On The Side: Barette Vance

The Pennsylvania Ballet soloist has deep jazz roots.
Published in the June/July 2010 issue.

Photo by Alexander Iziliaev

Pennsylvania Ballet soloist Barette Vance has been dancing since she was two and a half, but she didn’t start out on a ballet track. “For the first few years I was focused on jazz and gymnastics, like most of my friends,” she says. “Ballet was just an extra. But eventually I realized the scope and possibility of ballet, and figured out that was where my heart was.”

 

Today Vance’s jazz background shines through in her performances of contemporary work like Val Caniparoli’s Lambarena and the ballets of PAB choreographer-in-residence Matthew Neenan. “Many of the newer ballets involve isolations of the hips and the rib cage—something that ballet dancers have trouble with,” Vance says. “Even out in clubs ballerinas tend to look funny! But thanks to my jazz training, I’ve been working on those types of movements for years.”

 

Vance, who continues to take and occasionally teach jazz classes, recommends that all ballet students study the style. “Ballet dancers get caught up in looking ‘pretty’ all the time,” she says. “A lot of ballet choreography, though, is moving away from that type of perfect prettiness. Jazz gives dancers a chance to loosen up.”