At what age did you begin ballet? Where did you receive your early training?
I began dance at age 3. Both my older sisters danced and I begged for a year to take class too. I started in a combo ballet/tap pullout class at a Montessori school and my first recital was a tap recital.
The next year, I started ballet and tap classes at a small studio called Denton Ballet Academy. I moved to Ballet Conservatory (BC) when I was 8 to train with Kelly Kilburn Lannin. Ms. Lannin introduced me to classical ballet, modern, tap, jazz, and musical theater. It was a great performance studio that fed into a local company, LakeCities Ballet Theatre (LBT).
I was invited to join LBT at age 11 and performed many ballets there for two years before leaving for NYC. At BC/LBT, I was able to train with Ms. Lannin, Shawn Stevens (NYCB and Twyla Tharp), and Allan Kinzie (Boston Ballet) as well as guest artists including Michael Vernon (Royal Ballet), Josh Bergasse (On The Town, Smash), Marco Perins (La Scala), Julie Kent (ABT).
When did you realize you wanted to be a professional ballet dancer?
I always preferred tap/jazz over ballet until I was 11 years old – then I got my pointe shoes! I auditioned for summer programs that winter and spent my 12th summer at ABT NYC. I knew then I wanted to be a professional ballerina in NYC. When I was 13, I performed Serenade with LBT and knew then it was Balanchine all the way.
I saw on YouTube that you competed in Youth American Grand Prix (YAGP) when you were 13. Tell us a little about that experience and what you learned from it.
I did compete in YAGP when I was 13. It was a great year. I did two classical pieces – Satanella and Aurora’s first variation from Sleeping Beauty. I also did a contemporary piece choreographed by Shawn Stevens to Vivaldi called Red Cardinal. I had gorgeous tutus sewn by Elizabeth Schillar, a tutu designer in Texas. She allowed me to help with the creation, picking fabric and even sewing on all the crystals.
I won 1st place in Classical in Dallas and Top 12 in Contemporary and went on to compete in the YAGP NYC Finals. I had great scores and great comments and was offered full scholarships to quite a few places including Canada National and John Cranko, but I had to decline them all because I already knew I was going to the School of American Ballet (New York City Ballet’s official school) on scholarship.
Training for YAGP is an experience a young dancer cannot replace at that age. Private lessons that provided individual performance coaching were so valuable for my technique and confidence. My coaches taught me to work for the sake of experience, not to win a contest. I learned that a dance career is a marathon not a sprint, and not to get caught up on losing or winning any one thing.
Tell us about your journey to the School of American Ballet (SAB). Did you attend their summer intensives? How old were you when you were asked to join the school?
I auditioned for SAB right before YAGP 2010 when I was 13. Katrina Killian was the auditioner. She asked me to stay in the room after excusing the girls and offered me a full merit scholarship on the spot. She said she had only given out three ever. I was totally in shock and excited! I attended ABT NYC the summer before and had an offer to come back but I wanted to go to SAB, so it was meant to be. That was my first and only summer at SAB. I was invited to stay for the Winter Term in 2010 and my parents said yes.
When did you join New York City Ballet?
Peter Martins invited me to join New York City Ballet as an apprentice in November of 2013. At the end of our Fall 2014 season, Rosemary, our head ballet mistress/master, told me and two other girls that we would be joining the corps de ballet in the upcoming Nutcracker season.
What are some of the roles you have danced at New York City Ballet so far?
I have been fortunate to dance in so many roles in the last two years including Flowers and Snow in Nutcracker, Jewels, Goldberg Variations, Symphony in C, Glass Pieces, Symphonic Dances, The Four Temperaments, Western Symphony, Symphony in 3 Movements, and A Midsummer’s Night Dream, as well as many others.
What do you enjoy most about ballet?
What I enjoy most about ballet is the challenge. I love that I always have to something to strive for, something to work on. Being able to dance to incredible music and performing are also amazing perks to the job!
What are some of your dream roles?
I have many dream roles – Jerry Robbins’ Afternoon of a Faun, the Sugar Plum Fairy in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, 2nd Movement Symphony in C, Symphony in 3 Movements, Peter Martins’ Fearful Symmetries, and Christopher Wheeldon’s This Bitter Earth.
What do you like to do for cross-training?
I like to go to the gym and swim or use the elliptical. They just opened a new workout area on the 5th floor of our theater so I’ll go up there and use the Pilates reformer and Gyrotonic machines.
What are some of your favorite snacks?
Bananas are my favorite because they provide potassium and tons of energy. I always eat one before a hard show. I also love to snack on various trail mixes, protein bars, and yogurt. I’m obsessed with coffee as well so I’m constantly drinking it in some form or another.
What’s on your iPod?
Everything! I listen to all genres of music but dominantly classical and alternative. When we do a ballet that has complicated music or counts I like to download it and go over the steps in my head. But I am always down for some Beyoncé!
–Watch Laine (front row, second from right) in snow from George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker—
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