Good Luck Charms and Makeup Must-Haves: Inside 3 Ballerinas' Dressing Rooms
A dancer’s dressing room is often her “home away from home.” We went backstage with Boston Ballet principal Lia Cirio, San Francisco Ballet principal Frances Chung and Richmond Ballet dancer Cody Beaton to see how they personalize their space and get performance-ready.
Lia Cirio, Boston Ballet
Pre-show routine: “I don’t like to be rushed,” says Boston Ballet principal Lia Cirio. She usually does her hair and makeup an hour and a half before curtain so that she has time to warm up. Before she goes onstage, she says a little prayer, then checks her ribbons “incessantly” to make sure they’re secure.
The setup: Boston Ballet principal Lia Cirio shares her dressing room with fellow dancers Misa Kuranaga and Kathleen Breen Combes. “We all personalize our spaces,” she says. “It’s about making it comfortable.” Cirio keeps her spot as organized as possible. “But after a full-length, it’s a disaster area! Makeup, hairpins, curls everywhere—it’s a mess.”
Pre-show music: Cirio listens to Top 40 hits to get pumped. And she can’t live without her Bragi wireless headphones. “There’s no cord, it’s just Bluetooth, so I can do a barre and they don’t fall out of my ears. They’re awesome!”
“Merde” gifts galore: Her brother, English National Balletlead principal Jeffrey Cirio, gave her an oversized My Little Pony before her debut in Theme and Variations. “It’s pretty silly, but it puts a smile on my face,” she says. The tiny ballerina box (just left of the My Little Pony) has special meaning—it was given to her by stager Florence Clerc before her debut as Nikiya in La Bayadère. “I had just been promoted to principal, and it was my first full-length,” says Cirio.
The good witch/bad witch magnets, a gift from Breen Combes, was a “merde” gift for Swan Lake (“You know, white swan, black swan?”)
Good-luck charms: “Elephants are really good luck for me—most of these are from friends or family members over the years.”
Hair and makeup must-haves: TRESemmé No. 4 aerosol hairspray. “My hair is really frizzy, and it’s the only thing that keeps it slick. I also only use big hairpins—the smaller ones don’t work.” Her favorite lipstick is MAC’s Lady Danger. “It’s great for Balanchine ballets.” Laying a towel down helps keep her makeup and toiletries organized.
Favorite scents: “I’m a stickler for smelling good,” says Cirio. She alternates between Chanel Chance perfume (above) in spring and Le Labo’s Thé Noir in winter.
Post-show routine: “I’m not one for sitting around,” she says. “I’ll take a shower if it’s a full-length, but normally I just get out of makeup and leave the theater.”
Frances Chung, San Francisco Ballet
Pre-performance routine: Chung likes to get to the theater two and a half hours early, and does much of her makeup before class for matinees. “I don’t necessarily need all that time, but it helps get me in the mood. That’s more important to me now, to focus on what I’m going to perform.”
The setup: Chung basically moves in to her theater’s dressing room once the season starts. She shares her space with three other dancers, and notes that the vintage metal vanities come down a little too low. “We hit our knees on them all the time—it’s the most painful thing!”
Pre-show music: Lately she’s been getting ready in silence. “I’ve just enjoyed being in the mode—I’ve been stripping more away from my routine.”
Furry friend: Chung brings her Chihuahua, Iggy, along whenever she can. “He’s our little guard dog,” she says. He’s usually camped out in the closet, underneath the costumes—unless, of course, he sees a tutu. “Anytime there’s one on the ground, he’ll just go and chill there.”
Must-have items: “I have sensitive skin, so I love things that are all-natural and often buy them based on the smell,” says Chung. She particularly likes Aesop face products and Nancy Boy signature body spray. “It smells like I’ve been to the spa—if I have a long day I’m constantly spraying it.”
Mirror décor: Chung lines her mirror with various “merde” cards from co-workers and friends, as well as a photo of her and her husband. (The skull card is from choreographer Liam Scarlett, given to her before the premiere of his Frankenstein.)
Lash TLC: Chung keeps several pairs if eyelashes handy in a blue plastic eyelash case from Daiso.
Post-performance routine: “Unfortunately for my husband, I like to sit there for 20 minutes,” says Chung. “Then I realize how long I’ve been sitting there, quickly shower and get out.” She uses Aesop’s Remove oil to take her makeup off. “You just wet your face and massage it in until everything comes off. After so many shows, my face starts to get raw, so this is good for the skin.”
Cody Beaton, Richmond Ballet
Pre-performance routine: Beaton gets to the theater an hour before class. Afterwards, she does her hair and makeup, and then a 15-minutes pilates/barre warm-up. “It’s the exact same barre every time. It’s timed really well, so it gets me sweating and warm and ready to go do anything.”
The setup: Richmond Ballet dancer Cody Beaton shares her dressing room with all the other women in the company, but she always stakes out the same spot. She lays a towel down on the counter to stay organized. “Otherwise everything spreads out.”
Pre-show music: “Since we’re all in the same dressing room, whoever has the most challenging role gets to choose what music we listen to,” says Beaton.
Game-day regime: Beaton, a New England Patriots fan, always wears her Tom Brady earrings on game days—and puts them in a safe place when she’s performing. “We were doing Nutcracker and I had to take them off. But I wanted to make sure the Patriots had good luck.” The Santa Claus decal decorating her mirror did the trick.
Good-luck charm: An angel statuette given to her by former dancer Valerie Tellmann-Henning before her debut in Mozartiana. “Now I keep it in my makeup case and put it out during show runs. It says ‘You shine like a thousand stars.'”
Mirror décor: Beaton lines her mirror with homemade cards and handwritten notes. “A dancer made these for everyone and they’re all different,” she says of the ones in the photo above. Another gift, a vintage-looking tin with ballerinas on it, now holds her hairpins and hairnets.
Health kit: Beaton takes vitamin B-12 supplements on performance days. “I feel like it helps with energy and stamina,” she says. She has Biofreeze handy in case her body starts aching, and Airborne tablets for keeping her immune system up. And she’s never, ever without a toothbrush and toothpaste. “I’m a little fanatical about brushing before I go onstage.”
Post-performance routine: Beaton’s hair and headpiece is undone by the time she reaches the dressing room. She uses wipes to quickly remove makeup, moisturizes her lips with rose-tinted Vaseline and heads out the door. “In this company, the girls are always quicker than the boys,” she says. “We carpool, because the theater only has a few parking passes, and we’re always waiting for them!”
This article first appeared in the August/September 2017 issue of Pointe.