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  • Writer's pictureKristyn Burtt

ABT's Sarah Lane Gets Real: Her First Season as a Principal Dancer

Updated: Apr 26, 2020

Being a principal dancer in a major ballet company is something every young ballet dancer dreams of. But what happens once you achieve one of your greatest dance goals?

American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Sarah Lane gave Dance Network some honest answers about the work that still needs to happen once you realize an incredible dream. Sarah is in the Southern California area with ABT while they perform the West Coast dates of an annual holiday tradition, The Nutcracker.

She's been with the company since 2003 when she joined ABT as an apprentice. By 2004, she was in the corps de ballet and was promoted again in 2007, spending 11 years as a soloist. Her promotion to principal dancer came in 2017.

Sarah gave us some insight on her first year and a half as a principal dancer and she explained what she learned about herself during that first Metropolitan Opera season in her new role.

"What surprised me was I went through a bit of self-doubt during the last Met Season, which was my first season as a principal. It came out of nowhere. I was with the company for a long time, so I tried to keep things the way I've always done it," she revealed. "Then a little bit of self-doubt crept into the middle of the Met season because I was premiering some stressful big ballets for the first time. I felt like I had to prove myself all over again rather than being the person that I am."

Sarah was able to change her mindset through a very simple way of approaching her artistry. She carries this with her while rehearsing and performing.

"The thing that helps me the most is to stay grounded and not think about myself. The whole world doesn't revolve around me and that's an easy trap to fall into when you're doing lead roles," Sarah explained. "Your body is your instrument and you have to be super focused when you are doing lead roles, but you have to be focused on yourself in the right way. You focus on the work you have to do."

Sarah's sense of humor shined through when she was asked if there was an aspect of her new role that she felt completely prepared for. 

"Not really," she laughed. "I premiered Don Quixote and La Bayadère at the Met. Don Q really intimidated me because I've never seen myself as a trickster. It's such a bravura kind of ballet. That's what intimidated me about getting into the role and digging into it."

Sarah stepped outside herself and discovered the "humility, balance and perspective in life [as an artist.]" She had the ability to do the role all along because she had put in the hard work for years in preparation for moments like this.

"I had to realize that the ballet doesn't have to be about how many pirouettes you do," she said. "At the end of the day, it's about the energy you bring to the stage and the artistic qualities that are a part of every step you do."

Right now, she is in the midst of  Nutcracker season. Besides entertaining thousands of audience members, who will watch the production at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, she has to keep her body ready for the long season of shows.

"I push through a long day when I'm tired and work hard keeps my body strong. The stronger I am, the more I can do to keep my body toned and injury-free," Sarah advised. "I find ways to create a ritual that helps to keep me on track during Nutcracker season — always take class, do cross-training and stay hydrated!"

With a new year just around the corner, Sarah is also giving thought to some goals for 2019. They are just as mindful as you would expect from this ABT principal.

"I want to enjoy every moment of dancing. I am so thankful to be where I am with ABT," she concluded. "I want to become a more mature and grounded artist — not just onstage, but offstage."


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