Sarah Lapointe is a ballerina training in her third year at the prestigious Rock School for Ballet Education. She was recently honored as a YoungArts Winner, and got to attend the National YoungArts Week in Miami Florida. We wanted to know how she got to this impressive point in her ballet training, and what advice she might have for other young dancers with similar goals. Here’s what she had to say!
Where are you from/where did you grow up?
I call Harford County, Maryland my home, and grew up in the town of Bel Air.
When and where did you start your ballet training?
Back in 1999, I started my ballet training when I was just two years old. I trained at a local studio in Bel Air, back then was named Dance Dynamix. The studio has since changed their name to Mid-Atlantic Center for the Performing Arts (MCPA) and relocated to Baltimore, Maryland. I trained with MCPA for twelve years from 1999 through 2011.
How long have you been at The Rock School?
This will be my third year at The Rock School. I have been a resident student here at Rock since 2012. I transferred to the school after my freshman year in high school.
What is the most fun about going to The Rock School?
Rock offers fun and enriching dance classes. The extraordinary faculty and guest teachers make the learning experience great! They inspire, encourage, and entertain! Each day in class I aim to be a better dancer than I was yesterday. At Rock, I am able to focus on my dancing, and have a little fun too!
What is the most challenging part of going to The Rock School?
One of the most challenging parts of being a dancer is not being so hard on yourself.
Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. Dancers have to learn how to keep a positive mindset. We are so emotionally attached to what we do. Most of us fell in love with dance and the way it makes us feel at a young age, and that stays with us forever. However, at the end of a long rehearsal week or when casting gets posted and you don’t get what you want, you have to learn to shut that out and just keep that young dancer who was spellbound by the magic in the forefront of your mind. We are all so blessed to be able to do what we love, and to share that joy with our audience.
What is your favorite class other than ballet?
If I’m not in ballet class, then I’m studying in my academic classes. My favorite class, other than ballet, is mathematics. I love solving challenging problems. Besides addition and subtraction, math has taught me that every problem has a solution.
How did you get selected as a YoungArts Winner and what was the experience like?
I’m not exactly sure how I got selected, but I feel very humble and honored! I submitted an online application and video portfolio to YoungArts. The application opened in April 2014 and the deadline was in October 2014. I was notified in November 2014 that out of approximately 11,000 applications, 786 awards (Finalist, Honorable Mention, and Merit) were given to young artists who were recognized for their outstanding work and accomplishments in one of ten disciplines across the literary, performing, visual and design arts fields. I was 1 of 170 talented teens from across the nation selected as a finalist through a blind adjudication process! Of the 170, only 21 were dance finalist. And, only 5 of the 21 dancers represented ballet.
The experience was definitely an unforgettable one. It was an amazing feeling being surrounded by such an abundance of art talent during National YoungArts week in January in Miami, Florida. From master classes with distinguished artists and mentors during the day to performances, film screenings, and art exhibitions each evening, I couldn’t think of a better way to start off the New Year! Now that I’m a YoungArts alumni, I’ve become part of an alumni circle which is a convenient tool for us to meet, network, support, share stories, promote our artistry, and collaborate with each other. It really has changed my life!
I would like to personally thank Natalyza Zeiger for coaching my classical piece “Odile Variation by Swan Lake”, Justin Allen for coaching my contemporary piece “Reset”, and Maggie Eisen with Balance Pointe Philly for assisting with my video audition. I would also like to thank the Directors of The Rock School, Bo & Stephanie Spassoff, and the entire school faculty. The support and inspiration of these individuals made this experience possible! Many thanks to my costume designers Jan Kurdin with A. Jolan Ballet and Rebecca Fitzthum with Class Act Tutu for their gorgeous handmade creations. And, to all my family and friends for encouraging me on this journey!
What tips or techniques do you suggest for dancers who are working to get on pointe?
For dancers who are working to get on pointe, you need solid ballet technique before you can transition to pointe shoes. I suggest you work on building your strength. Continue your basic ballet classes as normal, focusing on maintaining balance in your ankles and strengthening them as much as possible. Do as many relevés as you can, but worry more about doing them properly than about how many you can do. You should be able to balance for a good amount of time on relevé, because you need to be able to balance on pointe. Work hard, have fun, and good luck!
What kind of cross training do you do outside of dance to stay in shape?
I like to add aerobic activity to my cross training, as technique class generally does not work on aerobic fitness. I enjoy working on the elliptical machine. It’s very low-impact but is a way to increase my stamina. I like weight lifting too. Lighter weights which help me gain strength without bulking up. I want to maintain long, lean muscles and not bulk up like a bodybuilder. While these are not considered “exercise”, I make sure I have time to visit the sauna or jacuzzi. The hot water of the jacuzzi is soothing, relaxing and eases aches and pains.
If you could dance for any company in the world, what would it be and why?
Paris Opera Ballet. I love their repertoire, the location is key, and the dancers in the company are absolutely gorgeous!
UPDATE! Sarah shared some very exciting news since the initial interview was conducted:
Since sending these responses, I just received notification from YoungArts that my high standing in the National YoungArts Foundation (YA) competition has qualified me as a candidate in the 2015 United States Presidential Scholars in the Arts Program. I was nominated for this prestigious award by YA on the recommendation of the YoungArts judges. The Commission on Presidential Scholars will select up to 20 Scholars who have outstanding records of leadership, artistic and academic achievement, and contribution to the school and community. This is a huge honor for me and the dance community!