Day in the Life is a new series on YBC® where we share a glimpse into a typical day. My post was a few weeks ago, and today I'm excited to share a post from YBCer Isabel, who is a ballerina. Hope you enjoy! xoCandace
Ballet companies are all unique businesses. Behind the beauty of onstage performances there is a mass of students, trainees, company dancers, costume designers, marketing directors, artistic directors, ballet masters, and more who all help bring ballet to life- both onstage and in the studio. I have the pleasure of being a member of the Professional Training Division of Nashville Ballet. This means that I am no longer a student in the Academy, but not yet a member of the company. My schedule changes each day, which adds to the excitement and wonder of getting to do what I love every day!
Homemade smoothie bowl with blueberries, banana, steamed vegetables, chia seeds, coconut, and cocoa powder. Smoothie bowls are increasingly popular now, but I like to make my own version to suit my personal nutrition needs.
It is a common misconception that dancers do not eat. I believe that if you want to be your healthiest, happiest, and most whole self, food is an important part of the equation. I have a lot of food allergies and sensitivities, which can sometimes make it hard to get adequate nutrition. I am still learning what is best for me, and firmly believe that every person’s body is different, and therefore everyone’s needs are different. For me, having a big breakfast helps my body have the energy to get through the day! I will be at the studio for around nine and a half hours today, so I need to make sure I have enough fuel. I like to take breakfast time in the morning to plan out my day and prepare my mind for what I have ahead… kind of like a mini meditation.
Squeezing in some time for homework. Today I am writing a response essay for my Literature class.
Because of my odd schedule, I have been homeschooled since fourth grade. I love being homeschooled because it allows me more time to focus on dance. But that doesn’t mean that I get to slack off in school! Although I am technically a junior in high school, I started taking college classes last year. Because ballet careers have a different trajectory than the traditional career path, earning college credit hours while I am in high school helps me get a head start, just in case I do not go straight into college after high school. This year I am taking online classes with Middle Tennessee State University for dual credit.
9:00 A.M. I love that my schedule allows me to be home in the mornings, because I get to spend a lot of time with my parents and three-year-old twin siblings. Getting to help my mom take care of the twins is one the best parts of my day. Today, they have a Mommy and Me gymnastics class… so I get to go along, help, and watch them learn! It fascinates me to watch their brains work to figure out a specific action, or see how their bodies react to different movements.
Studio E at the Nashville Ballet Facility
Today I have an hour and a half private coaching session with the School Artistic Associate. I like to get to the studio a half hour early to stretch, warm up my muscles, and make sure I am ready to start on time. I love doing some yoga before class to connect with my body and activate my muscles. After I am warm, I put on my tutu and pointe shoes and jump into rehearsal. Today I am learning the Dulcinea variation from the ballet “Don Quixote”. I love having this one on one time with my teacher because not only do I get individualized feedback, but I also get to explore my artistry and technique in a more personal way than I do in everyday classes.
Staying warm and stretching before technique class. I usually like to watch any rehearsals that are going on inside the building, but when I can’t, ballet videos on Youtube are a great alternative.
After my lesson, I have an hour break before my first technique class of the day starts. Because I just finished dancing, I don’t have to worry about warming up again. I like to use this time to stretch and catch up with my fellow classmates. Once two o’clock hits, my technique class starts. Dancers take a technique class every day to prepare their bodies for upcoming rehearsals and refine their technique. Class also presents an excellent opportunity to work on any personal problems, whether it is a technical problem, like improper alignment or falling out of turns, or a physical problem, like muscle soreness or an injury.
*Unfortunately, I could not take any pictures of Nutcracker rehearsal, because all company members are under contract. However, Nutcracker is a very exciting time because everyone, from the students and staff to the company members, comes together to create a magical Christmas tradition.
After technique class, it is time to start rehearsals. Although our Nutcracker performances do not start until December, rehearsals for the production start as early as October. Today’s rehearsal is a full run through of the ballet. My part, Parthenon Court, only appears in the second act. I’ve been a part of Nashville’s Nutcracker for six years, and each year is even more exciting than the previous year. It is so inspiring to be able to watch our company dancers perform, and having the opportunity to dance alongside them is an honor. Performing is my favorite part of being a dancer, but being in the rehearsals and getting to be a part of what goes on behind the scenes is really special.
Getting ready to watch a film in contemporary class.
After rehearsal ends, I get to take a modern class. I don’t have contemporary class every day, but it is really exciting when I do. It is interesting to explore a style of movement that is so different from ballet. Today, my classmates and I are watching a performance video by the David Parsons Dance Company. Once the video is over, we discuss our thoughts about the piece as a class. These video and discussion classes are just as important as the classes when we dance. They can be very inspiring, but it is also a great opportunity to develop our own viewpoints and be exposed to other ways of thinking.
Sewing pointe shoes
Once contemporary is over, we have an hour break. I use this time for different things every day, but today I need to sew some pointe shoes. After so many hours of use, the glue in pointe shoes begins to break down and go soft. Once a pair of shoes reaches a certain level of softness, they are unwearable (dancers often say their shoes are ‘dead’). A pair of pointe shoes’ ‘life’ is determined by several factors, and even things like the humidity have a huge impact on the shoes. After all of the pointe work I have done today, I need to sew a new pair to use tomorrow.
Practicing a variation in the main studio of Nashville Ballet, Studio A
Today’s final class is used to learn the Sugar Plum Fairy variation from the Nutcracker. This variations class is a bit more relaxed than our other classes today, but it still requires a lot of hard work (and smiles). At 8:30, classes are over for the day and it is time to head home. Once I am home I make dinner, and while I eat I like to soak my feet in ice water to help relieve any swelling or pain that my pointe shoes caused. I also take this time to mentally review how the day went, and journal about my triumphs and the things that did not go the way I wanted. Finally, around 10:30, I am done for the day and happy to climb into bed. Although each day is so different, I hope you enjoyed seeing a peek into the life of a dancer.
Isabel is a junior in high school and lives with her family in Nashville, Tennessee. She is a member of the Professional Training Division of Nashville Ballet, and loves dancing, reading, crafting, and doing yoga. You can find her on Instagram here.