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."

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A Letter from the Editor in Chief

Hi, dance friends. It is a strange time to be a person in the world, and an especially strange time to be a dancer. As the dance community faces the coronavirus crisis, a lot of you are coping with closed studios, canceled performances and competitions, and a general sense of anxiety about how your world will look going forward.

Yes, dancers are super resilient, and there's been a lot of inspiring community-building happening. #LivingRoomDances and Instagram dance parties and virtual ballet classes with the pros are wonderful. Dance can, and should, be a bright spot in the darkness. But that weird, empty feeling you have? It might be grief. The loss of the certainty of daily class, the loss of the promise of that big end-of-year performance—that's real. The dance studio has always been a safe place; it's especially hard not to have that outlet now, when you need it most.

We're here for you. We—and our friends at Dance Magazine, Pointe, Dance Teacher, The Dance Edit, and Dance Business Weekly—are doing our best to document the hurdles facing the dance industry, and to advocate for dancers in need. We're developing more online content that will help you maintain and improve your technique while you're at home, and process the mental and emotional fallout of all this upheaval. (You can keep up with the latest stories here.) And we're still making our print magazine. We have issues planned and shot, full of great dance stories and beautiful photos. We're not going anywhere.

We want to hear from you. Talk to us. Or dance to us. Or both. We won't stop moving, and you shouldn't, either.

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