Sara Esty as Maggie in "A Chorus Line" (courtesy Esty)

Broadway Ballerina Sara Esty Writes a Letter to Her Teenage Self

Sara Esty's ethereal grace and sophisticated charm have won over ballet and Broadway audiences alike. The bunhead-turned-Broadway-baby began training near her hometown in Gorham, ME, at the Maine State Ballet's School for the Performing Arts (with her equally fabulous twin sister, Leigh-Ann). She enrolled full-time at the Miami City Ballet School in 2004, and joined Miami City Ballet as an apprentice in 2005. In 2006, Esty won the Princess Grace Award, and she was promoted to soloist at MCB in 2011. After leaving MCB in 2014, she made her Broadway debut in An American in Paris as the understudy for Lise, and went on to share the role of Lise with her sister on the show's national tour. Most recently, she was seen in 5th Avenue Theatre's production of Marie, Dancing Still in Seattle, WA. —Courtney Bowers


Dear Sara,

It's me—an older, and hopefully wiser, you. Remember all of those nights you spent wondering what your future would hold and if you were making the right decision by committing to following your dreams? Good news: They've paid off. Every worry, struggle, and moment of doubt has been worth it—and there's still so much to be done.

It's a big and tough world out there. However, I can guarantee from my experiences so far that if you hadn't done the things that scared you, you would be nowhere near the artist or human you are today. Leaving the comfort of a small town in Maine to live out your passion of dancing in a ballet company? Terrifying. Leaving the comfort of 10 years in that company to move to NYC and tackle Broadway? Cue the anxiety. (FYI, anxiety will try to get the better of you, but it'll also make you stronger.) Leaving NYC to travel the U.S. and lead the first national tour of a new Broadway show? By all means, you should be completely gray in the hair by now. But guess what? You keep going and surprising yourself. Last winter, I did one of the scariest and most exhilarating things yet: I sang my heart out in one of the most vocally challenging parts in Broadway history, playing Maggie in A Chorus Line in NYC. Girl, we did it.

You're no longer "just a ballerina," and don't let people pigeonhole you there. However, the work you're doing now as a ballet dancer is the greatest gift you'll give yourself. It will make you strong in body and mind, and grant you the discipline to make it in this industry.

At age 14 (courtesy Esty)

A lot of people are going to tell you "no," but you know what you do with that? You turn it into "yes." You'll be faced with a lot of tough decisions, and you'll ALWAYS wonder if you've made the right choices, but following your heart will put you in the right place. Work your butt off. Stay humble, stay grateful. You've gotten yourself where you are today with the love of your family, friends, and teachers. But when you're on the audition floor or the stage, it's just you. Believe that you are enough.

Love,

Sara


A version of this story appeared in the May/June 2019 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Letter to My Teenage Self: Sara Esty."

Latest Posts


Viktorina Kapitonova in "Swan Lake Bath Ballet" (photo by Ryan Capstick, courtesy Corey Baker Dance)

Please Enjoy the Quarantine Genius of “Swan Lake Bath Ballet”

That old saying about limitations breeding creativity—hat tip to Orson Welles—has never felt more relevant than in these lockdown days. Here's the latest brilliant dance project born (hatched?) of quarantine restrictions: "Swan Lake Bath Ballet," a contemporary take on the classic featuring 27 A-list ballet dancers performing from their own bathtubs.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Project 21 dancers (from left) Selena Hamilton, Gracyn French, and Dyllan Blackburn (Photo by Quinn Wharton; hair and makeup throughout by Angela Huff for Mark Edward Inc.)

How Project 21 Is Shaping the Next Generation of Competition-Dance Standouts

"I wish I had a better story about the name," says Molly Long, founder of the Orange County, CA–based dance studio Project 21. In truth, it's a play on the fact that she was born on the twenty-first of August, and 21 is her favorite number. "I was away on a teaching tour, the audition announcement was going live on Instagram the next day, and I desperately needed a name. Project 21 was just the least cheesy of the options I thought of!"

The fact that fans might expect the name to have some profound meaning speaks to the near-mythic status Project 21 has achieved on the competition and convention scene since its founding in 2014. Long's dancers are all wholly individual, yet jell seamlessly as a group, and are consistently snagging top prizes everywhere on the circuit. Each season brings a slew of new accolades, high-caliber faculty, and legions of devoted followers.

The industry has taken notice of the studio's unique ethos. "Molly gets through to her dancers in a special way, and they have this incomparable level of commitment to their craft as a result," says dancer and choreographer Billy Bell, who's worked closely with Long and her dancers. "That's what sets them apart—it's like a little dose of magic."

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search