As the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Royal Ballet's Nutcracker (photo by Johan Persson/ROH)

Sarah Lamb

Royal Ballet principal Sarah Lamb is an unlikely mixture of softness and steel. In photographs she looks like the archetypically delicate ballerina. Watch her move, though, and you'll see the strength that grounds each refined pose.

Born in Boston, MA, Lamb began training at the Boston Ballet School at age 6. She joined Boston Ballet in 1998, and won silver medals at the Japan International Ballet and Modern Dance Competition in 1999, the New York International Ballet Competition in 2000 and the USA IBC in 2002. In 2003 she was promoted to principal at BB, but a year later, looking to broaden her repertoire, she accepted a first soloist contract with The Royal in London. Lamb became a principal dancer in 2006, and has since danced nearly every classical lead. She'll be onstage at Covent Garden this month in The Nutcracker and George Balanchine's Jewels. —Margaret Fuhrer

Lamb as a teen (courtesy Sarah Lamb)

Dear Sarah,

Before I preach all the wisdom one gains simply through living and experiencing life, I want to say I am quite satisfied with the way you're living your teenage years. You're serious about your academic studies, and I cannot emphasize enough how strong a foundation that will give you to continue to learn and seek knowledge. You're not consumed by one goal—to be a ballerina. Rather, you know what you want and are working incredibly hard at it, whilst taking Advanced Placement French and government and having many friends who don't even know what ballet is.

A young Lamb with her mentor, Tatiana Legat (courtesy Sarah Lamb)

Keep being skeptical and believing you have the intelligence to question people and truisms, but know when to be polite and keep it to yourself. Value your self-assurance. That is one thing that can disappear as you become more and more aware of the scrutiny and criticism that is intrinsic to our art. Be sure to use criticism to your advantage, not detriment. Right now you're not overly self-critical, and that fearlessness is serving you well. Hold on to it, even as you gain knowledge of what it's like to fail.

Everyone has highs and lows in life, so resilience is one of the most important characteristics to cultivate. Your tenacity and diligence will combine with desire and “talent" (however one wants to define that) to foster the best artist you can be.

Love,

Sarah

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