TESS VIGELAND: This is Marketplace Money from American Public Media. I’m Tess Vigeland.
This week, the New York City Ballet gave Shakespeare a lift, literally. It launched a high-flying world premiere of everyone’s favorite tale of doomed teens in love. I’m sure you remember it. Justin and Britney, no, no, no, I mean Romeo and Juliet – 19-year-old Robin Fairchild plays Romeo. And Juliet, well, we’ll let her speak for herself. On this week’s a Day in the Work Life, we sit in on rehearsals with a ballerina.
MALE BALLET INSTRUCTOR:
Try not to bring this leg down. Try to bring it up on your knee and bring it to the left, not down. Ready?
My name is Sterling Hyltin. I’m 21 years old and I’ve been dancing with the New York City Ballet almost five years now. I actually am a rare case. I didn’t know I wanted to be in New York City Ballet or even dance professionally until I had already moved up to New York. I just thought I would take ballet classes to get into a decent college. But I always gave my 100%, and then just sort of took the next step. It’s like everything just presented itself to me and I just kept going to the next place. And everything has worked out so seamlessly, but I’m so happy even though it wasn’t necessarily a childhood dream.
You know, when you’re a student, you rehearse for one show, maybe, or two shows out of the whole year. And you’ll rehearse maybe four months for it. Once you reach New York City Ballet, you’re lucky if you get four rehearsals for it. And New York City Ballet puts ballets together quicker than probably any company in the world, I would say. And I think that was probably the biggest challenge, is learning the choreography so quickly. And it’s really interesting because I can tell my mind has gone much faster since I first joined the company. My day is very physical. There’s always a warm-up class to get ready for your day.
Then I, typically, right now for Romeo and Juliet, we rehearse it three hours a day. After the high of a show, a lot of times, I can’t go to bed until at least 12:30. The typical salary of a dancer in New York City ranges anywhere from, maybe, $65 or $68,000 to $100,000, depending on your rank. First you’re an apprentice, which is a trial period. And then when you first officially join the company, your, your title is corps de ballet. The rank following that is soloist, and then, the highest rank, principal. I’m a soloist. When somebody gets injured, that’s a thing that happens very often, it is a fear that everybody has, and you really never know with this job.
You can be here one minute and gone the next. There’s always multiple people learning a role. So if somebody gets hurt, then the next person’s sort of up to bat. My advice for anybody who wants to be a professional dancer, always give your 100%, especially when you’re the most tired because that’s when you better yourself one degree more. Very often, you have to go onstage or you have to dance when you don’t feel that great. And you can’t let the audience know that and you have to condition yourself to do that. The show must go on.
A Day in the Work Life was reported by Bess Kargman.
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