Welcome to Barre None, my new video blog exclusively on Huffington Post. I'm Sara Mearns and I hope to be your tour guide into the world of classical ballet. You might ask yourself, "Why a video blog that goes behind the scenes of a classical ballet dancer's daily life?" Because what you see on the stage does not begin to capture what ballet or our lives are all about. You see the performance, but what you don't see -- the rehearsals, the costume designs, the frazzled nerves, the learning of a new ballet, the constant travels around the world, the injuries and the oftentimes long, painful road to recovery that lead us to wonder if this is the injury that can end a career -- it's all a part of what we do and who we are.
I'm only one dancer, but I hope that by giving you a window into my life as a principal ballerina at New York City Ballet, a door will be opened to more interest, curiosity, and enthusiasm for this artform that I, and so many others, love and work so hard for. So come on in, pull up a seat, and join me every Friday. You'll have a great time. I promise. Barre None.
My Magical Moment
So I know I ended last week's episode on a low note, but I am back to work and up beat as ever. Not everything is beautiful at the ballet, but this week and the weeks to come will be. I promise!
I am currently rehearsing for our upcoming tours to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and Copenhagen, Denmark. I couldn't ask for more incredible ballets to be dancing: Swan Lake, Vienna Waltzes, Serenade, Symphony in C, and Wheeldon's Carillions. Four Balanchine classics and a new ballet! I wanted to share with you who I get to work with on a each day, the daily grind, I should say, during the rehearsal period.
First off, I speak with Albert Evans, who is a former New York City Ballet principal dancer and now ballet master. He was considered one of the best partners of all time, along with Jock Soto. I had the privilege of dancing with him once in Paris in a ballet called Barber Violin Concerto. He is one of the most kind, gentle, sweetest people I know, and I am so honored to call him one of my coaches. When he is in the room, you feel a sense of comfort and ease, like you are safe to do anything or be anything. He will never judge you for mistakes or faults you make, but will only help you to find the answer to your issues.
I find that in dance -- ballet, in particular -- we find all the faults in ourselves and only focus on those things. We are perfectionists and hold ourselves to very high standards and don't leave much room for mistakes. That's where the coach/teacher/mentor comes in. They are there to keep you grounded and level-headed about your dancing. They point out the problems but also see the good, and let you know when you are dancing beautifully.
Dancers can be very self-absorbed people by nature of what we do, so my advice to you is to find someone that you trust who cares about the bigger picture. Someone who sees beyond your flaws and carries you through to the next level.
Next, I speak to one of my dearest partners, Jared Angle. He not only makes dancing easy for me, he tells me when I need to turn out more, jump higher, or pointe my feet. Haha! Being a principal dancer, you create relationships with your partners. Sometimes, they become more intimate and trusting than someone you call your best friend. You spend many hours with this person, working endlessly on perfecting what a partnership truly means. I have been fortunate enough to dance with Jared for many years now in many different ballets. I think our most prized is Swan Lake, or at least that's what I hear from people. It's funny, when you feel that certain energies work well with yours -- and that goes for friendships, lovers, and family members -- well, it goes for partners too. And most of the time, it is unexplainable why it works. Even writing this now, it is hard for me to put into words how special he is to me as a partner and as a person.
I think that what impresses me most about my partners is how they deal with my craziness. I can go pretty wild on stage and do things that I have never done before, and they are somehow always there to catch me. I think I also put alot of pressure on myself to be good for my partner, to not make them work too hard for the simple things. I want to be strong enough so they don't have to worry. I want to be able to dance with my partner and if they are always worried about what I am constantly doing -- or not doing -- then they can't dance.
Some ballerinas have said before that I am a difficult person to partner with. But in my mind, the stronger I get as a dancer and the more fun I am having with them on stage, I am the easiest partner. All the hard work should be done in the studio. Once you hit the stage, it's all fun and other worldly, and yes that goes for even Swan Lake. Jared touches on a good point of not being too critical. It comes with time but for you young ones, you will see eventually and understand that all you can do is do your best. If you are doing your best at every moment, then you will see the rewards.
The last thing I will say is working with either your partner or your coach is a collaboration. It should never be one-sided, and it is not a win or lose situation. There will be moments when nothing is working no matter how hard you try, but you will learn and get something from it. I think of it as a very long journey with many beautiful eye-watering moments, but also many sad fustrating moments. Do not regret any of it. You will never reach perfection, but you will get close, and that is the moment you have to remember for the rest of your life. My moment is with Jared Angle in Swan Lake. What will yours be?
Check out last week's video blog here.
You can find Sara Mearns on twitter here: @nycbstar2b.