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New York Works: Catching Up with a Real-Life Ballerina

Monday, May 16, 2011

Very few people can claim to report to work as a ballerina. But Kelley Boyd can. She started dancing at age 3 and decided to pursue being a ballerina professionally when she was 11-years-old. Now, Boyd is a member of the prestigious American Ballet Theatre (A.B.T.), which is one of the city's — and the country’s — top companies.

"People are usually shocked when I say what I do," said Boyd. "A lot of people don’t think you can make money dancing, which is lovely that we can here in New York City."

Boyd's currently putting in 45-hours of dancing in classes and rehearsals for "Sleeping Beauty" for A.B.T.'s spring season at the Metropolitan Opera. That number will jump to 70 hours a week when performances start.

Those workweeks may sound grueling than glamorous, but Boyd is used to it. She's been in the A.B.T.'s corps de ballet for nearly a decade. That’s a long time in ballerina years and she’s mostly in the background, more like a back-up singer than the lead. But that’s just fine by her.

"I knew that I wasn’t going to be on that promotion track," she said. "I’m just very content because I got to where I wanted to be and I’m just going on the ride as long as they'll have me."

After all, Boyd is one of only 90 dancers with the American Ballet Theatre this season. And there are a half dozen or so other companies in the U.S. that operate on a similar level. Those are tough odds for a dancer, and competition is stiff.

"My first performances, I got goosebumps," she said. "I was only standing on stage — I wasn’t even moving yet. And so that feeling is just ... totally heightened when you're on the Met stage because it's one of the great stages of the world."

And even though Boyd is more comfortable in the job now, there’s no coasting in ballet.

"We strive for this unattainable perfection on a daily basis and so I joke all the time that if I attain that I'm just quitting," Boyd said. "That’s it, I'm walking out! So, but it hasn't happened yet."

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