06 Aug Insight from a Professional Ballet Dancer!!!
In this blog post, I have a special treat! Ms. Kirsten Evans (@settingthebarre and settingthebarreblog.com), who is a professional ballet dancer with Festival Ballet Providence, agreed to answer a few questions of mine! She is an amazing artist and you all need to subscribe to her blog! As a student, reaching out to company members sounds daunting or intimidating, but Kirsten was gracious enough to give us all some insight on what it’s like to have the dream job! I hope you enjoy these Q&As as much as I did!
1. How did you get into ballet?
When I was young, my older sister took dance classes at the local studio. Being the energetic thing that I was, I couldn’t help but sneak my way into the back of her classes, moving and shaking in the waiting room. As soon as I turned two, my mother signed me up for my own classes.
A short while later, I tagged along to a performance of Festival Ballet’s The Nutcracker and was absolutely hooked. I danced my first Nutcracker as an Angel 18 years ago and have never looked back.
2. Did your career goals as a dancer change over time, or have you always aspired toward one thing?
I have always loved performing. For me, being on stage in front of an audience as frequently as possible remains the ultimate goal. More recently, though, as I take on works by choreographers like Christopher Wheeldon, I find myself craving exposure to these ballets that are being performed by major companies all over the world. Of course, I have also enjoyed growing my Balanchine resume over the years- his ballets are always a welcomed challenge!
3. Did you go to college? Why or why not?
Yes and no. I desperately wanted to further my education after high school, but given the opportunity to dance professionally at 18, knew that I had to pursue this career, I couldn’t say no. So I did both: I applied to schools, enrolled in the nearby Providence College, and have been completing my Liberal Arts/Journalism degree part-time while dancing full time.
4. When were you first hired into a company?
I was given my first contract with Festival Ballet Providence at 18 years old, upon graduation from high school.
5. What was the hardest thing for you to learn as a dancer?
Coping with a stress fracture in my spine was extremely difficult. I had just been promoted from the Apprentice rank to full Company Dancer and wanted to be on stage more than anything. Knowing when to listen to my body and seek professional help has been a huge learning experience, but one that I feel now serves me greatly. Injuries are a fact of a life for a dancer, and learning how to stay positive and rest when healing is a tough- but necessary- lesson.
6. What keeps you motivated during rough times in dance?
This relates back to being injured. Remembering the time when I was not able to dance at all (during my healing process) keeps me grateful for the physical ability my body has now. It can be hard to keep things in perspective when, as dancers, we get so caught up in the daily struggles. Participating in non-ballet-related activities and spending time with family and friends outside the studio brings me back down to earth.
7. What’s something you wish you knew as a student before going into a company?
I wish I knew how valuable that time with my teachers would be! As a professional, you do not get the same personalized guidance every day in technique class. Being self-motivated is crucial to the improvement of a professional dancer, and sometimes I long for the days of being given an almost overwhelming number of corrections during class.
8. What’s your pre-performance routine?
I like to be alone for a few hours before a performance. I am introverted, so being on my own recharges my batteries and refocuses my energy. Then I love to eat some good fuel that is easy on the stomach (think oatmeal with banana, or toast with avocado) before heading to the theater for warm-up class. I love doing my own hair and stage makeup- the routine of primer, foundation, eyes, blush, lips, hairspray, hairpins…it’s very therapeutic. If I am doing a dramatic role, I like to get into character at least 15 minutes before curtain, walking around the stage to feel the space and put myself into the character mentally.
9. What’s the one thing you always need in your dance bag?
My Apolla Shocks! I take barre in them every day. They have totally saved my feet, which used to suffer from all kinds of ailments from tendonitis to sesamoiditis.
10. Why did you start a ballet blog?
I have always loved writing, it keeps me grounded. I also have an affinity for documentation, and a blog seemed like the perfect way to keep things neatly filed and organized (definitely Type A personality!) so that I could return later and go on a little trip down memory lane. I’m a very nostalgic person.
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Facebook: Reagan Kilpatrick (@journeytoballet)