Lauren Lovette is one of the most successful ballerinas of our time. She was promoted to principal dancer with New York City Ballet in 2015 – only 6 years after joining the Company as an apprentice. Without any doubt Lauren may be called a true role model for today’s generation of dancers. She is strong, confident and very open as a person. And she brings that sincerity onto the stage, to her audience. Appreciate yourself and treat your body as well as possible – these are two mottos of the principal dancer with NYCB and Zarely Role Model, which she revealed in live interview with Mateo Klemmayer, founder and CEO of Zarely. Lauren also shared her personal tricks of staying motivated, mastering the art of petit allegro and dealing with ballet-related soreness and injuries.
Mateo: Your life as a principal dancer is putting a lot of pressure on you. On the days when you get really upset and feel like you can’t do anything, how do you control that or make yourself feel better?
Lauren Lovette:You don’t always have to be happy when you’re dancing. For me dancing is how I get all of those emotions out. If I feel happy that day, my dancing is supper bubbly and happy. If I feel sad, it’s okay that my dancing is more passionate. If I’m down on myself, usually my dancing isn’t as good. Anyway, we all dance because we love music and we love moving to it. I know the days when I get the hardest on myself but then I go outside for five minutes, be a regular person, and then come back in and say: “Do you know what? I’m going to dance it out.”
Mateo: What are some of the little things you do to keep yourself motivated on a long rehearsal day?
Lauren Lovette:I treat each rehearsal like it’s the last one of the day, that gives me energy. When you do something well, it gives you energy for the next thing. So to stay motivated, exercise the best you can. My best classes are when I’m motivated right at the barre. I do my very best plies, then it turns into the very best tendus and that goes on and on. It’s like a snowball effect. That’s what helps me.
Mateo: And what helps you balancing your professional with personal life?
Lauren Lovette:I think it is very important to have something outside of dancing that makes you a person or else you have nothing to dance about. It’s important to have hobbies and other interests. Balancing it, you never really do. For me, I try not to bring work home with me if I can. I just moved further away from work, and that helps, because now I have that half an hour train ride to recharge my mind.
Mateo: In a difficult performance with very technically hard steps, how do you keep your artistry and stop yourself from getting nervous?
Lauren Lovette:I still struggle with stage fright and being nervous. But the way that works for me best is awareness that my Company is a team and I’m just a part of it. And I have to dance well for everybody else around of me, for my teacher or even for myself. It takes me away from pressure like “Everybody’s judging me. This is my moment. Or whatever”. It turns it all into a whole positive thing and I’m thinking about how I’m going to do it well instead of how I’m going to fail.
Mateo: Lauren, you are incredibly skillful and technical dancer. What is your secret for reversing and doing really fast petit allegro?
Lauren Lovette:My trick, I guess is learning what to hold and what to let go. For me, when I first started jumping, I would hold everything and tense everything, every muscle in my body. That’s actually counter-productive, it doesn’t help you. So I’m kind of learning those things. I guess it’s mostly abs and pulling up everything and then also holding your back so that your arms can move freely.
Mateo: How do you deal with tension in the upper body and create fluidity even while working quickly?
Lauren Lovette: Keep the arms loose, you can’t grip down everything. It’s more like your lower abs pulling up and then allowing your ribcage to breathe so you can hold all of these and still breath freely. If you have a loose head, you hold your back from the shoulder blades, and then your arms are free to move however you like.
Mateo: Career of a professional ballet dancer is super-demanding physically. And sometimes you just do not have enough time to restore your energy for the next day. How do you push through?
Lauren Lovette:I think it’s more about knowing when to stop than when to go, when to take it easy. Sometimes it’s best to sit down; sometimes it’s best only to take a barre. When my muscles are sore, I use a heating pad and Salonpas which is an icy hot patch. They work really well. Sometimes I sleep with those things on and that’s the only way to get through my day. If I’m really sore, I have four patches on my back, two on right calf, two on left calf. But first of all you should know the limits of your body. Otherwise you may hurt yourself worse.
Mateo: How do you deal with blisters, bruised toe nails, etc.?
Lauren Lovette:My toe nails bruise all of the time. I started wearing toe pads and I cut and file my big toes down as short as I can. That helps. As far as blisters, I always use Band-Aids. They’re kind of expensive now, but if I have a student I’ll buy them blister Band-Aids because they really help. If you put that on, you can’t feel anything anymore. Or Second Skin, you can get that on Amazon.
Mateo: How do you stay positive with your body? What do you normally eat during your day?
Lauren Lovette:It’s hard to stay positive with your body. You always want what you don’t have. I think a good way to stay healthy is wear your best leotard for that day, make yourself look the best you can look and then you’ll feel good about yourself. What do I eat in my day? It’s always different. It’s like more about how I feel. I really listen to my body. If I’m hungry, I’m going to eat pancakes, eggs and bacon. I eat all of that in the morning. If I’m not that hungry, I eat oatmeal. Also, if I’m lazy I eat oatmeal because it’s fast. I love bagels. My comfort food is a bagel and cream cheese and chocolate milk. Listen to your instincts, don’t be afraid of food, eat healthy, eat whole foods, eat organic foods. That’s important. Eat enough so you don’t get sick and then work it off.
Mateo: What advice would you give to young dancers who are looking to become professional when they grow up?
Lauren Lovette:Learn to laugh at yourself, don’t be self-conscious, don’t be afraid to fall over. If you can just be you, then you’ll catch the director’s eye. Even if you fall down, you’re still catching their eye in the audition. Think about the worst case scenario. It’s not that bad.
Mateo: From your point of view, what do you think you did that allowed you to have so much success so quickly?
Lauren Lovette:I work really hard in classes, actually every day. I live completely in the moment. I work hard in the moment in the day. My dad gave me great work ethic. It feels good for me to give everything, not save. When my boss promoted me to soloist, he told me the reason why was because I did all of my rehearsals full out. The work speaks for itself. Make yourself the best that you can be. And be a nice person, I feel like that helps.
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