Season 2 of “city.ballet.”—the AOL On series that gives an insider’s look at New York City Ballet—is live now! We’re recapping one episode per week. Watch all 12 at dancemagazine.com

Ballet dancers' lives look glamorous on the surface. But being in a major company actually requires a ton of hard work. How do professional dancers deal with the day-in, day-out grind of classes and rehearsals? That's what episode 10 of "city.ballet" investigates: the stuff that keeps New York City Ballet members inspired and motivated. Here are five things we learned from the ep.

NYCB dancers in company class (still from "city.ballet.")

1. NYCB company class is fascinating. There's nothing like watching some of the world's greatest artists—and, let's not forget, athletes—put their bodies through their paces. The exposed nature of ballet class reveals both their superhuman-ness (how does she move that quickly?) and their humanness (oh hey, she struggles with attitude turns too!).

2. A healthy nondance life is one of the keys to a successful dance life. "I think it's really important not to think about work all the time," says soloist Lauren Lovette, who stays inspired by taking an art class in her spare time. Corps member Silas Farley (who, by the way, got into Harvard as well as NYCB—no biggie) finds an outlet in his religious faith. And fellow corps dancer Mary Elizabeth Sell expresses herself through poetry.

3. Ballet holds dancers to an impossible standard—but that's inspiring, not discouraging. "We go into the studio every day trying to achieve something that's unattainable: balletic perfection," Farley says. "And you're never gonna get there. But the fact that you never get there is not a reason to turn back. It's rather the motivation—the knowledge that there's always more to learn, and there's always more room to grow."

4. A ballet career is like a long-term love affair. In ballet, just as in love, "the more you care, the more the little things are upsetting," Sell says. "But people always say you have to take that risk in love, because it's better to have a broken heart than to have never loved."

5. GORGEOUS TIARA ALERT. At 5:20. So sparklyyyyyy!

Click the image below to watch the full episode.

Season 2 of “city.ballet.”—the AOL On series that gives an insider’s look at New York City Ballet—is live now! We’re recapping one episode per week. Watch all 12 at dancemagazine.com

Finlay in costume for Christopher Wheeldon's m...i'm not sure (photo by Nathan Sayers)

Episode 8 of "city.ballet." follows Chase Finlay—who, as the youngest male principal in New York City Ballet, is under a lot more pressure than your average 24-year-old. But these days, that pressure is even higher than usual: Finlay is coming off a serious foot injury, and he needs to show the company that he's recovered and ready to take on his old roles. Here are five things we learned from the ep.

1. Finlay is a bro, bro. "Right after I broke my foot, I was like, 'Forget this, I'm just going to go drink a beer and watch football,' " he says. Dude, we feel you.

2. There is titanium in his foot right now. He broke his fifth metatarsal, and they had to insert a titanium screw to fix it. Crazy!

3. His parents are adorbs. We see Finlay and his dad playing a cute father-son round of golf—in coordinating polo shirts, naturally. And Finlay's mom's description of baby Chase's first time watching The Nutcracker will make you melt a little bit. "He was so small he was sitting in my lap," she says. "And the curtain went up, and I felt his little ribcage go, 'Oh!' " They're both obviously so proud of him, and it's the best.

4. Coming back from an injury is terrifying. "I don't want to go up into a turn or jump and wonder if it's going to work," he says. We hear that. All the close-ups of him landing on his injured foot make us cringe.

5. But it's also a chance to prove yourself anew. "You don't want to be a lesser dancer than what you were before," Finlay says. "You want to come back and wow people." From the footage we see in this episode, it seems like he's well on his way to wow.

Click the image below to watch the full episode!

Season 2 of "city.ballet."—the AOL On series that gives an insider's look at New York City Ballet—is live now! We're recapping one episode per week. Watch all 12 at dancemagazine.com.

It's baaaaack! We couldn't get enough of the first season of "city.ballet."—drama! intrigue! pretty feet!—and have been eagerly awaiting round two, which finally, finally premiered yesterday.

NYCB soloist Lauren Lovette in a still from "city.ballet."

Corps Stories, the first episode of the second season, follows some of New York City Ballet's greenest dancers. Here are five things we learned form the ep.

1) There are 52 corps dancers in NYCB. FIFTY-TWO. Just in the corps. This company does not mess around.

2) Unity Phelan is the cutest ever. The 19-year-old corps member is just so happy to be in NYCB, and that makes us happy, too. "When I walk into the studio in the morning, I feel like a puppy!" she says. Most dancers complain about packed rehearsal schedules, but when Phelan has a long day, she thinks, "I get to dance so many ballets today!" D'aww. We also get to see her rehearse one of her dream ballets, George Balanchine's Agon, which is totally fascinating.

3) Corps dancer Harrison Ball lives like a monk. He isn't your average 21-year-old: His apartment has no TV, no AC and (gulp) no wi-fi. Dude is intense.

4) He also has the world's chillest, most adorable cat. Schmoop!

5) And he's come up with a very apt metaphor for the dancer's love-hate relationship with ballet. "Ballet is a person to me," he says. "I spend my whole day with this person. It can be so loving and embracing. But it can be mean sometimes, too. I fight with it, I fight against it. Sometimes I just want to choke it." Amen.

Click the image below to watch the first episode of "city.ballet." season two!

It's official: "city.ballet.," the new online reality show that takes us inside the beautiful and crazy competitive world of New York City Ballet, is now on Aol On Originals—and on dancemagazine.com! Executive produced by Sarah Jessica Parker, this exclusive behind-the-scenes look is a must see. In Episode 1: Intro & Ranks, we're introduced to each level of dancer—from apprentice to principal—that form the company.

Fun Fact: NYCB doesn't ever hold auditions. You can only enter the company if you're chosen as a standout student at the School of American Ballet.

Quote of the Week: "Nobody sits still here. Complacency does not exist at the New York City Ballet." —Peter Martins, ballet master in chief

Click here or the image below to watch Episode 1 now! 

Season 2 of “city.ballet.”—the AOL On series that gives an insider’s look at New York City Ballet—is live now! We’re recapping one episode per week. Watch all 12 at dancemagazine.com.

Over the course of "city.ballet.," we've seen all the insanely hard work that goes into a professional ballet career. But in the final episode of the series' second season, we get a look at the end product: the performance. Those few minutes onstage, the New York City Ballet dancers make clear, more than justify the countless hours they spend in the studio. Here are five things we learned from the ep.

NYCB dancers backstage before a performance (still from "city.ballet.")

1. Choreographers have control over every aspect of their ballets—until they don't. The minute their work hits the stage, it's totally out of their hands (and feet), which is a disorienting feeling. "At this point, I'm still thinking, 'How can this piece be better?' " says choreographer and NYCB corps member Troy Schumacher just before the debut of his ballet Clearing Dawn. "But now I don't have any part in it. I have to just sit back and enjoy all that the dancers are giving to the piece."

2. In fact, once any ballet is onstage, the only thing to do is relax and be in the moment. "Sometimes you don't know what's going to happen out there," says principal Maria Kowroski—especially the first time you perform a ballet. "But that's the time to trust your partner, to just look at him and think, 'Oh, I'm so happy I'm dancing with you!' It's that freedom and abandonment that make it special."

3. Schumacher's playful choreography for Clearing Dawn is so winning. "Have a good day at dance school," he jokes to principal Andrew Veyette just before the curtain goes up, referring to the piece's school-uniform-esque costumes. And those costumes match the ballet's youthful spirit perfectly. "It feels like playing a game onstage—like a game of tag," says soloist Georgina Pazcoguin.

4. Before a show, some NYCBers lick for luck...? Yes, we all know about "merde," but apparently a few of the older company dancers have a tradition of touching each other with licked fingers before a performance. Uh, we need to hear the story behind that.

5. Performing is basically the best rush ever. Well, you probably already knew that, but still! The episode closes with the dancers' tributes to the joy of being onstage, and it's the perfect ending to the season—because that rush is the whole reason these artists do what they do. As Kowroski says: "When you're really in the moment onstage, when you feel all the blood rushing in your legs and your feet and your arms—it's something so pure and raw. You're just living."

Click the image below to watch the full episode!

Season 2 of “city.ballet.”—the AOL On series that gives an insider’s look at New York City Ballet—is live now! We’re recapping one episode per week. Watch all 12 at dancemagazine.com.

The ballet world is ruled by the young. Young bodies are just better suited to its crazy demands, which means that it's not uncommon for a dancer to join a company at 16 and retire at 30. But ballet's veterans—those who've been around for 10, 15, 20 years—bring a wealth of wisdom and experience to their performances. The eleventh episode of "city.ballet." looks at some of New York City Ballet's seasoned stars. Here are five things we learned from the ep.

Veteran/goddess Wendy Whelan rehearsing with Tyler Angle in a still from "city.ballet."

1. In the ballet world, you feel ancient when the rest of the world still thinks of you as young. Principal Andrew Veyette, who's in his early 30s, had an epiphany about age while watching a basketball game. "I remember turning to my wife [that'd be fantastic fellow principal Megan Fairchild] and saying, 'You realize most of these guys are younger than us.' All of a sudden, you're 15 years in and 10 years older than you think you are."

2. Veteran dancers learn to look at ballet differently. "As you get older, you get smarter," soloist Craig Hall says. "You have to be more efficient, because you can't just do it day-in and day-out without feeling something. You have to find tricks that allow you to do less physically and more mentally."

3. But the best dancers age like fine wine. Wendy Whelan, who until she retired in October was the company's senior ballerina, is a goddess. Not that we learned that from this video—we've known it for years, along with the rest of the ballet world! But the footage of her rehearsing and performing Alexei Ratmansky's Pictures at an Exhibition (at 3:06 and 5:19) is sublime. She's 47 going on ageless.

4. OMG, these dancers have gorgeous families. We get to meet the husbands of both Hall and principal Maria Kowroski, and—surprise, surprise!—these two extraordinarily beautiful people are married to two other extraordinarily beautiful people.

5. With age comes new challenges, yes—but also new opportunities. "What's interesting is that now, at this late time in my career, I'm getting to do all these ballets I've always wanted to do," Kowroski says. "I feel like there's a maturity I can bring to these roles now. Having more life experience brings a different kind of a depth to them."

Click the image below to watch the full episode!

Season 2 of “city.ballet.”—the AOL On series that gives an insider’s look at New York City Ballet—is live now! We’re recapping one episode per week. Watch all 12 at dancemagazine.com

Ah, dancer love. It seems so much more intense than regular old civilian love, amirite? Dancing together is such an inherently romantic, and inherently intimate, thing. Episode 9 of "city.ballet." follows Lauren Lovette and Chase Finlay, two up-and-coming New York City Ballet dancers who are partners both on- and offstage. Here are five things we learned from the ep.

Lovette and Finlay in Christopher Wheeldon's Soirée Musicale (photo by Paul Kolnik)

1. Their romance started as a friendship in the back of the studio, of course. Initially, Lovette was a little intimidated by Finlay. He'd been something of a hotshot as a student at The School of American Ballet. "I never thought he liked me at all," Lovette says. "He was too popular and I was too...weird!"

2. Their non-dance relationship benefits their dance relationship...for the most part. Since they know each other so well, they're better at communicating what is and isn't working in the studio. "I can trust him with anything, I can ask him anything," Lovette says. But, she adds, "when you're dating somebody, you have to say what you want in a more sensitive way. You don't want to get in fights at home!"

3. OH MY GOSH LAUREN'S DOGGGGGGGG. Her name is Penny Banks. She is teeny. And she is a total scene stealer. Schmoop.

4. The couple that cooks together, stays together. Or, well, Finlay cooks, and Lovette cuddles with Penny and watches. Which is the way it should be.

5. You can totally tell these two are in love while they're dancing. The footage of Lovette and Finlay working in the studio (and there's a lot of it, yay!) will make you swoon. First of all, they partnered frequently even before they started dating because physically they're a great match. They look nice together. But there's also all kinds of electricity happening, and it's awesome. "You don't have to make up chemistry," Lovette says. "It's already there. It's romantic, and it's fun, and it's wonderful."

Click the image below to watch the full episode!

Season 2 of “city.ballet.”—the AOL On series that gives an insider’s look at New York City Ballet—is live now! We’re recapping one episode per week. Watch all 12 at dancemagazine.com

We love, love, love that this second season of "city.ballet." is zooming in on some of New York City Ballet's most fantastic, and most interesting, dancers. The entirety of episode 7 is devoted to principal Ashley Bouder—she of the killer jump and, as we discovered, unbelievable work ethic. Here are five things we learned from the ep.

1. Bouder gives amazing slo-mo face. Just look at that opening shot!

2. Her personality offstage is, in a funny way, exactly what you'd expect after seeing her onstage. Bouder's an incredibly incisive, decisive performershe knows precisely what she wants to do out there, and she always gets it done. She seems to live her whole life the same way: She decided very early on that she wanted to dance, and she never let anything get in her way. It's pretty inspiring.

3. She's a singular dancer. Frequently, people describe NYCB ballerinas as "the new Suzanne Farrell," or "the new Patricia McBride." But, as artistic director Peter Martins says, "Ashley Bouder does not remind me of anybody else." And that's a good thing. "You don't want to think about somebody else when you see Ashley," Martins explains."She's extremely versatile. She has an unbelievable technique."

4. She's also a nerd. Bouder is majoring in political science at Fordham University. "I really like politics," she says. "I can't be in the classroom all the time, so my degree is going to take several years. But I'll get there. I'll graduate." Hey, Under Armour: Can we nominate Ashley for your next "I Will What I Want" ad?

5. Her niece and nephew are THE CUTEST. Oh my goodness, you guys! They're from a small town, so Bouder likes to have them stay with her in NYC once in a while. "I think it's very important for kids to get out and see what possibilities there are in the world," she says. D'awwwww.

Click the image below to watch the full episode!

Season 2 of “city.ballet.”—the AOL On series that gives an insider’s look at New York City Ballet—is live now! We’re recapping one episode per week. Watch all 12 at dancemagazine.com.

Let's establish this right off the bat: Alexei Ratmansky is a genius. The prolific choreographer—it seems like he has a new work premiering every five minutes—has made four works for New York City Ballet, and episode 6 of "city.ballet." follows the creation of the fourth, Pictures at an Exhibition, which premiered this fall. Here are five things we learned from the ep.

1. The dancers are totally, utterly devoted to Ratmansky. They will do anything for this guy. "I will roll around on the floor and then get up and do a manège," principal Sara Mearns says. "I'll do it twice. And he's actually making me do that!"

2. Ratmansky himself is a pretty fantastic mover. He used to dance with the Bolshoi Ballet, so there's obviously a lot of training in his body. But that's not what's impressive about him—there's something ineffable about the quality of his movement. Even the amazing NYCB principals working behind him can't pick up some of its subtleties.

3. Once again, we see just how collaborative the choreographic process is. Like NYCB artistic director Peter Martins, Ratmansky keeps an open dialogue with his dancers as a piece takes shape, listening to and incorporating their ideas. "You feel like you're part of the process—like someone's not just directing you to do these steps," says soloist Georgina Pazcoguin.

4. The glimpses we get of Pictures at an Exhibition are enchanting. Full disclosure: I saw the premiere of this piece live, and am completely obsessed with it. But while it's rare for the energy of a live performance to translate on video, Ratmansky's choreography is so potent it even reads through a screen. It's just that full of character—and characters.

5. AMAR RAMASAR'S LAUGH. It's the last thing we hear in the episode, and holy mother it's amazing.

Click the image below to watch the full episode!

Season 2 of “city.ballet.”—the AOL On series that gives an insider’s look at New York City Ballet—is live now! We’re recapping one episode per week. Watch all 12 at dancemagazine.com.

I've always worshipped ballet masters. They're the unsung heroes of ballet companies, the artists—nearly all former dancers—who spend countless hours making sure each and every piece is ready for the stage. Episode 5 takes a look at some of New York City Ballet's ballet masters, the keepers of the flame. Here are five things we learned from the ep.

Ballet master Jean-Pierre Frohlich works with principal Sterling Hyltin (photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy NYCB)

1) Ballet masters have...a certain way with words. "This is casual. You're just walking over to Bergdorf's." "Welcome to Buffalo! Here are my chicken wings." "You have to do kitty-cat hands over to the muffin head."

2) And an equally impressive repertoire of noises. "Step, WOMP, step, WOMP." "Aaaand dah dah dah DUM."

3) Being a ballet master involves a sort of heroic self-abnegation. Yes, ballet masters are incredibly precious: They have all the knowledge of these ballets. They hold the keys. But their goal isn't to impose their own vision of the work on the dancers; it's to give them the tools they need to develop their own interpretation. "When you teach a role, you want the dancers to be 110 percent themselves," says Darci Kistler.

Darci Kistler watches rehearsal (still from "city.ballet." courtesy NYCB)

4) That said, teaching a ballet isn't just about teaching steps. Or not for every ballet master, anyway. While Kistler is more of a a steps-and-music-only person, for Jean-Pierre Frohlich, there's "absolutely another layer" to the process. "It's important for dancers to visualize," he says. "Think of the sun on your shoulders. Think of the water. Think of the air."

5) In the end, ballet masters feel like proud parents. "I love seeing when a dancer thrives onstage," says Kathleen Tracey. "You just get this flood of joy. You can take some pride in yourself and say, Hey, I helped with that...a little bit!"

Click the image below to watch the full episode!

I'm also thankful for dancing turkeys. Thank you, dancing turkeys, for dancing. And being turkeys.

What are you thankful for this year? Finally hitting that 6 o'clock penchée? Being cast in your dream Nutcracker role? Getting your first pair of pointe shoes?

Here at Dance Spirit, we have a Thanksgiving tradition: Each year, everyone on staff expresses appreciation for the dance-y things that make our world a little brighter. And since being a member of the DS team comes with pretty amazing dance-related perks, we always have a lot to be thankful for. Here's what everyone had to say this time around.

"I'm thankful for the many web series about dance, like AOL On's 'city.ballet.,' Teen Vogue's 'Strictly Ballet' and Dance Spirit's own 'Road to Nationals.' Whenever I need a break at the office, I can grab my headphones, sit back and watch an inspiring episode—and it still looks like I'm doing work!" —Jenny Dalzell, managing editor

"I'm thankful to get to interview some of the youngest dancers featured in DS for our 'You Should Know' column. I'm constantly inspired by their passion, optimism, humility and gratitude—not to mention their insane talent!" —Maggie McNamara, assistant editor

"I'm thankful to be surrounded by amazingly gifted dancers. I always have inspiration to work harder." —Nicole Loeffler-Gladstone, assistant editor

"I'm thankful for artists like Misty Copeland, Tiler Peck and Wendy Whelan, who show dancers everywhere that there are so many options beyond a traditional stage performance career." —Meggie Hermanson, fashion editor

As for me? I'm thankful to be living in NYC, a city with more dancers per square foot than anywhere else in the universe. Every single day, I have opportunities to experience these artists' energy and passion—onstage, in the studio, at DS photo shoots, on the subway (it happens!). I love you, NYC—almost enough to make me forget how much rent I'm paying.

Happy Turkey Day!

Season 2 of "city.ballet."—the AOL On series that gives an insider's look at New York City Ballet—is live now! We're recapping one episode per week. Watch all 12 at dancemagazine.com.

In Episode 4 of "city.ballet." we meet the newest dance power couple: Sara Mearns and Josh Bergasse. She's a New York City Ballet principal, he's the Broadway choreographer behind On the Town—it's almost like a true-life Romeo and Juliet (minus the whole dueling families and death stuff). Are you a fan of cute rom-coms? You'll love this one. Here are five things we learn in the ep:

1. Mearns spent eight months off recuperating from a very serious back injury. But watch out, ballet world: She says she feels stronger, freer and more confident in her dancing than she did before her injury. (And she looks simply amazing, too.)

Sara Mearns and Chase Finlay rehearsing George Balanchine's Mozartiana. Photo courtesy AOL ON

2. In the last year, things have moved pretty fast for Mearns. She started dating Bergasse, the two moved into a pretty great apartment together (um, hello, view!) and everything's going swimmingly.

3. It is possible to date a dancer. Mearns explains what makes it work: "He's in the dance world, but not in my dance world." That. Makes. So. Much. Sense.

She's even gorgeous simply drinking coffee on her couch.

4. When you date a choreographer, he'll make ballets for you. We see Bergasse creating a piece for the Dancers Responding to AIDS Fire Island Dance Festival starring none other than his main squeeze. It's full of old-school musical theater kicks, lifts and flips.

Mearns in Ratmansky’s Pictures at an Exhibition (photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy NYCB)

5. There may be the pitter-patter of little feet (and not the tap dancing kind) in the NYCB studios someday. Mearns spills the beans on camera: She totally wants to get married and have a family with Bergasse. Oh, what's that? He might not know that yet? Well, now he does. (And from what we've seen of this couple's relationship, we doubt he minds.)

Click the image below to watch the full episode!

Season 2 of “city.ballet.”—the AOL On series that gives an insider’s look at New York City Ballet—is live now! We’re recapping one episode per week. Watch all 12 at dancemagazine.com

It's pretty darn hard to make it as a choreographer. It's even harder to do so while you're dancing full-time. In the second episode of "city.ballet." Season 2, we meet Troy Schumacher, a member of New York City Ballet's corps, and follow him as he creates his first work for NYCB. Here are five things we learned from this particularly fascinating ep.

Schumacher at work in the studio ("city.ballet." still courtesy New York City Ballet)

1) If you want to choreograph a great dance, choose a piece of music you're obsessed with. Schumacher's ballet is set to "Clearing, Dawn, Dance," by Judd Greenstein—which he's been listening to for three years. And I thought I couldn't get "Shake It Off" out of my head.

2) Casting a ballet at NYCB is like being a kid in a candy store. Or, to use Schumacher's better food-related simile: "It's like going to a buffet when you're really hungry. Everyone is excellent!" And Schumacher knows all of these dancers super well—he's in the studio with them every day, after all—which makes the decision process even harder.

Schumacher rehearsing his chosen ones (Paul Kolnik, courtesy NYCB)

3) Ballet dancers call aerobically intense ballets "puffy." As in, you'll be huffing and puffing. Cute!

4) Choreographers' notes are so cool. We get a peek at Schumacher's notebook (5:17), and while I'm not exactly sure how his system works, his elaborate doodlings are a little language all their own.

5) Georgina Pazcoguin is hilarious. The costumes for Schumacher's ballet, dreamed up by designer Thom Browne, are basically school uniforms, complete with pleated miniskirts for the ladies. Soloist Pazcoguin's reaction? "Ooh, Sister Marie Clarence is giving detention for this!" Hee hee.

Click the image below to watch the full episode!

Good news, ballet lovers! The wait for Season Two of "city.ballet." is finally over—all twelve episodes will be available here starting November 4.

Lauren Lovette and Craig Hall in rehearsal (photo via "city.ballet")

Last season, we all fell in love with the show that offers an inside look at New York City Ballet, and we ate up every episode. We learned about the company's ranks, the truth about dating your fellow dancers, what it's like to be a man in the ballet world and what it means to sacrifice for your passion. This season promises to give us more #realtalk about recovering from injuries, dealing with age and other tough topics.

Additionally, Season Two will feature a few of our favorite NYCB dancers (Sara Mearns and Chase Finlay have been name-dropped!) in their day-to-day lives. We can't wait to see what new insights these beautiful dancers will give us. Stay tuned for more updates!

 

Sarah Jessica Parker on the set of city.ballet. in NYCB's shoe room.

You may know Sarah Jessica Parker as Little Orphan Annie, as Carrie Bradshaw, or as executive producer of AOL's docudrama city.ballet. (which, by the way, just announced it's getting a second season!). But today and Wednesday, SJP takes on yet another role: radio host.

From 12pm to 2pm, SJP will step in as host of WNYC's "Leonard Lopate Show," and she's booked two full days of awesome guests. Today, Jessie Mueller, star of Beautiful—The Carole King Musical, will take the mic (along with artist Alex Katz, The New Yorker journalist Dexter Filkins and playwright Terrance McNally). My guess is that Mueller—who is amazing as singer-songwriter Carole King on Broadway—might talk about the night two weeks ago, when King herself dropped by to see the production and sang with the cast following the curtain calls. (Check that out here.)

Tomorrow, however, is the day when bunheads in particular should tune their radios to 93.9 FM or AM 820, because ballet legend Gelsey Kirkland and New York City Ballet principals Ashley Bouder and Sara Mearns will all join the conversation.

Don't fret if you don't have a radio in NYC or if you're busy tomorrow afternoon. The "Leonard Lopate Show" is streamed live (and on-demand) at wnyc.org.

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