Dance talent always on pointe
February 6, 2023
Grace and perfection. Turn out and plies. But above all, technicality. All things that senior Alysana Jackson experiences as a ballet dancer.
Starting ballet at 3, Jackson joined the Mt. Pleasant Performing Arts Company when she first moved here. While being a part of ballet her whole life, Jackson began to notice the demands while dancing.
“It’s more technical. It trains your body in a way that typical dance does not really do, so it’s very harsh,” Jackson said. “My dance teacher will correct us until we are pretty much perfect.”
Despite the long, physically enduring days to get to that near perfection, Jackson and those at her studio have a special bond.
“We are family. We all get along and we work with each other and correct each other until pretty much everything is as good as we can get it,” Jackson said.
While performing only two shows a year, Jackson spends months preparing for just one. Most recently, her studio put on the Nutcracker, a show they started rehearsals for in August.
“We start with auditions and…my dance instructor will tell us what ballet we are doing and then someone will have a DVD and we’ll watch that and will learn the dances,” Jackson said. “We will have rehearsals for quite a while…so that will start as soon as school starts in August and it’ll be in December.”
However, not only are there physical challenges, but the mental aspect is just as important.
“Having to understand that you don’t always get what you want [is] kind of a mental struggle,” Jackson said. “You have to think ‘well I didn’t get this role this year even…but I know it’s not because I’m not good enough it’s because there’s potentially someone who’s more dedicated or has been dancing longer or is technically better.’”
Just like starting anything new, ballet has its challenges.
“Nothing you start off with is going to be easy. It is always going to be hard but if you push through and you get past the hard stuff it gets easier overtime.” Jackson said.
For senior Lily Johansen, ballet was also a big part of her life. Dancing for the same company as Jackson, she too feels that the company was nothing but a family.
“It was a very small studio so the people who were there, it was very much family oriented. Everybody was so close with each other,” Johansen said.
After multiple intense injuries, Johansen decided to step away from ballet. Despite no longer performing, she reflects on the dedication needed for ballet.
Two weeks leading up to the show, Johansen and the company would practice all weekend.
“Saturday would be about 12 to 5, going through the dress rehearsal making sure everything looks very good,” Johansen said. “Then Sunday we make sure everything was set in place for our costumes and make sure everybody knows where their costumes are in the theater.”
Similar to Jackson, Johansen experienced challenging aspects of ballet.
“Body image was very hard,” Johansen said. “Seeing each other [in] nothing but tights and a leotard and looking in a mirror for three hours on end, it was very hard.”
Johansen says that reminding herself that she was healthy and that everyone’s bodies were different helped her gain more self confidence. However, despite the many years she performed ballet, Johansen found that discipline was the hardest, yet most important part.
“The discipline of going to the long practices and fighting through the foot pain on point [and] having discipline to be on point, it just takes a lot of hard work,” Johansen said.