The Role Of A Principal Dancer•
Posted on May 20 2017
So for today's post, I had the great honor to host Allyssa Bross, a principal with the Los Angeles Ballet, to write us a little piece of her mind. I hope you'd enjoy this incredible article as much as I did! Make sure to catch her up @lysbross on Instagram for more :)
I was 19 years old in my first season as a professional dancer when I performed my first lead role in a full length ballet. My heart was racing and I looked like a deer in the headlights as my directors announced to the audience that they were naming me the company's first ever Principal Dancer. I gave them a hug and thanked them for such an amazing honor when they told me, "It only gets harder from here." Those words have stuck with me throughout my life, but I never really felt the weight of them until 7 years later.
I was set to dance the first Aria in Balanchine's “Violin Concerto” and Bournonville's “Napoli” on opening night of Los Angeles Ballet's 11th season. During a dress rehearsal the night before the show, I took a bad fall in the wings and my ribs went straight into the corner of a light boom. Two fractures in a matter of seconds and now I was out for the rest of that rep. This is when I remembered those words..."It only gets harder." The hardest part of my career hasn't been the rehearsals until midnight, the days where my feet hurt so bad I could barely walk, or the bruised toenails and blisters. The hardest part has been giving up a role I had worked so hard to perform. Everything in me wanted to push through the pain and get out on stage. I felt like I was letting the company down. Even though my mind was resilient, my body had its limitations. So I sat in the audience as the beautiful Stravinsky score started and the curtain began to rise.
As I watched Los Angeles Ballet perform, tears began to roll down my face. As sad as I was to not be performing, there was a different emotion that overtook me and was causing me to cry. I was overwhelmingly proud of my friends and all the dancers who had stepped into new roles last minute. Seeing my colleagues and friends shine on stage in roles that they wouldn't have gotten the opportunity to perform, was more gratifying than being up on stage myself.
Allyssa Bross for "Carabon"
I realized in that moment that my job as a principal dancer was not about being in the spotlight. It was about raising up the dancers around me and inspiring them; giving them the confidence to step into that same spotlight. The most important role of a principal dancer is to bring the best out of those around you. Your job is to call the company to more and ultimately pass the torch to another line of dancers. Being an example goes beyond work ethic or your performances on stage. It's pouring into the lives around you. It's a position that always keeps you growing and teaches you more about life than you will realize in that moment. But while you are watching from the sidelines, it will all make sense.
The title is the bonus, but the journey starts now. No matter what age you are or what rank you have in a company, now is the time to look outside of yourself and recognize those around you whose lives you can impact. When you can put yourself aside and empower the rest of your company to grow to new heights, you have felt what it truly means to be a principal dancer.
Wow, what awesome story about shifting perspective from self to others! So inspiring!
What a lovely piece! Heartwarming, sad but ultimately uplifting. I am not a dancer and like many people who watch ballet and are blown away by the grace and beauty of the dance, I hardly give a thought to all the hard work and pain that the dancers undergo. Thank you for shining a light into that world. And may you continue dancing for many more years. Los Angeles Ballet is lucky to have you.