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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.

​Melissa Gelfin

Gelfin and Cervilio Miguel Amador in The Nutcracker. Photo by Peter Mueller, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet.

In her first year in Cincinnati Ballet's corps, senior soloist Melissa Gelfin was cast in the title role in ALICE (in wonderland). On the day of her second show, her usual Cheshire Cat partner became injured, and she and her new partner had a 10-minute rehearsal to master their pas de deux's complicated lifts. Surprisingly, those went fairly smoothly during the show, but in one of the last and simplest partnering moves—a sauté where the Cheshire Cat catches her in an arabesque and carries her upstage—Gelfin's foot slipped and flew out in front of her. Her partner caught her under the shoulders, but the lift became an awkward drag across the entire length of the stage.

Remembering that it was a lighthearted pas de deux, Gelfin put her hands on her hips in playful anger at the Cheshire Cat. Afterwards, however, she felt mortified. "I remember thinking, That's it. I'm going to get fired." As it turned out, her director thought the impromptu acting was the right call.

The Lesson: Remembering the story and character behind the steps proved that Gelfin could be a quick thinker—a reliable quality in a dancer. And no matter how bad you feel after a slip, Gelfin says, remember "we're humans first, and people make mistakes. Learning from them makes you not only a stronger dancer but a stronger person."

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