Beautiful Intensity: The Work of a Ballerina

By: Lily Heritage

Whenever you think of dance, a picturesque ballerina may come to mind. They twirl with an elegance that seems almost effortless. However, effortless it is not. Behind the curtains lies a world of blisters, bandaids, and muscle rollers. 

Annarose Atamian is a senior here at JHS, and she knows this world all too well. She’s been dancing for 10 years and has worked all the way up to Level 4, which is the highest level possible at her dance academy, Oklahoma Performing Arts (OPA). Being a senior, she is this year’s prima ballerina, and with great power comes great responsibility. In Atamian’s case, this responsibility comes in the form of rehearsal at least 5 days a week, if not more. These rehearsals come in all different styles and techniques. One thing they have in common is the feeling that they require the dedication of a military boot camp rather than a class for ballerinas.

I walk in during the middle of barre practice, where Atamian works on more technical skills. The sounds of Ms. Laura (Atamian’s dance instructor) screaming fills my ears. “Where’s first position?!” she yells to Atamian. To be honest, I have no earthly idea where the first position is. The contrast between the pretty flowers upon the walls and sweat dripping from Atamian’s face was stark. 

After barre, they move on to working on the routine they’re preparing for competition.  

“Right now, we’re working on our pieces for a ballet/modern scholarship competition called YAGP. We’ve been fine-tuning specific steps that need work, and then we run the pieces three times in a row for stamina. After that, we typically learn new choreography for our productions we will perform in the spring,” Atamian explains. 

Even with the intensity of this routine, Atamian shares the same passion now that she had for dance when she started (if not more). 

“I love that I get to go into the studio and have time all for myself every day. It’s kinda like getting away from real life,” Atamian elaborates. “However, it can get extremely frustrating when you’re staring at yourself in a mirror all day and you don’t see any progress. The process is slow, especially when it comes to improving technique, so it can be easy to get down on yourself.” 

Dedicating as much time and effort to an activity as Atamian has with dance does not come lightly. She plans to major in dance and hopes to dance in a professional dance company. 

If you’d like to see all this hard work in action, head on over to the Tulsa Performing Arts Center at 7pm on April 4th! 

Atamian (left) stretches after rehearsal.
Between runs, Atamian takes a breather.
Atamian (right) tweaking parts of her routine.
After barre, Atamian changes out of her pointe shoes.

Atamian (left) leaps as a part of her routine. 
Atamian (right) practices on barre as rehearsal begins. 
Honorary ballerina Dessa Blue works on her barre skills.

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