What is the texture and rhythm of a ballet dancer’s day?
It’s an extraordinary thing to be a ballet dancer. You cannot divorce yourself from the music. You get up in the morning, you warm up, you stretch, you do a little floor mat. And now ballet class starts and for the next hour or hour and a half, music is your floor, and you are interpreting that music by the way you move. No sooner do you finish, and then you have five minutes before you’re in rehearsal. You rehearse for three hours. You may be in one room with Jerome Robbins, you may have three hours with Balanchine, you have an hour’s break to eat lunch but you don’t eat lunch, because you’re going to be rehearsing all afternoon. So except for a one-hour break, you have been going nine hours with music. Now, it’s six o’clock. You’ve got two hours before the curtain goes up. During those two hours, you eat something, but not much because you’ve got to perform. So you shower, you wash, you put on your makeup, you go on stage, and you practice what you’re going to do when the curtain goes up. Or work with your partner. Or if somebody’s injured, you learn what you’re going to have to do to replace them. Now it’s a half hour, right? You’re in your costume. Fifteen minutes, curtain goes up, you’re out there with the symphony orchestra. Stravinsky’s conducting, or Robert Irving. And you’re dancing to Tchaikovsky or Mendelssohn or Chopin or whatever. Incredible music. Now it’s eight. If there was a pas de deux and I wasn’t a principal dancer yet, I’d always be in my dressing-room costume and get down to catch the last act. It’s now eleven o’clock. You’re ravenous, exhilarated, on a high. And you go pig out on food and you go to bed at twelve thirty or one o’clock, and then get up and do it all again. And more on Saturdays and Sundays. When we’d go on tour—four, five months—on your day off, you wouldn’t take class. You’d go sightseeing in Florence or Amsterdam or Copenhagen or wherever. So except for that one day a week, you have music all the time. All the time.