I think I speak for most former dancers when I say it’s easy to feel jealous of professional ballerinas. The lives they lead! What if that was me? What if I’d auditioned for companies instead of going to college? Would I be Ashley Bouder now? Setting aside the fact that the odds of joining New York City Ballet are slim no matter how hard you train, it’s also easy to forget what abnormal and often difficult childhoods (and adulthoods) professional dancers endure. Episode 7 of “city.ballet.” focuses on the sacrifices that come with the career.
One of my close friends told me she never made it to any high school dances because she always had rehearsal Friday nights. The corps members interviewed for this episode sound like they had similar teenage years: no football games, no other extracurriculars, nothing but “Eat, sleep, dance, repeat,” Giovanni Villalobos says. Principal Sara Mearns seems even a bit disgusted with her adolescent self. “All I would do was rehearse and perform and just think about dance, dance, dance, rehearsal, rehearsal, pointe shoes, hair, makeup,” she says. “I can’t even believe I did that to myself.”
And it doesn’t get much easier as an adult. While many dancers manage to find time to woo and wed (usually other dancers), Jenifer Ringer feels like an outlier in her decision to have children during her career. Many dancers wait until they’re done performing or forego having kids altogether, she says. Since the episode was filmed, Ringer has actually announced her retirement. I’ll be interested to hear more about her decision and her plans for life after the stage.
As a lover—nay, worshipper—of the art, I often forget how out-there ballet’s requirements are compared to almost any other career, except maybe playing a professional sport. I guess it comes down to how much you love it. That notion gets tossed around a lot, but this episode made me consider what it really means: If you don’t love ballet enough to give up almost all nondance-related activities and relationships, it’s not the career for you. So, it isn’t just that we mortals don’t have the talent or body type. Most of us also want lives that are just a bit more traditional, with glorious weekends off and optional gym workouts. And maybe the occasional dance class, when we’re feeling bold.
For more “city.ballet.”, visit dancemagazine.com/cityballetAOL.