Site Network

The Show Must Go On: 4 Pros on How They Managed Their Most Embarrassing Onstage Moments

Nathalia Arja in George Balanchine's "Emeralds." Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Miami City Ballet.

Whether it's a wardrobe malfunction or a spectacular, opera-house–sized fail, onstage mistakes happen to everybody. See how these four professionals survived their worst mishaps—and what they took away from them.

Nathalia Arja 

Arja in Jerome Robbins' The Cage. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Miami City Ballet.

While still a corps member at Miami City Ballet, principal soloist Nathalia Arja learned that tried-and-true advice can sometimes lead you astray. During a Giselle performance, she was the second Wili in line during the Act II pas de deux. The dancer in front of her settled into B-plus on the wrong foot right before the pas began. "I knew she was wrong, but I was like, 'I have to follow the girl in front of me.' That's what being a good corps member is." At the very last second, the leader switched feet—leaving Arja as the only Wili in her line on the wrong leg. As a result, she was looking in towards the stage instead of out towards the wings.

It was too late to switch legs, which Arja thought the long, white tutu would help mask, but she knew that her head position was more noticeable. "I thought, I cannot allow this." As imperceptibly as possible, in utter slow motion, Arja began turning her chin to look towards the wings like everyone else.

"The girl behind me was giggling. She said, 'Nathalia, oh my gosh, stop, stop!' " Luckily, the spotlight was on Giselle. Other than the dancers in the wings and those behind her, no one seemed to notice the "drunk Wili" onstage, Arja jokes.

The Lesson: The corps is the most revealing place to make a mistake, and all you can do is try not to make it worse. "In Swan Lake, La Bayadère, all those lines when you stand there forever framing the principals," Arja says, "you have to look at the whole picture." Correct a mistake if you can, but it's best to blend in as much as possible and not draw too much attention to yourself.

Teaching Tips
@jayplayimagery, courtesy Kerollis

In the spring of 2012, Barry Kerollis was abruptly forced into treating his career as a small business. Having just moved cross-country to join BalletX, he got injured and was soon let go.

"I'd only ever danced with big companies before," the now-freelance dance-teacher-choreographer-podcaster recalls. "That desperation factor drove me to approach freelancing with a business model and a business plan."

As Kerollis acknowledges, getting the business of you off the ground ("you" as a freelance dance educator, that is) can be filled with unexpected challenges—even for the most seasoned of gigging dancers. But becoming your own CEO can make your work–life balance more sustainable, help you make more money, keep you organized, and get potential employers to offer you more respect and improved working conditions. Here's how to get smart now about branding, finances and other crucial ways to tell the dance world that you mean business.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers Trending
Courtesy Oleson

American dance educator Shannon Oleson was teaching recreational ballet and street-dance classes in London when the pandemic hit. As she watched many of her fellow U.S. friends pack up and return home from their international adventures, she made the difficult choice to stick with her students (as well as her own training—she was midway through her MFA at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance).

Despite shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders, she was able to maintain a teaching schedule that kept her working with her dancers through Zoom, as well as lead some private, in-home acro classes following government guidelines. But keeping rec students interested in the face of pandemic fatigue hasn't been easy.

Keep reading... Show less
Teaching Tips
Jill Randall

Whether you're in need of some wintertime inspiration or searching for new material for your classes, these six titles—ranging from personal stories, classroom materials, detailed essays and coursebooks—are worthy picks to add to your pedagogy bookshelf.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.