You don't need to be at a certain level to say, 'OK, now I'm great,' or, 'If I add this one thing to my repertoire, then I'll be good.' You're born with greatness. All you have to do is recognize that."
—Juliet Doherty

(Photo by Joe Toreno)

Ready, Set, Juliet

Must-see TV: “Even though it kind of corrupted Albuquerque, I watch 'Breaking Bad' when I miss home. But since that show is so emotionally draining, I also like to watch 'The Carrie Diaries,' 'The Mindy Project' and 'New Girl'—I don't have to get involved, I can just follow along and laugh."

If you were a superhero, what would your power be? “I just want to fly."

Your go-to stress reliever: “Calling my parents at the end of the day."

Strangest thing in your dance bag: “A banana holder. It's a hard, yellow plastic banana-shaped thing and it prevents your bananas from getting bruised. It's an amazing invention and I always have it with me."

Favorite dancer of all time: Natalia Makarova

Performer you'd die to work with: Steve Kazee, who originated the role of Guy in Once on Broadway

(Vasst/Thinkstock)

Breakfast of Champions

Start your day like Juliet—who follows a plant-based vegan diet—with this recipe for her “Super Green Smoothie."

Combine a handful of kale, a handful of spinach, half a cup of any frozen fruit (she likes mango or mixed berries), a banana, 4 ounces of apple juice, 8 ounces of water and some flaxseeds in a blender. “The greens may seem scary at first, but trust me, the fruit makes it naturally sweet," Juliet says. “You'll feel energized and ready for whatever challenges the day may bring.

Show Comments ()
Dance News
2018 graduate Meredith Santoro in a shot from the PURCHASE DANCE x SUPREME series (screenshot via @issadancelook on Instagram)

Our story begins on January 3, 2018, when an account called @issadancelook suddenly appeared on the Insta-horizon. Almost immediately, the page was chock-full of artsy shots of SUNY Purchase dancers in their quirkiest, most stylish classwear and rehearsalwear. Barely half a year later, the page has an intensely engaged base of followers, and even mainstream fashion has taken notice—but more on that in a minute.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

Lucky you! You get to spend a week full of dancing with amazing choreographers, teachers and dancers! As exhilarating as this is, you need to know how to get the most out of your camp experience in order to create those memories that last a lifetime.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Fashion
Photo by Erin Baiano

Throwback jazz duds that feel impossibly current? Groovy, baby.

Modeled by Amber Pickens and Carey Segal

Photography by Erin Baiano

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

Once competition season has ended, it can seem like forever until you're ready to compete again. Don't let the down time between competition seasons drag on. Dance conventions are an easy and fun way to learn new skills, meet inspiring choreographers, and stay involved in dance all year long. Showstopper's Dance Conventions offer dancers an experience you cannot get anywhere else. Here is why you cannot miss Showstopper Dance Conventions!

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
Photo by Nathan Sayers

Few things are more beautiful than perfectly arched feet. While us normal humans are on a never-ending quest to make our biscuits look a little bit better, some dancers are just born with gorgeous bananas. Here are 9 artists—from big-name icons to up-and-coming talents—whose feet are all kinds of #goals.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Videos
Screenshot via Vogue

Dancer and choreographer Sherrie Silver is living her best life. The 23 year old, who's most recent choreography was featured in Childish Gambino's controversial "This Is America" music video, continues to bring African dance to the forefront of pop culture with the help of Vogue magazine. Brooklyn is the perfect backdrop for this dancing queen as she breaks down five of her favorite Afro dance moves: the Gwara Gwara, the Hipjook, the Neza, the Snakula, and the Shaku Shaku.

Keep reading... Show less
Dear Katie
Photo by Travis Kelley, courtesy Kathryn Morgan

In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB 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,

I'm a lefty turner, and am more flexible on my left side than my right. My one-sidedness is especially noticeable because most people in my classes are stronger on the right side. How can I even myself out?

Camryn

Keep reading... Show less
Editors’ List: The Goods
Via @joandjax on Instagram

Summertime...and the dressing is eeeeeeeeeeasy. When you're heading straight from the dance studio to the pool or beach, you don't want to be messing around with complicated cover-ups. That's where these 5 MVPs of the romper room come in, bringing their breezy style to your pre-class, post-rehearsal, and everything-in-between looks. Oh, and three out of the five are on sale right now. So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and romper-ound! (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

The Soline, by Wear Moi

Via wearmoi.us

This oversized cap sleeve romper with a half zip in the front features four-way stretch and extra-comfy wide leg openings. You can get it now on Wear Moi's US website for less than half of its original price.

Just for Fun
#6: We're never NOT stretching. (Giphy)

Dancers are truly a special breed. And that means some of the stuff we do every day—stuff that seems totally normal to us—completely weirds out our non-dance friends. Here are 10 funny dancer habits we're guessing you can totally relate to.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
2018 graduate Meredith Santoro in a shot from the PURCHASE DANCE x SUPREME series (screenshot via @issadancelook on Instagram)

Our story begins on January 3, 2018, when an account called @issadancelook suddenly appeared on the Insta-horizon. Almost immediately, the page was chock-full of artsy shots of SUNY Purchase dancers in their quirkiest, most stylish classwear and rehearsalwear. Barely half a year later, the page has an intensely engaged base of followers, and even mainstream fashion has taken notice—but more on that in a minute.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
Photo by Nathan Sayers

Few things are more beautiful than perfectly arched feet. While us normal humans are on a never-ending quest to make our biscuits look a little bit better, some dancers are just born with gorgeous bananas. Here are 9 artists—from big-name icons to up-and-coming talents—whose feet are all kinds of #goals.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
Quad Squad performing their routine on the "WOD" stage (screenshot via YouTube)

Last night's episode of "World of Dance" proves that there's literally an endless supply of talented dancers in this world. We're on week SEVEN of Qualifiers, and each week, we're continuously blown away by the competitors. Last night was no different, as eight more groups (all of whom deserved to advance) vied for a spot in the Duels.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Videos
The cast of All Styles (courtesy Shout Factory)

What do you get when dance all-stars like Fik-Shun Stegall, Heather Morris, and Christopher Scott join forces for a movie? That'd be All Styles, the new dance film that just might give Step Up a run for its money. And you can watch the trailer exclusively right here.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
USC Kaufman Students in Class (courtesy Glorya Kaufman School of Dance At University of Southern California)

You can still dance at a high level while attending a school that has no dance department. Just ask these two recent grads—their post-college careers bloomed because they took charge of their dance education.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Videos
"My comeback on 💯" (via YouTube)

We've always been impressed by Ciara's very legit dance skills. But for "Level Up," the first single she's released since 2015, the star decided to create a dance vid that is actually on another level.

How'd she do it? By recruiting choreographer extraordinaire Parris Goebel and her epic ReQuest Dance Crew. We knew "Level Up" was a banger from the second we first heard it, but by their powers combined, Ciara, Goebel, and the ReQuest dancers make it into an absolutely irresistible dance jam.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
Photo by Sophie Elgort, courtesy Isabella Boylston

Last year, American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston decided to bring world-renowned ballet to her hometown of Sun Valley, ID. The first three-day Ballet Sun Valley festival featured stars including Maria Kochetkova and Misty Copeland, performing solos, pas de deux, and a world premiere by Gemma Bond. Audiences raved so much that the festival will continue this year, July 17 and 18. The talent list has expanded: There'll be 25 dancers from companies including the Paris Opéra Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, and New York City Ballet, and the festival will again offer a day of free dance classes for local students. Dance Spirit caught up with Boylston to get all the details—and to find out what starting a ballet festival is really like.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Giveaways