Relaxing, Exercising or Earning Money?
Interview with Nicole Stalker, Ballerina with Miami City Ballet and Yoga Teacher
What are your plans for the summer?
I am so looking forward to spending 3 weeks in Tampa teaching for Next Generation Ballet’s Summer Intensive! I will teach young dancers between the ages 12 – 18 from July 5-23, 6 days a week, 3 to 4 classes a day.
Next Generation Ballet is a pre professional training school directed by former New York City Ballet principal dancer Philip Neal. It is located at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Tampa. It‘s very popular for talented kids in the US to do summer intensive programs for 3, 4 or even 5 weeks during the summer break.
What are the benefits for the students?
They can take a lot of classes in a day to work on their ballet skills. These young dancers work on their technique, flexibility, strength and muscle memory. Different classes are offered like Ballet Technique/ Pointe/Men’s Classes/ Partnering/ Repertoire and Variations (where they will learn choreography). Often there are Conditioning classes like Pilates or Yoga, and other styles of dance like Jazz, Contemporary or Modern dance.
What‘s the benefit for you?
For me, it’s really rewarding to give back and help train the next generation of up and coming professional dancers. It‘s inspiring as I feel like I can remind myself of things you tend to forget about in your daily professional routine. Going back to that student mindset feels like fine tuning the details again. When working with kids, it is so satisfying to see progress and how they dance better. It’s a great opportunity to keep my body in shape as well during our long 4 month summer break.
It‘s also a job for me during time off, when I am not being paid by the Miami City Ballet. Many professional dancers are teaching over the summer break. Before Covid there were many more opportunities to perform f.e. on summer galas or special events.
During covid pandemic you finally had time to do a professional Yoga training and became a yoga teacher?
Yes, I did my 200 hour training online to become a yoga teacher. Luckily I got a job at the yoga studio Green Monkey in Miami Beach– even before graduating. Over the past season I was not able to work very much at the ballet, so I could start teaching. I offer classes for everybody – all levels, all ages, even for beginners – mostly I teach a slow flow class. I want to give my students what their bodies need. I really love helping them to take modifications, use props like blocks, and learn how to get in tune with their own bodies.
Thankfully next season we are going to be back in our theaters performing on stage. I will be able to keep my classes in the evenings – in person and online.
Does Yoga make you a better ballet dancer?
Yoga focuses on mindfullness and breath work. In ballet everything has to be so perfect and precise. You see dancers who are so tight in their chests, not breathing. Learning to use my breath helps give me some extra power, especially in my jumps. I have also developed the ability to slow down and focus on my breathing if I’m feeling stressed, overwhelmed or nervous.
In yoga hips and legs are in parallel, whereas we spend all our time in ballet turning out. Finding stability with parallel feet in yoga strengthens all the other different muscles. This makes your movement more well rounded. For dancers, it also feels good to stretch sore muscles after long days of ballet classes and rehearsals. Overall, yoga has helped me to increase my physical and mental health. I am more connected to both my mind and my body. I am able to stay more present in my work, focusing on the tasks that are right in front of me and not getting too overwhelmed.
I hope to pass a little bit of this knowledge of mindfulness and the power of the breath on to my students this summer at Next Generation Ballet. I believe my work in yoga will give me a unique perspective to teach ballet from, and that my students will learn things from me that they may not hear in class with other teachers. The world of professional ballet is intense, so having mental as well as physical strength will set you up for a successful and rewarding career!
The Next Generation Ballet Summer Intensive
Information by their website
Our Ballet intensive is designed to allow our dancers to improve their ballet skills during their summer break. The focus will be on ballet technique and artistry, allowing our dancers to continue to gain flexibility, strength and improve muscle memory.
A summer spent studying with a well-known company or prestigious academy can be a highlight of a dance student’s year. Showered with fresh input and exposed to new techniques, many dancers find a summer intensive to be an empowering, uplifting experience.
About Next Generation Ballet
Next Generation Ballet (NGB), directed by Philip Neal, a stepping stone for great dance talent and is a part of the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. NGB prepares dancers for professional employment through instruction, coaching and performance opportunities. The company is committed to the artistic, personal and professional development of outstanding young dancers. Performers in NGB have gone onto scholarship opportunities at the leading ballet schools world wide including the Royal Ballet School of England and the School of American Ballet, received employment with companies including Missouri Ballet and National Ballet of Canada, and placed 1st in competitions including Youth America Grand Prix and the World Ballet Competition.
Biography of Nicole Stalker
©Miami City Ballet
Hometown: St. Petersburg, Florida
Nicole Stalker was born in St. Petersburg, Fla., and began her dance training at the age of three at Cheryl Lee Studio of Dance. She spent summers training at The Chautauqua Institute, American Ballet Theatre and The Rock School for Dance Education before moving to Philadelphia in 2005 to attend The Rock School’s year-round program. She spent her final summer at the School of American Ballet in 2007 before moving to Miami to join Miami City Ballet School’s Pre-Professional Division. In 2008, Stalker joined Miami City Ballet as an apprentice and was promoted to the corps de ballet in 2009.
Stalker was nominated twice by Founding Artistic Director Edward Villella for the Princess Grace Award in 2009 and 2011, an honor she is grateful to have received from him.
Roles since joining MCB
Sir Frederick Ashton
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Ballo della Regina (Demi Soloist)
Diamonds from Jewels
Divertimento No. 15
Emeralds from Jewels (Pas de Trois)
George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®
Rubies from Jewels
Scotch Symphony (Scotch Girl)
Slaughter on Tenth Avenue
Stravinsky Violin Concerto
Swan Lake Act II
Symphony in C
Symphony in Three Movements (Jump Couple)
The Four Temperaments (Second Theme)
Theme and Variations
Valse Fantaisie (1953)
Romeo and Juliet
Justin PeckHeatscapeYear of the Rabbit
The Fairy’s Kiss
Dances at a Gathering (Blue)
I’m Old Fashioned
West Side Story Suite
In The Upper Room
Nine Sinatra Songs (“Forget Domani”)
“The Golden Section”
Twyla Tharp/Jerome Robbins
The Neighborhood Ballroom
Coppélia, Arthur Saint-Léon
Don Quixote, Marius Petipa and Alexander Gorsky
Giselle, Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot
Nicole Stalker has originated corps roles in Alexei Ratmansky’s Symphonic Dances and The Fairy’s Kiss, Liam Scarlett’s Euphotic and Justin Peck’s Heatscape.
See Header Image © Alexander Iziliaev