From a small ski town in Sun Valley, Idaho to dancing in New York City, meet Isabella Boylston, a principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre Company.

First of all, just give us a quick rundown on how you became involved with ballet!
No one in my family does ballet or knows anything about ballet. I’m from a tiny ski town in Sun Valley, Idaho. My mom thought it would be fun for me to take some classes and she signed me up for classes at the local REC center when I was 3. It wasn’t that serious then, you’re just skipping around, being 3 year old. I was a pretty athletic kid. I skied, I competed, I raced. Ballet is just what I gravitated towards, and I think it was the hardest thing I had ever done. I think the challenge of it is what drew me in. Naturally, I think I am a competitive person.

Can you give us a peek into your role in Red Sparrow?
I play Jennifer Lawrence’s dance double, and then I also appear as myself, a ballerina, in the end of the film. I didn’t have any lines, it was just all dance.

Being her dance stunt double, how closely did you get to work with Jennifer Lawrence?
We were working together every day on the set. She was also trained as a dancer and had to learn the choreography as well. She worked really hard.

So, you’re the co-creator of Ballet Sun Valley. What is this festival like and what sort of things does it offer to those involved with dance?
It had always kind of been a dream of mine to start something back home because I never got to see anyone perform when I was a kid. I rounded up a bunch of my friends in the ballet world, who are phenomenal dancers, to come perform. We also had an education day which was cool. We enrolled 200 kids from the Idaho area and outside the area. The performers did classes for the kids, and we were able to do the classes for free thanks to a very generous sponsor.

What kinds of responsibilities comes along with being an artistic director for something like this?
I choose the program myself and picked dancers I loved. I picked the ballads I wanted them to perform. I also did other things that were important to me like picking live music. We had 25 musicians performing with the dancers. It was basically my job to pick what was being presented, and I had to oversee the education day.

What’s one problem you encountered you never expected when piecing together a festival?
It was just such a learning experience, being the first one. I had to learn to just let go of control sometimes. As hard as it was, I couldn’t do everything, and I had to give up control. I learned to be more flexible; there were so many things that could go wrong.

What are the sort of values or ideas you keep with you through dance?
I think devotion to our art form as well as discipline. Our body is our instrument so taking care of your body comes first. I think you would find most dancers have a good sense of humor. I know a lot of stereotypes about ballerinas are they are back-stabbing, but everyone in ABT is super supportive of each other. It helps if you have a sense of humor.

What’s been the most rewarding moment in your career?
Getting to do some of the ballets. There’s been certain milestones, like getting to perform lead in Swan Lake was pretty unbelievable. And probably Sun Valley, seeing all my friends performing, all these incredible dancers. Walking around my hometown and seeing the kid’s faces, that was pretty amazing.

Our body is our instrument so taking care of your body comes first

What has been your greatest fear, and how have you overcome it?
I fell onstage and sprained my ankle several years ago, and that was with a step called a fouette. I had a phobia of doing it onstage. Even though I built up enough strength, I still had a mental block. I had to just force myself to keep going for it. I also made sure I was really prepared for it. I would rehearse it every day. If I had to do 32, I would rehearse 64.

What’s one goal you are working towards right now?
To be a better dancer. I guess more specifically, to keep working on developing my artistry and to not worry about pleasing other people.

 

STORY ELIZABETH STAFFORD
PHOTOS SOPHIE ELGORT

Read more in Volume III, Issue No. 002 – Spring 2018.

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