A ballerina is many things. She’s a musician,
athlete, actor, conjurer, muse and scientist—
experimenting and discovering how a slight change of
timing, placement or emotional in;ection can alter
the outcome of a step. Because of the complexity of
our work, I ;nd it endlessly ful;lling.
I think the ;rst thing that connected me to
dance was music. My dad was a drummer in a
country-and-bluegrass band. I’d crawl around on
the ;oor of a bar while he packed up his drum set,
and listen while he spent hours practicing at home.
When I was 3, my mom signed me up for some ballet classes at the local rec center in our hometown
of Sun Valley, Idaho. No one in my family knew
anything about ballet, and it never crossed anyone’s
mind that I might someday become a ballerina.
But early on, I discovered the incomparable excitement of performing. Playing a frog in my ballet
recital, I tried in vain to repress my enormous grin
and hide my enthusiasm as I hopped around the
stage. I was hooked.
Classes once a week turned into classes every
day. Ballet became my refuge from a sometimes dif;cult home life. I looked forward to the hours in the
studio, where I could focus on only the music and
my body, and try to master the endlessly challenging
steps. In the studio, nothing else mattered. Class was
my meditation. When I went away to study at the
Harid Conservatory, I immediately knew that I had
found my niche. One of the greatest gifts dance has
given me is friendship and community.
The late Freddie Franklin, who I was lucky
enough to meet at ABT, said, “It’s a privilege to
be a dancer,” and I couldn’t agree more. Many
adventures awaited me when I moved to New
York to join ABT. Through ups and downs, I’ve
taken on roles that I barely dared to dream of. I’ve
performed all over the world—Cuba, Oman, Japan,
Russia. Watching my colleagues, I’ve learned how
moving a great performance can be. I hope my
dancing has the ability to move others.
As I grow as a dancer, my personality comes
into focus, and as I gain life experience, my dancing
changes and evolves. For me, dance and life are so
inextricably intertwined that it becomes dif;cult
to answer this question in a straightforward way.
Why do I dance? I dance because it’s such a big
part of me that I have no other choice. But the real
answer to this question is an obvious one: I dance
because I love it. ■
Principal dancer with
American Ballet Theatre
72 APRIL 2016
“As I gain life experience,
changes and evolves.”