Editor's Letter: Pursuit of Excellence

Published in the August/September 2009 issue.

Erica Cornejo with husband Carlos Molina on the set of our photo shoot

Photo by Jayme Thornton

Even the most gifted ballerinas have something they wish they could do better. Our cover model, Boston Ballet principal Erica Cornejo (see “Under Her Spell,” page 26), struggled, in her case, with doubting herself. “There’s a lot of competition, especially among female dancers,” she says. “Others’ comments can hurt your feelings and make you feel down, even if you are very good.” She learned that dancing for herself would bring its own rewards.

Cornejo credits her teachers for helping her “not to forget that feeling goes into every step.” She still turns to company class to help her keep each step “clean and strong.” Another great support? Husband Carlos Molina, holding her at right. They love cooking together, she says, and they share a passionate commitment to the art of ballet. For both, it all begins in class. “Since I started ballet,” says Cornejo, “I don’t remember taking a class without dancing like it was a performance. It’s not that it has to be perfect—it has to be fun.”

For dancers, class and training are never over—that’s why they’re the focus of this issue. Read “The Pros on Class” (page 32) to find out what some top dancers feel they need to work on every day. And everyone hits a different sticking point during their training. We asked Pointe staffers their biggest challenges as students, and what helped them most.

For Senior Editor Jenny Stahl, mastering certain steps loomed large. As a student at Professional Ballet School in Belmont, California, she says, “I didn’t have a natural body for ballet, so I had to work for almost every bit—turnout, feet, flexibility, jumps, speed.” When she started, a special frustration was grand jetés. “I learned to stretch regularly, about 30 to 45 minutes a day, and to use both timing and the strength I had in order to get into the air.” When she was a student at Miami’s South Florida Ballet, “I was obsessed with the image I made in the mirror,” says Assistant Editor Elizabeth Gorgas. “After a while I wasn’t ‘dancing’ anymore.” It took her teachers’ covering the mirror to help her break free of her anxiety.

And for Assistant Editor Margaret Fuhrer, there was a life lesson to be learned. As a student at the Acton School of Ballet in Acton, Massachusetts, her “less than stellar” flexibility proved frustrating. “It took me until my late teens to realize nobody’s perfect. A ballerina’s job,” she says, “is to create the illusion of perfection.”