one just has to think of ballet whenever there’s the mention of dance. This artistic presentation is no where near the vulgarity or provocativeness of twerking, but it does grab the attention of those who dare to be enchanted by elegant and fluid movements. Sara Mearns is no exception. Her graceful and in depth performances are simply perfection. Like most ballerina’s, Sara has worked tremendously hard at accomplishing her dream. She has since been rewarded by receiving the highest rank of the art form, a principal dancer. Isn’t always a beautiful thing being able to do what you love and know you’ve gotten so far in-spite of any odds you might have faced along the way? Sara Mearns is an example of that.
I recently had the pleasure of doing an interview with the talented NYCB principal and am delighted by her wonderful answers. Check out a snippet of Sara Mearns in action, performing alongside Stephen Hanna in Nutcracker Grand Pas, and of course continue below for the interview:
Where are you from and when did you realize you wanted to be a dancer?
I am from Columbia, South Carolina. I realized I wanted to be a dancer when I was very young. Dance was my life from the moment I left school every day to the moment I went to sleep. I knew this was something I wanted to pursue professionally when I went to School of American Ballet’s summer courses from age 12 to 15 in New York.
Who are some of your biggest influences?
Some of my biggest influences are the Russian teachers I had growing up. They taught me how to hold myself and create characters in my dancing. My idol is Natalia Makarova, the greatest interpreter of Odette/Odile in ‘Swan Lake’. The most important aspect of her dancing is her artistry in her upper body, her musicality and attention to detail. She embodies every emotion a woman could go through in two and a half hours.
Ballet is definitely hard work, and I know many have strong views that aren’t always positive in regards to the art and the rigorous training people go through. So what do you say to critics who turn their nose down to girls in particular that push themselves so hard to become ballerinas?
What I can say to critics is that working so hard at one of the hardest professions at such a young age can only make them the strongest, most talented human beings. It creates a self-discipline that nothing else can teach you. It is not all fun and games, and you don’t receive trophies or awards, but that’s what makes them the most admirable humans beings because they are doing it for the love of the artform and to create beauty within themselves.
I’ve watched a clip of your performance in pas de deux of Diamonds and it was truly amazing on an emotional level. If you had to pick, which performance is your favorite and why?
I don’t think I can pick a favorite performance but there are certain performances I will never forget. ‘Swan Lake’ with Jared Angle in February 2011 is probably one of the most memorable. The sound out of the audience is something I have only heard on tapes with Makarova. But better than that was the two and a half hours I shared the stage with my partner. It was magic. It’s like we were one. We didn’t think about it and we were exhausted, too, by that point in the season. It was love and passion on a mystical level, unhumanlike.
You’ve basically eaten, slept and dreamt ballet most of your life. But if you weren’t a dancer, what would you be doing now?
I get asked this question many times–and I had to ask myself that question realistically last year during a very serious back injury–but still, I have yet to come up with an answer. That saying ‘you were born to dance’? It’s true. I can’t imagine being anything else; wouldn’t make sense. Terrifies me that that’s my answer. The curse of being an artist.
Was there ever a moment where you felt like you wanted to stop? What motives you to keep dancing?
There was never a moment I wanted to stop. I don’t need motivation to keep dancing. It’s who I am, it’s what I do. I am an artist and my body is my instrument. The artform and the dedication it deserves is enough to motivate anyone who embraces it. There was a time last year, where I wasn’t sure I would return to the stage because of a very bad back injury, but I took the necessary steps in my everyday life such as buying a new Tempur-Pedic bed, which because it contours to my body with pressure-relieving materials enabled me to sleep comfortably through the night and get the rest I needed in order to recover and return to the stage, or seeing Broadway shows and art museums. Finding who I was without dance and finding peace within myself gave me the confidence that I would be back out there.
Looking back at the young girl coming into her own up to where you are now, Sara, how would you say ballet has changed your life?
Ballet has been something that has been a part of me since I was three years old. I would not say it has changed my life: It has created and shaped it. I would not be who I am today without ballet. It has been my home for 24 years of my life. The stage is when I am at peace. Dance has allowed me to live the best life I know I could ever have. Dance has made me the luckiest, most grateful, most humble girl in the world.
Where do you hope to go next?
I hope to never stop reaching for a higher place of creativity, artistry, and grace. Love and dance will allow that path to happen. I also one day hope to share this amazing life with a family of my own.
Thank you so much for taking the time. Please leave a message to your admirers and also any tips to aspiring dancers.
I never thought that I would be living out my dream. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support of my mom and what she did for my brother and me. She made every opportunity possible and never said ‘no’ to anything that had to do with dance and the possibility of having a professional career as a dancer. You will not be rich, you will not live in a fancy apartment, or wear fancy clothes, but what you create with your body or imagination far surpasses any of those luxuries. I want to thank every parent who puts their kids in dance and does nothing to hold them back. Please do anything you can to promote this beautiful and magical artform.
To all those aspiring dancers, throw yourself into this career if this is really what you want to do. When you get the chance to perform, just listen to the music and let it move you, let it soak into your skin and breathe it through your lungs. Music always comes first. Become knowledgable about what you are dancing to and what choreography you are learning. Nothing is worse than a lack of intelligence in your art form.
Find out more by visiting Sara’s page at NYCB
Credits: Sara Mearns + Gilda Squire Media Relations + NYCB