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Suzanne Farrell works with Sara Mearns during a rehearsal of George Balanchine's "Diamonds." Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy NYCB.

In a large practice studio inside Lincoln Center's Koch Theater, Suzanne Farrell watches quietly as New York City Ballet principals Sara Mearns and Russell Janzen work through a series of supported poses. As Janzen kneels to face her, Mearns brushes through to croisé arabesque, extending her leg high behind her. "I wouldn't penché there," says Farrell, gently. "You can, but I wouldn't."

"I get so excited here," says Mearns with a laugh. The three are slowly working through the pas de deux of "Diamonds," the ballet George Balanchine created on Farrell and Jacques D'Amboise in 1967 that makes up the third act of his full-length Jewels.

"I know," Farrell says. "But it's more exciting if the arabesque turn afterwards is sustained."

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Suzanne Farrell rehearses Sara Mearns in George Balanchine's "Diamonds." Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy NYCB.

In a large practice studio inside Lincoln Center's Koch Theater, Suzanne Farrell watches quietly as New York City Ballet principals Sara Mearns and Russell Janzen work through a series of supported poses. As Janzen kneels to face her, Mearns brushes through to croisé arabesque, extending her leg high behind her. "I wouldn't penché there," says Farrell, gently. "You can, but I wouldn't."

"I get so excited here," says Mearns with a laugh. The three are slowly working through the pas de deux of "Diamonds," the ballet George Balanchine created on Farrell and Jacques D'Amboise in 1967 that makes up the third act of his full-length Jewels.

"I know," Farrell says. "But it's more exciting if the arabesque turn afterwards is sustained."

Keep reading... Show less
Just for fun
Gillian Murphy spent some time in Canada this summer. Image via Instagram @gillianemurphy

We'll admit it: As excited as we are for fall performance season to start, we are in deep, deep denial that the end of summer is in sight. And we're also experiencing some serious FOMO looking at the vacation photos flooding our Instagram feeds from some of our favorite dancers and choreographers. So where in the world do they go to unwind before gifting us with yet another season of incredible dance?

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Sara Mearns is one of my favorite faces of New York City Ballet. She has this sassy, eye-rolling way about her, and for some reason I like that she has a deeper voice than I expect from a ballerina. She just seems like a cool, down-to-earth woman: strong body, strong convictions, beautiful dancer.

In episode 4, she speaks about a back injury that sidelined her for eight months in 2012. She says the experience helped her grow. “Injuries change everything about you, mentally and physically. I became an adult, I guess. It gave me a new life. I actually, in a way, feel stronger now and more confident in my dancing. And I feel freer.”

Bergasse (left) rehearsing Mearns for the Fire Island Dance Festival

But the real fun of this episode is hearing about Mearns’ new relationship. She is head over heels for Broadway choreographer Joshua Bergasse, whose revival of On the Town is currently making headlines. And we get to see her flipping literally head over heels in a clip of the jazzy dance theater piece Bergasse choreographed on her for the Fire Island Dance Festival last summer. Mearns thrives on the challenge to perform a new style of dance during the off-season, she says, and she only felt self-conscious once about rehearsing with her boyfriend.

Bergasse and Mearns at home

Their connection seems to hinge on the fact that Bergasse understands her hectic schedule and, in fact, has one of his own. “He’s in the dance world, but he’s not in my dance world,” she says. At the same time, she mentions the difficulty of dating someone outside the company, especially once the performance season starts. “We’ll be in the same city, but we won’t see each other,” says Bergasse. Still, Mearns speaks candidly about wanting to plan their future together and start a family one day. “I’ve never been so happy in my life,” she says. Seems like a match made in heaven.

Click here to watch full episodes of “city.ballet.”

I think I speak for most former dancers when I say it’s easy to feel jealous of professional ballerinas. The lives they lead! What if that was me? What if I’d auditioned for companies instead of going to college? Would I be Ashley Bouder now? Setting aside the fact that the odds of joining New York City Ballet are slim no matter how hard you train, it’s also easy to forget what abnormal and often difficult childhoods (and adulthoods) professional dancers endure. Episode 7 of "city.ballet." focuses on the sacrifices that come with the career.

One of my close friends told me she never made it to any high school dances because she always had rehearsal Friday nights. The corps members interviewed for this episode sound like they had similar teenage years: no football games, no other extracurriculars, nothing but “Eat, sleep, dance, repeat,” Giovanni Villalobos says. Principal Sara Mearns seems even a bit disgusted with her adolescent self. “All I would do was rehearse and perform and just think about dance, dance, dance, rehearsal, rehearsal, pointe shoes, hair, makeup,” she says. “I can’t even believe I did that to myself.”

And it doesn’t get much easier as an adult. While many dancers manage to find time to woo and wed (usually other dancers), Jenifer Ringer feels like an outlier in her decision to have children during her career. Many dancers wait until they’re done performing or forego having kids altogether, she says. Since the episode was filmed, Ringer has actually announced her retirement. I’ll be interested to hear more about her decision and her plans for life after the stage.

As a lover—nay, worshipper—of the art, I often forget how out-there ballet’s requirements are compared to almost any other career, except maybe playing a professional sport. I guess it comes down to how much you love it. That notion gets tossed around a lot, but this episode made me consider what it really means: If you don’t love ballet enough to give up almost all nondance-related activities and relationships, it’s not the career for you. So, it isn’t just that we mortals don’t have the talent or body type. Most of us also want lives that are just a bit more traditional, with glorious weekends off and optional gym workouts. And maybe the occasional dance class, when we’re feeling bold.

For more "city.ballet.", visit dancemagazine.com/cityballetAOL.

American Ballet Theatre loves having Alexei Ratmansky on their team, and they want to shout it from the rooftops. Last weekend, “NYC-ARTS” on New York’s PBS station THIRTEEN showcased the company’s artist in residence as part of a preview of the spring season. In the opening sequence, Kevin McKenzie describes hiring the Russian-born choreographer (and 2011 Dance Magazine Award winner) as his single greatest accomplishment during his 20 years as artistic director. Wow.

The episode highlights Ratmansky’s work with the company, from his brand new, hugely popular version of The Nutcracker to the restaging of 19th century classics like The Firebird. Also appearing in the segment, to describe Ratmansky’s staging process, are cross-continental star David Hallberg, Julie Kent and NYCB darling Sara Mearns. Ratmansky, who describes working with ABT as a “paradise for a choreographer,” doesn’t sound like he plans to relocate any time soon, and I think everyone is pleased to hear that news.

ABT kicks off its spring season tonight with a gala at Lincoln Center.

NYC-ARTS Profile: Alexei Ratmansky, American Ballet Theatre

Watch Profile: Alexei Ratmansky, American Ballet Theatre on PBS. See more from NYC-ARTS.

New York City Ballet's Sara Mearns marked her injury recovery and recent return to the stage by unveiling a new blog, Barre None, on Huffington Post. In her weekly entries and videos, Mearns offers visitors a behind-the-scenes peek at the ins and outs of her daily life as a ballerina. That means getting the lowdown on rehearsals, costume fittings, travel, injuries and more. "I'm only one dancer, but I hope that by giving you a window into my life...a door will be opened to more interest, curiosity, and enthusiasm for this art form," she says.

Perhaps this project will correct a few of the industry's "Black Swan" stereotypes and foster a more inquisitive and informed audience. Read Mearns' last entry and watch the accompanying video (on New York City Fashion Week!) here:

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