Interview with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Dancer Michaela King!

Michaela King(1)This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michaela King, corps de ballet member with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre! At just nineteen years old, Michaela joined the company in 2014 and performed in Swan Lake, Don Quixote, La Bayadere, and George Balanchine’s Serenade. Michaela is thrilled to begin her second year with PBT next month, and she looks forward to the upcoming performances!

Adult Ballerina Project: Tell me about your dance history!  What made you want to become a professional ballerina?

Michaela King: I was five years old when I first started dancing. My mom enrolled me in classes because she thought it would be a fun creative outlet. She never thought in a million years I would fall in love with it! I took ballet, tap, jazz, and I participated in commercial dance competitions. When I was ten years old, I switched to a studio where the main focus was ballet. I realized that if I wanted to continue to dance and make a career, this is what I needed to do. That’s when I began to discover my real passion not only for dance, but specifically ballet.

A year later, I went on pointe and began to train intensely six days a week. Every summer, I went away from home to train at ballet schools around the country. After graduating from high school, I moved to be a student in the Graduate Program at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. I received my first company contract with PBT at the end of my two years of training there! It was a dream come true. This is what I had been working for my whole life. It is exciting to say that I get to do what I love every day.

ABP: What are your most memorable experiences throughout your career?

Michaela: Last season, I got to be the first shade out on the ramp for La Bayadere. That ballet is so special to me because it’s the first professional ballet I saw. I was 11 years old when I got to watch American Ballet Theatre perform it. It’s crazy to think that years later I got to be one of those girls going down the ramp doing 38 arabesques!

By far, my most memorable moment was being called into PBT director Terrence S. Orr’s office at the end of my second year as a student with the school. He sat me down, we chatted, and he offered me a contract! I couldn’t believe it, it’s a moment I will always remember and treasure.

ABP: Have you experienced any challenges during your dance career?

Michaela: Last year, I sustained multiple injuries to the bones in my feet and I was out for six months and in recovery for another three months. It was by far the hardest and most trying time I’ve had to go through as a dancer, but it made me a stronger person and I learned so much about myself.  I feel like I am more aware of my body and how to take care of it, and more mature as a person. When life throws me curve balls at me I have the confidence now that I can get through anything because it’s just temporary!

ABP: What is your focus for the upcoming season?

Michaela: Ultimately I want to have a long career and be the best possible dancer I can be. It will be my second year in the company so right now my goal is to make the most of every role and opportunity I’m given and put 100 percent into it. I want to prove myself and show my versatility as a dancer. I’m hoping to get cast in some roles out of my comfort zone so that I can push myself and grow in new ways. Ideally, it would be a dream to dance a lead pas de deux on stage.

ABP: What advice would you give to ballet students?

Michaela:

“You may be the ripest, juiciest peach, but there will always be someone who hates peaches.” Stay true to yourself and do not worry or compare yourself to other people. I think that’s what helped me to develop into my own as a dancer technically and artistically. Every dancer is unique in their own way and has their own path. Embrace it!

Image via Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

My Favorite (Ballet) Things with Johanna of Pointe Til You Drop

If you’re in the adult ballet community online, you’ve no doubt heard of the blog Pointe Til You Drop written by Johanna Aurava of Finland. We’re delighted she was able to talk to ABP about some of her favorite ballet things…

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6 Favorite Ballet Dancers?

Sylvie Guillem, Darcey Bussell, Elisabeth Platel, Sofiane Sylve, Isabelle Ciaravola, Mathilde Froustey, Sara Mearns, Tiler Peck, Evgenia Obraztsova, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Friedemann Vogel, Manuel Legris… Sorry, it’s impossible to narrow down to six! There are so many amazing dancers around the world, each with their own unique qualities. And I have seen only a fraction, live even less. I also want to give a shout-out to my fave dancers at The Finnish National Ballet: Michal Krčmář, Eun-Ji Ha, Tiina Myllymäki.

5 Favorite Ballet Steps?

Any steps that glide, bounce, soar, rebound, balance and suspend. Also pirouettes, even on a bad turn day.

4 Favorite Ballet DVDs ?

The first Paris Opéra Ballet School documentary which was made in the early 90s had a huge impact on me. I had all 4 episodes recorded on video, and watched it over and over. It’s been fascinating to follow some of the young students (Aurélie Dupont, Nicolas Le Riche) rising to the rank of étoile, and then retiring. Makes me feel a bit old though 😉 . Other favorite DVDs include: “Etoiles – Dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet” (2001), “La Danse” (2009), “Dancer’s Dream: The Great Ballets of Rudolf Nureyev: Sleeping Beauty” (with Elisabeth Platel narrating and dancing the role of Aurora).

3 Favorite Memes You’ve Created for Pointe Til You Drop?

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2 Favorite Personal Dance Strengths?

Picking up corrections, as I’m always eager to learn and to improve. I’ve been told that I have a natural jump, and I do like to bounce…

#1 Dream Ballet Role?

I would love to learn choreography from Balanchine, or anything from Kylian, Wheeldon, Elo, Ratmansky. Neo-classical or contemporary ballet. Some parts that would not be entirely impossible to dance, even if it’s just a short sequence of steps or port de bras. But if we’re talking dreams, I’d pick Tatiana (Onegin). Now, there’s a strong character to portray!

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Beginner Ballerina Profile: Galene

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This week’s profile is of Galene, who started ballet almost three years ago because she wanted to try new things and she was impressed with the athleticism and elegance of a ballerina.

When did you start doing ballet as an adult?

I started almost three years ago. I was a freshman in college and wanted to try new things.

Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

I took a community ballet class when I was around 5, but that only lasted a few months. I did gymnastics from ages 3 – 8, and I think that “prepared” for future Galene’s ballet experience.

Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

I was always so impressed with the athleticism and elegance of a ballerina, and I wanted to achieve that too.

Where do you take classes?

Joy of Motion Dance Center and Maryland Youth Ballet

What is your favorite part about ballet?

I like the barre. It’s my time to relax while still exercising my body.

What is your least favorite part?

Ballerina “fashion” … the adorable leotards, legwarmers, skirts… there is a lot of pressure to look good.

Who/What is your ballet inspiration?

I watch a lot of ballet videos on youtube. I like the Royal Ballet. I get to peek into professional dancers’ lives and live through them. It encourages me to try harder in class.

What motivates you to keep dancing?

I like overcoming challenges and pushing myself to new limits. The accomplishment keeps me sane.

Do you take any other dance classes?

I took one jazz class. I really struggled.

What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

I like to play piano.

What advice would you like to give to those who want to start ballet or have just started?

Don’t give up! I really had a hard time adjusting at first. There is no easy way into ballet. When I thought something was easy, I was doing it wrong!

Beginner Ballerina Profile: Joy Wrona

A couple of weeks ago, Joy wrote an amazing blog post here on Adult Ballerina Project that was one of our most well-received posts ever, Plus-Sized Ballet. If you want to learn more about Joy, check out our interview with her below:

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When did you start doing ballet as an adult?

Joy: Two years ago, I lamented to my best friend’s mom (who has been a dance teacher her whole life) that I could not find an adult ballet basics class.  She offered to teach one at her studio if I could recruit more students.  It was usually just me though so after a few months, I thanked her and went on the hunt again.  Didn’t seem right to be taking up that studio time every week.  Last year, I finally found my ballet home and am now taking two classes a week.

Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

Joy:  I remember taking a lesson as a wee tot in a school gym.  Then my middle school gave us weekly ballet classes but we spent more time changing into tights and leotards than actually at the barre.  I also took Irish dance for seven years of my childhood.

Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

Joy:  I began losing weight and felt very clumsy and uncoordinated.  I thought ballet would help me find my grace.  But in truth, it has taught that and so very much more.

Where do you take classes?

Joy:  Festival School of Ballet in Buffalo, NY.

What is your favorite part about ballet?

Joy:  The grace – which leads to my second favourite part, strength.  You don’t realize just how STRONG ballet dancers are until you actual start attempting it yourself.  It looks so effortless (and really, isn’t that the point?)

What is your least favorite part?

Joy:  Slow improvement.  This is probably just me but I struggle with basics like a good second position tendu turnout.  Seems like no matter how hard I try, I never seem to get it!  But I keep trying all the same.

Who/What is your ballet inspiration?

Joy:  My ballet inspiration is my best friend’s mom.  She has been dancing and teaching for what seems like forever.  She’s so healthy and vibrant and she is in her 70s!  I want to be like that when I grow up.

What motivates you to keep dancing?

Joy:  My desire to keep fit, mobile and healthy just like my parents.

Do you take any other dance classes?

Joy:  I’ve taken hip hop and zumba but after knee surgery last year, those went by the wayside.  Though I do miss them and want to try them again.  I am also an avid swing dancer with my fiancée.  And it all started with Irish dancing when I was 6.

What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

Joy: Bike riding is a relatively new obsession.  If I can bike there, I’ll do that before I get in my car.  Better for me and the planet!  I’m also very blessed to be an actor with a day job.  I do anywhere from 2-3 shows a year.  I do better with straight plays but I enjoy the occasional musical too.  My dance abilities do me well at auditions.  I always say, I’m actor who can carry a tune and count to 8.

What advice would you like to give to those who want to start ballet or have just started?

Joy:  If you want to do it, don’t give up!  Keep looking until you find that perfect dance studio.  Don’t think after the first class you can’t do it.  You CAN.  It doesn’t come easy, it takes work but that is the point.  But you can do it if you are willing to put the effort in.  I started dancing with FSB in February 2012 and then found I needed knee surgery in May 2012.  I thought for sure I wouldn’t be able to go back.  But I took class Thursday night, had surgery Friday morning and was back at the barre the following Thursday.  Nothing got in my way once I knew just how much I loved ballet.  Don’t let anyone or anything get in the way of doing something you love.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Joy:  Speaking of not letting anyone get in your way – don’t listen to the haters.  Random people on the street feel the need when they see my ballet school tshirt or hoodie, to comment on how I couldn’t be a ballet dancer.  I’m too heavy, I’m too old, whatever.  I’ve had it said to me at the grocery store, in traffic while I’m on my bike, heck even people I know have suggested I might be out of my league with ballet.  DO NOT LISTEN.  Listen to yourself.  I have felt for my entire life that I had a dancer in me.  It took me until I was in my late 30s to truly answer the call and feel good enough to call myself A DANCER.  I’ll be dancing till I die now, no matter what anyone says.

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