ABT’s Skylar Brandt Shares Her Typical Daily Routine

January 4, 2023

If you have seen Skylar Brandt perform, or taken a glance at her social media, you know that she is a force of nature—her technical power is only surpassed by her unyielding love of ballet. But many Brandt fans might be surprised to learn that the American Ballet Theatre principal is also passionate about sleeping. “I’m a person who sleeps for as long as possible,” Brandt says. “If I had to wake up before 8:30, I would lose it.”

As a principal dancer, Brandt has more time to rest compared to when she had long hours of rehearsal in the corps de ballet or as a soloist. “It was a big shift,” she says. “You actually have fewer hours of rehearsal, but you still have to stay in shape to do a full-length ballet.”

Brandt identifies as a night owl—fitting for an artist living on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. “I try to take advantage of performances, like if New York City Ballet is in season or the [New York] Philharmonic. I love ending my day with an inspiring performance,” Brandt says. When not taking in culture, her nights are often occupied by work emails, posting on social media, and teaching virtual private lessons to students in all parts of the world.

Below, Brandt walks us through her typical day.

8:30–9:15 am: Wake up and get ready for work. “I am out the door in 45 minutes,” Brandt says. “I get ready pretty quickly because I’m not a morning person.”

9:45 am: Arrive at ABT’s studios at 890 Broadway. It takes Brandt about 30 minutes to get to the studio by subway. Once she arrives, she changes and takes 15–20 minutes to stretch and warm up.

10:15 am: ABT’s company class begins. (“But everyone knows we actually start at 10:20,” says Brandt.) While the hour-and-a-half class is optional for company members, she usually attends.

Skylar Brandt and Herman Cornejo perform a somber pas de deux in Swan Lake. Brandt, in a white classical tutu and tiara, poses in a high attitude derriere, her eyes downward, as Cornejo, in white tights and a green medieval tunic, holds her tenderly by the waist. To their right, two lines of female dancers in similar white classical tutus pose with their left foot back in B plus and their hands crossed in front of them, their eyes looking sadly down towards their right.
Brandt and Herman Cornejo in Swan Lake. Photo by Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy ABT.

12 pm: Rehearsals begin. On an average day, Brandt’s rehearsal schedule can be between 30 minutes and 2 hours. “Because I dance a lot with Herman (Cornejo), and he is a more senior dancer at ABT, we often get to rehearse earlier in the day and then we’re done,” she says. “That is just one of many pros of dancing with him.” She explains that principals often have shorter rehearsals alone until the ballet is ready for a full run-through. “Then it’s either a lot of sitting around if you’re not in the cast doing the run, or it’s a full-on performance in the studio,” Brandt says.

The dancers receive their schedules a day or two in advance, so if Brandt has breaks in the afternoon, she tries to fill them by teaching virtual private lessons, taking private lessons with her coaches Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky, or working out with her trainer, Beth Nicely, founder of The Limit. “Beth really gets me in shape for shows,” Skylar says. “She does a lot of dance cardio.”

3 pm: Lunch. If Brandt has a longer rehearsal day, she says, “I’ll eat something light, like a smoothie or a sandwich—something that won’t make me feel full but still with protein to get me through the day.” If her rehearsals end before ABT’s lunch time, Brandt goes out to eat with friends or grabs a quick bite before going to her private lesson or cross-training session.

7  pm: ABT rehearsals end (at the latest). At the end of her workday, Brandt will either try to attend a performance or return home and watch TV or ballet videos on YouTube. “I’m still a bunhead!” she says. A true New Yorker, she prefers to either go out to dinner with friends or order in as opposed to cook. “If I do make dinner for myself, it’s usually something I can heat up quickly, like pasta, and a salad.” 

9 pm: After dinner, Brandt often responds to work emails, posts to social media, or teaches online private lessons. She began teaching virtually during the pandemic. “A lot of my students are in other parts of the world, so I’ll do late-night privates to make up for the time difference,” she says.

12 am: Bedtime.

Skylar Brandt does a giant leap with her arms in high fifth position, looking up triumphantly and smiling joyously. She wears an orange-red, Spanish knee-length tutu with Spanish-style ruffles and holds a red fan in her upstage hand. Behind her, other dancers in Spanish-style costumes clap and smile, cheering her on. The set shows a tavern scene.
Brandt as Kitri in Don Quixote. Photo by Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy ABT.

Performance weeks: When ABT performs at Lincoln Center, Brandt wakes up about an hour later than usual and attends company class at the theater at 10:30 am. “After class, there are 30 minutes set aside for the principals performing that evening to go over whatever they feel like they need,” she says.

The company often rehearses other ballets during the day, but usually principals who are performing that night will be excused. “For an evening performance, I usually get to the theater around 5 pm to warm up and get into hair and makeup,” Brandt says.

After performances, Brandt enjoys connecting with family, friends and fans who attended the show. “I’ll often be at the stage door until around 11 or 11:30 pm,” she says. She then enjoys going out for a celebratory meal—two of her favorite spots are Fiorello’s, which is directly across from Lincoln Center, or Porter House Bar and Grill in the nearby Columbus Circle area. “Even though it’s a steakhouse, they have the best pasta!” she says.

Days off: ABT typically works Tuesday–Saturday, so on Sunday, Brandt takes the day off to rest. On Monday, she usually sleeps in before walking to a private Pilates lesson at noon. “I take Pilates with Clarice Marshall,” Brandt says. “After I herniated a disc in my lumbar spine, I had to learn the hard way the importance of Pilates and how useful it is for injury prevention.”

Afterward, she walks to her private lesson with Dvorovenko and Beloserkovsky, which lasts from 2–4 pm. Brandt finishes the day with a bodywork session around 4:30 pm, and then spends the rest of the evening preparing for the week ahead.