(photo by Nathan Sayers)
I came to dance late—I’m 14 and I’ve only been studying for a year and a half.
At conventions, it’s clear that I’m behind the other dancers my age. Is there still a chance I could make it as a professional?
Many successful dancers came to dance late—Misty Copeland didn’t start until she was 13—so you’re in good company! But getting up to speed will require a lot of hard work.
Take as many classes as you can, because the more you dance, the faster you’ll improve. Focus on the basics, especially your alignment. Don’t try to skip ahead to the harder stuff. Don’t “cheat” your leg up because you think it’ll make you look advanced. The more bad habits you accumulate now, the harder it’ll be to correct them later.
Make sure to work with teachers who push you—and who believe in you. That’s
so important. Tell them you dream of becoming a professional. Ask them what you can do to keep improving, and listen carefully to their insights.
If you’re willing to do the work, you can get there. And that applies to all dancers, no matter when they started!
I’m always hungry before shows, but if I eat too much, I feel heavy and bloated onstage. What do you recommend eating before performances?
This is such a common issue for dancers. We need fuel, but it can be tricky to figure out which foods will work best.
I wouldn’t suggest eating a lot of vegetables or dairy products before a show. Though they’re great nutritionally, I’ve found that they can cause bloating.
If you’re looking for something snack-y, I’d recommend eating a handful or so of nuts, which are packed with protein and healthy fats. They’ll get you through a performance without weighing you down. Want something more substantial? My favorite preshow meal is eggs and toast, because it’s well balanced—a good mix of protein and carbohydrates—and not too heavy.
Watch your timing, too. I make sure to eat two to three hours before curtain. I’ve found that if I eat anything after the two-
hour mark, I have stomach issues, no matter
what food it is. Give your body a little time to digest before you dance!
I love dancing in The Nutcracker…for the first few performances. But eventually I get to a point where I can’t even listen to the music anymore. What can I do to keep myself motivated later in the season?
Do I ever understand where you’re coming from! In New York City Ballet, we danced upwards of 40
Nutcrackers every year. But we came up with a lot of coping devices to get us through all of those performances. For example, the corps of snowflakes would think of a “theme” for each evening. We might say, “Tonight, everyone dance as your favorite Disney princess!” Or, “Let’s be kids playing in the snow on Christmas morning!” The audience had no clue we were doing anything unusual—we didn’t change the choreography. But playing those kinds of brain games can help keep you from getting bored.
Remember this, too: You might have danced
The Nutcracker a million and one times, but there’s always a little girl in the audience seeing it for the very first time. Use that little girl as your motivation to make each and every show special. Think back to the time you first saw The Nutcracker, and how magical it was. This could be your opportunity to make someone new fall in love with ballet!