We went to Manhattan to interview New York City Ballet (NYCB) professional dancer Sara Mearns at the David H. Koch Theatre at Lincoln Center. Sara has been a dancer with the NYCB for 14 years. She started dancing in the company as an apprentice, then moved up to the corps de ballet, became a soloist and has been a principal dancer since 2008. Sara was born in South Carolina and began her dance career at a local school. She started dancing with the NYCB when she took part in summer ballet programs with the School of American Ballet. After a few years, the school recognized Sara’s unique talent and asked her to stay for a winter term at the school. Currently, she resides in New York City and never plans on leaving.
We asked Sara when she started dancing on pointe, which is when a ballerina dances on her toes, and we were surprised that Sara began pointe classes at the age of 7 1/2. That is a very young age considering that most dancers start pointe lessons at a much older age, around 10 or 11. Sara believes this strengthened her feet so much that she now is able to dance in pointe shoes for long hours.
We asked Sara what it was like for her when she became part of the NYCB company. Sara explained that when she received her apprentice contract, she was thrilled! However, on her first day of class she was intimidated by the other professional dancers and was not sure if she was in the right place. With lots of hard work and encouragement from the dance instructors, she was able to improve her dance technique and feel more confident in herself. She began to move up levels until she finally achieved her goal and became a principal dancer, the highest level of achievement in a dance company. Sara agreed with us that dancers are athletes. Dancers train just as hard as and the same way that Olympic athletes train. Luckily for dancers, their careers can last longer than other athletes that play other types of sports.
We knew that Sara had started her own line of dancewear called So Danca, and we were curious about why she did. Sara told us that the reason why she started the line was because she likes to wear leotards that she feels comfortable and confident in. Sara created different styles and designs for the leotards because she likes to wear a different leotard every day to match her mood. We found out that Sara’s husband is a choreographer for musical theater productions. He choreographed the dance for “I Married an Angel,” which is an Off-Broadway show that contains different styles of dance such as jazz, ballet and musical theater. Sara enjoys working with her husband while he choreographs dances for her because they learn from each other about different styles of dance.
We asked Sara for advice that she would give to young dancers like us who hope to become professionals in the future. She told us to always be ourselves and not to worry about the other dancers around us that may dance better. She said not to get discouraged if we make mistakes performing dance steps. Everyone has their own special talents and ballet teachers look for the way dancers present themselves on stage.
During the interview, we felt so special because we got the opportunity to enter the theater through the stage door just like real dancers in the company. We think that Sara is very positive, outgoing, funny, caring, and it is clear that she loves what she does: ballet! She inspired us to never give up and to keep fighting for what we want. We had so much fun meeting Sara, and we think that everyone should go see this beautiful ballerina perform at Lincoln Center!