City.ballet." Recap: Episode 10, “Swan Lake

Sara Mearns getting into character--and headdress.

I was surprised to discover the dual role of Odette/Odile in New York City Ballet’s version of Swan Lake is so demanding that it must be shared by three ballerinas over six performances. As Teresa Reichlen succinctly puts it, a normal ballet lasts only 20 minutes, and the main ballerina isn’t even onstage for the entire time. In Swan Lake, however, the ballerina is onstage for nearly an hour total, over the course of a two-and-a-half hour ballet.

In this episode, Sara Mearns, Ashley Bouder and Reichlen are all preparing to dance the ballet—in drastically different ways. Bouder, for example, is all about her diet: She swears off soda, alcohol and anything that will dehydrate her for the two weeks leading up to the performance, and she takes potassium twice a day. Reichlen, on the other hand, just tries to dance as much as she possibly can in order to build up endurance. (Reichlen also cops to treating herself well in the way of dinner after a performance of Swan Lake, tallying up one meal’s list that includes two separate dinners, half a bottle of wine and a margarita. Basically, she’s awesome.)

As you might have expected, there’s no Black Swan rivalries or eating disorders on the minds of these dancers. Like true professionals, they’re focused instead on giving their best performances of a ballet that drains them physically and mentally.

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Alwin Courcy, courtesy Ballet des Amériques

Carole Alexis has been enduring the life-altering after-effects of COVID-19 since April 2020. For months on end, the Ballet des Amériques director struggled with fevers, tingling, dizziness and fatigue. Strange bruising showed up on her skin, along with the return of her (long dormant) asthma, plus word loss and stuttering.

"For three days I would experience relief from the fever—then, boom—it would come back worse than before," Alexis says. "I would go into a room and not know why I was there." Despite the remission of some symptoms, the fatigue and other debilitating side effects have endured to this day. Alexis is part of a tens-of-thousands-member club nobody wants to be part of—she is a COVID-19 long-hauler.

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Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

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Courtesy Tonawanda Dance Arts

If you're considering starting a summer program this year, you're likely not alone. Summer camp and class options are a tried-and-true method for paying your overhead costs past June—and, done well, could be a vehicle for making up for lost 2020 profits.

Plus, they might take on extra appeal for your studio families this year. Those struggling financially due to the pandemic will be in search of an affordable local programming option rather than an expensive, out-of-town intensive. And with summer travel still likely in question this spring as July and August plans are being made, your studio's local summer training option remains a safe bet.

The keys to profitable summer programming? Figuring out what type of structure will appeal most to your studio clientele, keeping start-up costs low—and, ideally, converting new summer students into new year-round students.

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