True Story: I’m A Professional Ballerina

 I'm a professional ballerina
Tell us a bit about yourself!
Hi there! My name is Rebecca, I am a Corps de Ballet dancer with the Miami City Ballet. I was born in California and moved to Miami when I was 18 to dance in MCB’s school and joined the company in 2007. Next year will be my eighth season with Miami City Ballet. I am also the purveyor of a dance blog, Tendus Under a Palm Tree.
What lead you to start dancing?
My mom and I were walking past a ballet studio when I was about three. I saw all the girls come out of class in their ballet clothes, and I said, “Mom, I want to do that.” So she enrolled me and there was no looking back. I trained at Contra Costa Ballet in Walnut Creek in Northern California. I went to San Francisco Ballet School for two summer programs, which was a wonderful experience for me. For my senior year of high school, I attended the Rock School in Philadelphia.

Ballet is an extremely rigorous and physically demanding form of dance. Why did you choose to pursue ballet instead of another type of dance?
When I first started dancing I took tap, jazz, and modern classes. Nothing really seemed to speak to me like ballet. I loved the regimen of starting at the barre, working on technique, then moving to larger movements when stepping out into the center of the room.

There is a very specific discipline that comes with classical ballet; a timeless technique that allows you to express yourself within the boundaries of a language understood around the world. Since ballet is a good foundation for any other dance form, I knew my studies would not be in vain no matter what I decided to do in the future.

In your mind what characteristics make for a successful ballet dancer?
There are some who will disagree with this statement, but to me it’s not so much about a dancers physical appearance, as the artistry that they bring to their dancing. From the audience, my eye is rarely drawn to the dancer with the “perfect ballet body” but to the dancer who is generously sharing their talents with the audience, and seemingly enjoying every single moment of their performance. That to me is what sets great dancers apart.
Ballet is very demanding, not only from the physical standpoint but also the psychological one. As I mentioned earlier, ballet requires dancers to be very disciplined. Ballet dancers need to be very self-motivated, because in the end, our job is never secure, so a consistent work ethic is very important. There is also a very serious psychological element to performing: managing stress, nerves, and anxiety. This is a topic I am planning on discussing on my blog in the near future.
Tell us about the logistics of finding full-time work in ballet. Is the best bet to find corps work?
Generally dancers try to secure their first professional job or apprenticeship directly after high school, and for some, even before.
A young dancer can find their first contract in a few different ways: by attending a school associated with a company, by attending large auditions where cuts are made in rounds, or by sending resumes to companies asking to travel to their location for an audition. Once a dancer has a contract, it’s only for one year.
As a result dancers are constantly working to receive a new contract for the following season. If, in fact, another contract is not issued for the following year or a dancer would like to move to a different company, then the audition process starts all over again. Every January-March, Miami City Ballet welcomes many dancers who join us for class looking for a contract with the company.
What’s your biggest, brightest professional goal?
Other than advancing my ballet career, my professional goal at this point is to continue to grow my blog. I think the Internet offers a unique venue to discuss different elements of the ballet.
People are fascinated by our art form and I think ballet blogs are a way to get people involved, get them interested, get them to attend a performance, and give them a deeper understanding of what they are seeing. There’s so much more involved behind the scenes than what a new audience member may think. Being able to educate curious audience members is just wonderful. It’s developed into something that could be a second career for me.
Through promoting my blog, I have become increasingly interested in promoting businesses through social media. It is remarkable how useful these platforms are when used effectively. I have begun dabbling in social media management for a number of businesses through my burgeoning business, Rebecca King Social Media Management. This is another possible career path that I hope to pursue in the future.
Tell us about your average day at work.
On rehearsal days, we begin with class at 10 am, which is our everyday conditioning routine. After an hour and a half class we rehearse for 6 hours. Our ballet mistress puts together a schedule for each day in the studios where she makes sure that each ballet gets the amount of time it needs before we take it to the stage. When we are in the theater, our days are quite different.
As always, we begin with an hour and a half class, followed by a short break before a three-hour dress rehearsal where we go through the entire performance with lights and costumes. Then we have a dinner break before our show in the evening.
How do you feel when you are onstage?
Being onstage is the reason why I dance: it is an irreplaceable feeling. Being out there under the lights, staring into the darkness of the audience is the most freeing experience. The stage is the place where you get to showcase your hard work and give everything you have to the audience. Feeling their energy after each ballet is amazing. Most memorably: when we were closing our tour in Paris, the sold-out audience gave us a standing ovation for 15 minutes. It is a moment that will stay with all of us forever.
What do you do to stay healthy and keep your toes/legs/joints working the way you would like?
For me I have found that my body reacts very positively when I eat well. I prefer not to constantly count my calories, but rather I make sure that everything I eat will fuel my body. It’s important for me to make sure that I have protein for my muscles and carbs for energy. I find that focusing on my foods nutritional makeup, helps me each much healthier.
What is the age limit for professional dancers?
There is not a firm limit; it really depends on how a dancer’s body holds up. Some dancers make it into their forties, but I would say on average dancers retire in their 30s.
What’s one thing that you have learned from ballet that any of us could apply to daily life?
The most important gift ballet has given me over the years, is my work ethic. When it is time to make a career transition, professional dancers go on to be lawyers, nurses, entrepreneurs, etc. It is very obvious to me that dancers are successful in these endeavors because of the determination and love for hard work that ballet instills in them. This is one of the reasons why I think it is important for young children to take ballet at least for the experience: not necessarily because they want to be ballerinas when they grow up, but because they want to learn how to work like a ballerina.

Thanks so much for sharing, Rebecca! Have any of you danced seriously? I was in danceline in high school and danced in a Citrus Bowl halftime show!

P.S. True Story: I’m a professional athlete & I’m 31 and living with my parents

Photo by julian duque // cc

2 Comments

Hannah

I did study Performing Arts at university and have been in a couple of amateur dramatic performances since then but no professional things. I keep looking at adult ballet classes but haven’t got any further than that.

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