Pretty young, around 5 or 6. Both of my parents were dancers and I grew up in the studio watching them dance together. I thought it was totally cool and fell in love with dance.
Is it something you need to train for at a very young age?
Yes, usually by the age of 8 or 9 you should become serious about it. Training gets more focused on connecting your brain and body, using the correct muscles, learning the vocabulary, that sort of thing. The younger the better.
What does it take to become a professional ballerina? What is the typical path?
Usually you start off with creative movement and basic ballet and tap classes. By middle school you should be in dance class every day. Just like you go to school every day, you should be at dance class every day.
I lucked out. Where I grew up there was a high school boarding school. I would go to normal high school from 7 a.m. to noon, and then boarding school from 1 to 9 p.m. for dance.
What other career paths do professional ballerinas take?
For the most part, they perform with a theater company. Usually you get to the point you want to teach because it gets too hard on your body. Most professional ballerinas stay within the general area of dance.
I am happy performing and teaching. I go to the company from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., go home to change, and then teach from 4 to 9 p.m.
How often do you train?
We dance Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. August through June. That’s when we take ballet class from 9:30 – 11 a.m. and then rehearse whatever the upcoming production is.
When we are in theater, we usually have two complete run-throughs on Tuesday or Wednesday so we are ready to go by Friday. We have company class around 10 a.m. and then go through it from the top with lights and scene crews. They haven’t seen the show before (the dancers already know it) so it gives us the opportunity to get everything right.
What’s your favorite part about performing?
I love being on stage. I express my feelings better through dance; it’s easier for me. I also like doing characters. I love the research part and trying to become someone else.
What have been your favorite rolls?
We just finished “The Little Mermaid” where I was the Little Mermaid. This is my new favorite ballet. I also liked doing “Cinderella.” And, I had always dreamed of doing Sugar Plum in “The Nutcracker” ballet. I’ve gotten to be her for the past three years so I’ve really liked that.
I see you moved from Virginia to St. Louis; is it common to move as a ballerina?
Yes. You usually go to different towns for auditions. It’s not a matter of you deciding where you’d like to live and then applying for a job. You pretty much go where the job is.
How about travel with the theater company, is that common?
It depends on the company you’re in. We don’t do that much travelling but others can travel. The Richmond Ballet Company just went to China, the New York City Ballet Company travels. It just depends, but yes, you can.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
I would just say that if someone has never attended the ballet, it is definitely something they should experience in their lifetime. It’s a different experience than most expect and they become hooked.
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