Ethan Brown’s dance lineage is unique, but it’s his commitment to his students at Maryland Youth Ballet that really sets his career apart. Both of his parents (Kelly Brown and Isabel Mirrow Brown) were American Ballet Theatre dancers in the 1940s and ’50s. In fact, you’ve likely heard of them before—the cult-classic film The Turning Point is a fictionalized version of their life story. The pair had four children, three of whom followed in their footsteps and eventually joined ABT. Ethan, their youngest, was a soloist in the company.
Brown’s dance training began in Arizona when he was 7 years old. His parents moved there briefly and started a school that is now called Ballet Arizona. He trained there until he was 13, then made the move back to New York City to study at the School of American Ballet. At 19, he left the school and joined ABT.
Ethan Brown started dipping his toes in the waters of education by leading company classes and teaching at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School/ABT summer intensives during his last few years at ABT. “I always knew that I wanted to be a dance teacher,” he says. “I liked the technical aspect of classical ballet technique and was eager to pass that knowledge on.” After retiring from his professional dance career at 42, he added classes at Steps on Broadway and the Metropolitan Opera dance company to his teaching roster. He met his wife, Jaydira Del Rivero, while taking an adult open class at Steps. The two got married and eventually moved to Maryland so Rivero could work as a doctor at the National Institutes of Health. “We’ve been here for 11 years now, and we just love it,” Brown says.
He now teaches at Maryland Youth Ballet, George Mason University, Youth America Grand Prix, and ABT’s summer intensives. “I absolutely love everything about it,” he says of Maryland Youth Ballet in particular, where he brings the wealth of knowledge his upbringing and professional experience have given him, and shares it with the next generation. “I love the people, the students, and the environment. It’s a wonderful place.”
In terms of teaching philosophy, Ethan wants his dancers to know that they have to be “all in.” “Nothing happens overnight,” he says. “Becoming a professional dancer is a long process. If you really want it, you can’t do it halfway. You can’t show up to class just three days per week. You have to be completely committed.”
Here, he shares his teaching warm-up, what he wears to teach, how he takes care of his health, and more.
Go-to teaching warm-up: “I do my own personal exercises in the dressing room for 10 to 15 minutes before I teach. It’s mostly made up of simple stretches, rolling my shoulders, doing some pliés and getting the blood flowing.”
Must-wear teaching attire: “I wear sweatpants and a T-shirt or long-sleeve shirt—no particular brand. For footwear, I wear teaching sneakers from Capezio. They are very comfortable.”
Health-care strategy: “I try to take care of myself the same way I did while dancing at ABT. I don’t smoke, I drink very little, and I try to eat healthy. Occasionally I’ll go out for Chinese food. I learned what would make me feel sick before I rehearsed or performed, so I try to stick with [what doesn’t].”
His favorite nondance activities: “I try to find the time to socialize with friends and family. I travel a bit, and go to restaurants and good movies with my wife and friends. I watch a lot of sports. I like to take it easy because I had a chaotic life at ABT.”
Must-watch dance films: “I like Center Stage, The Company, and Nijinsky. And of course The Turning Point, which, in my opinion, is the best dance movie out there. It depicts the dance world in a realistic fashion and is just a good movie on its own. The movie was nominated for 10 Academy Awards.”
Items he never leaves home without: “I always make sure I have water everywhere I go. You should never be without water. You have to hydrate yourself.”