On Being a Professional Ballerina: Cody Beaton

Cody Beaton, of Round Rock, Texas, studied at the Austin Conservatory of the Arts for 12 years. She attended summer programs at Colorado Ballet, Virginia School of the Arts, and American Ballet Theatre. She spent one season with the Colorado Ballet Studio Company, and in the next three years, she progressed through Richmond Ballet’s trainee and apprentice programs. She joined the professional company in 2010. Four years later, Cody is still dancing her heart out on stage and living her dream.

But is being a professional ballerina what she thought it would be? What is like to work as a ballerina?

Photo: Cody Beaton in Swipe. Choreography by Val Caniparoli. Richmond Ballet 2012. All rights reserved. Photo by Sarah Ferguson.

What would like the world know about being a professional ballerina?

As a professional, people always ask what we do to make money or if we are in school. But as a professional ballerina, I dance for 8 hours a day and this is my full time job; I’m not in school for this. Some dancers do take classes for when they are done dancing for the day. Also, this job is not easy!

What helps get you through the tough times?

Always knowing that tomorrow is a new day. Some days, no matter how hard you try, some things just won’t work, but knowing that tomorrow is a new day and you can start fresh is always encouraging.

Why is ballet hard?

Ballet is hard because you will never achieve perfection.

Why is ballet lovely?

Ballet is lovely because it never gets old. You always have something to work for. You can always reach for your goal of perfection. Your legs can always get higher; you can always jump higher; or turn faster. Also, you can always get lost in whatever character you happen to be portraying at the time. Ballet is something that stays fresh, even if you are doing a part you have done before you can take it to the next level... there is ALWAYS a next level to work towards.

What is the most difficult part of the day for you?

For me, the last hour of the day is normally the most difficult. My feet hurt sometimes, I get stiff sometimes and my brain is full of choreography. I think, "I can’t possibly fit more in there until I've digested what I have been learning for the previous 6 hours!"

Photo: Richmond Ballet dancer Cody Beaton. Richmond Ballet2013. All rights reserved. Photo by Sarah Ferguson.

What advice did you receive growing up on what it's like to be a professional ballerina?

If you really want to be a professional ballerina, don’t give up. You will get a lot of rejection, and it won’t be easy. If you have that passion for ballet though, keep persevering.

Is being a professional ballerina anything like what you envisioned as a child?

Yes and no. I get to go into an imaginary world everyday, where I can be a fairy or a princess, which as a child seemed pretty ideal. I never thought I would love contemporary works as much as I do. As a child those ballets weren't even in my sphere of awareness. I love that I can lose myself in music and just be myself.

As a job, how is being a ballerina? How do you navigate discussing money, benefits, retirement?

Being a ballerina, in my case, is just like any other profession. I make enough money to support myself comfortably. I have an apartment, I have a car payment and I have enough to go out and have a social life. Richmond Ballet provides insurance options for the dancers, which I partake in. As far as retirement goes, I started my own retirement account, and I can afford to stash away a little each month for my future. The hardest thing financially is the layoffs. During the season while you are getting paid you have to set aside some money for those summer months when you aren't getting paid. I know dancers that dance during the summer with National Choreographic Institute, which they get paid for, or with other summer gigs, to help with the fact that we get laid off every summer. At Richmond Ballet though, I'm lucky because we have about a 42-week contract, so our layoff is relatively short.

Read more about Artists Saving for The Future!

What does a "Day in the Life" look like as a professional ballerina?

I wake up and hobble to the shower, eat a pretty big breakfast and drink some coffee, then I head over to the studio. At the studio, I do some pilates and stretching, take class and review whatever corrections I got from the day before. Then I rehearse for about 3 hours, have lunch, rehearse for another 3 hours. Then I head home, make dinner and relax! Sometimes if we have a new choreographer in the studio, you go over all of the new things you learned that day, or stretch a little bit because you've used muscles that you might not have used recently.

Fun Questions:

Your favorite dance snack: I don’t really have one. I’m always eating something different!

What's on your iPod on repeat right now: The Pitch Perfect soundtrack

Your favorite barre exercise: Rond de jambe

Your least favorite barre exercise: Tendus


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