Even before I began my 14th season with Boston Ballet last fall, I knew I wanted it to be my
last. I had taken the summer layoff to analyze
my career, weighing my casting heartaches
with my performance successes. I noticed that
as I watched my colleagues dance, I felt more
inclined to spend time encouraging their artistic
success than fighting for my own. Plus, the timing would be cinematically perfect: The Sleeping
Beauty was the very first ballet I performed as a
child in 1991, and it will be the last full-length of
Boston Ballet’s season in May 2017.
I kept this decision a secret until my director called me in last September to inform me
that he also thought this would be a good time
to retire. I left his office unsure of whether I
had finally communicated my feelings or just
received notice that my career should end.
Still, more relieved than sad, I now had the
date of my final performance.
At age 34, I am what you may call a corps
de ballet lifer, a prima corps de ballerina.
Though I was never promoted, there has not
been one day where I did not learn something new about my craft. I read a quote from
Martha Graham that everyone loves to use in
depressing discussions of ballet retirements:
“A dancer, more than any other human being,
dies two deaths.” Though retiring is scary, I
know in my heart it is not a death.
Whenever the rumor mill spins about a
retirement, there is always a terrible awkwardness. So to make the most of my final season,
I chose to email the entire company. I felt like
being open would help everyone to stop “
fearing the death” so much.
The formal announcement of my retire-
ment only inspired me more. I began to
openly acknowledge my plan to someday
become an artistic director, and I set eagerly
to work preparing a resumé and looking for
available positions. I kept throwing my name
and contact information out there into the bal-
let world, desperately hoping for an offer.
I also continued building my arsenal of
artistic-leadership knowledge. It’s amazing
the sense of empowerment that comes from
knowing the end of the chapter is near: After
years of teaching optional open class to Boston Ballet dancers, I finally got up the nerve to
ask to teach our official company class. I was
granted three classes of my own in the fall.
After the first one, my peers applauded this
step towards the other side of the studio.
There are days when the end of this season
feels like an exciting unknown. Then there are
days when I am so nervous that I can barely
breathe. While I’m doing pliés, instead of
hearing the music, I hear a terrifying voice
inside me shout “You don’t have a plan for
next year!” My dilemma is better than most
ballet retirees. Having both graduated college
and obtained my master’s degree, I’m not so
nervous about finding “a job” as I am about
finding “the right job.” I have always been
passionate about my vocation. I’m spoiled by
it, and I really know no other way to live.
Throughout all this, performing has been
my therapy. It is one of the only times my
mind is free. I will relish every performance
this year while preparing myself as much as
possible for my next stage.
My advice to all professionals is to dance
every year of your career as though it were
your last. Because inevitably, when it actually
is your last year, your enjoyment becomes all
the more important and yet so much harder to
focus on. n
AHEAD OF THE GAME
Long before Sarah Wroth decided to retire, she
was building a skill set that would make her career
• Received a BS in education and ballet from
• Taught at the Boston Ballet School, the Boston
Ballet Adaptive Dance Program and the
Boston Ballet Summer Dance Program
• Wrote and delivered speeches for Boston
Ballet’s development office
• Helped create Boston Ballet’s partnership with
• Earned a master’s in nonprofit management
from Northeastern University
• Journaled thoughts on coaching, teaching and
artistic directing for the past 12 years
My Final Season
A Boston Ballet corps dancer on making
the most of her last performing days—while
preparing for the future. BY SARAH WROTH
Wroth in The Sleeping Beauty