Dance students spend hours in the studio, week after week, fine-tuning their skills in order to prepare for performances in front of huge audiences. They learn how to jump, turn and kick, all with musicality and precision. But, these kids are also pursuing an academic career. They are constantly transitioning between movement and studies.
Cate Morris ’22, spends her days finding this balance between dance, school and time with family and friends. She dances at the School of American Ballet in New York City, while still attending public school.
Morris starts her day like any other Staples student. She wakes up, eats breakfast and hops in the car on the way to school.
She takes four classes at Staples: chemistry, French, English and United States history. On weekdays, from 7:30 a.m. to 10:45 a.m., she goes to three out of the four classes, doing all of the same assignments as her classmates.
After that, Morris has thirty minutes free during first lunch. This time allows her to meet with teachers, take care of anything at school and maybe even get a head start on her homework. After that, Morris’s mom, Mary Morris, picks her up and her day begins to deviate from that of a normal Staples student.
“I get Cate at the same time everyday from school. 11:15,” Morris’s mom said. “Although if you asked her, she would say that I am usually a few minutes late.”
They rush home and grab her pre-packed dance bag and lunch. Her mom makes lunch for her.
“I make Cate her lunch,” Mary Morris said. “Always almond butter on toasted bread or avocado toast. Chips and an apple. Also chocolate.”
With a lunch box in hand and her dance bag on her back, Morris heads out the door. While driving to catch the 11:51 a.m. train into New York City, she eats lunch and chats with her mom.
“I love this time with her because I get to hear about her day,” Morris’s mom said. “The car time is our time to chat.”
Once comfortably seated in the first train car, she will start on her assignments—either homework from Staples or work from one of the three online classes she takes: math, fashion design and health.
Once every two weeks, she spends her train time with a needle and thread in hand. She sews a new pair of pointe shoes for her upcoming classes.
Once the train parks in Grand Central, Morris is on her feet, MetroCard in hand, rushing to the subway shuttle that will take her to Times Square. She weaves through the hustle and bustle of the city, curving around tourists gazing at the train terminal’s starry ceiling and the many musicians drumming, singing and strumming in the subway.
*No photos are allowed inside of SAB.
Morris rounds the corner to enter the locker room. She pulls her hair into the same twisted updo as the other ballerinas, transforming from a high schooler to a ballet student.
Once she has her look complete, she stretches and rolls out her muscles. These efforts ensure that her body is prepared for dance and help to limit any injuries or soreness that could manifest during the class.
At 2:30 p.m., it is time for her first class: technique. This will work on all of the foundations of ballet, specifically in the dance style of George Balanchine, one of the founders of SAB.
The class starts at the barre. The dancers complete a series of movements, starting with the plié, a slow bending and straightening of the knees. As barre progresses, the music gradually speeds up. With the increasing intensity, the dancers lift their legs higher, matching the speed and energy of the music.
When barre ends, the dancers have fully warmed up. They move to the center to perform exercises without the barre.
The progression in center is similar. First slow, controlled movements in an adagio exercise. Then pirouettes, when the dancers turn on one foot, controlling the motion and fighting to stick the landing. The class culminates with Grand allegro, where the dancers execute big jumps to lively music.
When Morris completes the one hour and 30 minute class, she is ready for a snack. She heads down to the SAB cafeteria and grabs a bite to eat before shuffling back into the elevator. The break is only 30 minutes long, so she has to eat quickly, since she needs to prepare for her next class.
Oftentimes that means putting on pointe shoes. She uses paper towels under her tights to protect her joints inside of the shoe. She ties the shoes’ satin ribbons in a secure knot that will hold all class. Then it’s back to the studio.
After the second class of the day, she runs back to the student locker room to grab her bag. She exits the building and retraces her steps back to Grand Central.
On the way, she passes Lincoln Center, the home of the David H. Koch theater, where the New York City Ballet performs. Morris dreams of progressing through SAB and being offered an apprenticeship, and eventually a position, with the premier ballet company.
There are several shows that she hopes to do. “The Nutcracker, Balanchine productions, Swan Lake, Jewels, Mid Summer,” Morris said.
On the subway back to Grand Central, she checks the track number for the Metro North train as to not waste any time. Once off the subway, she jogs up the stairs to the correct train.
She might even stop to take a quick dance photo:
She enters the train to find her dad, who works in the city, with a seat saved and dinner in hand. Whenever possible, they ride the train home together.
On the way home she makes more progress on her assignments for both Staples and for online school.