Name: Charlotte Blake
Where are you from? Sarasota, Florida
Where do you currently live/train? Sarasota, Florida
What kind of pointe shoes do you wear? Nikolay/Grishko, Nova Flex and Nova Flex Pro
How and when did you get your start in dance?
I took my first class when I was just two years old; it was at a tiny ballet studio. I didn’t want to wear the tights, so my mom put me in a little jumper to dance. I didn’t take regular weekly classes until I was four. I’ve been dancing ballet ever since.
What has your dance journey been like, so far?
I have been so fortunate that in my hometown there are schools that teach in a variety of styles. I have studied with teachers in the Vaganova, RAD, and Cuban styles. I know that some people think you should study with one style your entire career, but I think that by studying with different teachers, I have had my eyes opened to so many other possibilities in the world of dance. I started dancing in 2009, and I was a shy and tearful child. My first teacher at the Russian School of Ballet gave me my first instruction and lots of hugs. She taught me about the deep love for ballet. She did everything from sewing costumes to creating sets with her husband. They were my first ballet family. As my interest grew, so did my curiosity.
Do you have a funny memory or story you can share with us from the stage or studio?
When I was ten, my mom got a random pop-up message via social media saying that there were auditions for the summer intensive at the Dance Theatre of Harlem. It was within the hour, so we tied my hair into a quick bun and hurried over to the theater where the audition was taking place. There was just a security guard signing people in, and then the nicest lady walked up with her coffee in hand. She smiled at me and my mom and said, "I guess we’re it!” and invited me in to warm up. I had a private audition while my mom waited just outside the door. Later, my mom told me that the guard whispered to her in the hallway, “Do you KNOW who that IS? It’s Virginia Johnson!” Even now, I am awestruck that I had that incredible experience at ten years old.
How have you been able to adapt and keep up with your dance technique over the past few months?
I have been so fortunate that my parents have been very proactive about helping me find opportunities to have online classes. At first, I was taking Instagram Live classes. (Those Cindy's classes were the best...so fun!) My home studio wasn’t ready to offer Zoom classes to my level, so I had to find other places to study via Zoom with feedback. Instagram had so much incredible variety, but there was no live feedback. Practicing without correction is a dangerous thing because you can develop some very bad habits if you aren’t careful. I tried a few WhatsApp classes, but those were not as easy to manage as Zoom classes.
One of the very coolest things to come out of this summer was connecting with Sarah Lane. She has been my port in the storm. If you’re asking, 'Wait, is that THE Sarah Lane? ABT principal ballerina and quick-footed extraordinaire?' YES! That’s her. She agreed to coach me and arranged group classes for young ballerinas like myself to study character and ballet technique. She also was so kind as to offer me private lessons... that I jumped at!
Can you tell us what it’s like participating in the current virtual ABT Summer Intensive?
Participating in the Summer Intensive is incredible. It’s like having three masterclasses a day with people who are legends in the industry. It’s nice to work as hard as we do every day. I feel like I have grown so much.
What’s something that has turned out to be positive when it comes to online training?
I, like everyone else, love in-person training; the feedback is so different. I have to admit, though, not having travel costs is such a relief. We, like many other families, saved thousands of dollars. That is huge, especially during quarantine and things being so unsure.
What is an element in your technique that you would like to improve the most? What are you most proud of in your dancing?
I would like for my turnout and extension to be more natural. I feel like I have to work at it. I would also like to be more confident and consistent in my turns.
I am most proud of my precision and emotion. When people compliment my personality on stage, it makes me very happy.
Our mantra at PointePeople is #FeelGoodDanceBetter. What do you do as a dancer to take care of your body daily?
Staying active through a variety of exercises is what makes me feel great. I do a little tap, a bit of jazz, pilates, yoga, jumping rope, and even some exercise bike and treadmill to stay in shape.
Charlotte Felicity Blake © Andrea Justiniano
What’s something you struggle with as a dancer?
My biggest struggle is with confidence. I am super sensitive, which makes me vulnerable as a dancer. It shows my emotions on stage, but it also makes me doubt myself. I take criticism hard, especially in front of my peers.
Who inspires you as a dancer and why?
There are so many. Do I have to keep it at under a hundred?
I would say that my top five, in no particular order, are Michaela DePrince for her tenacity; Sarah Lane for her kindness and technical ability; Marianela Nuñez for her acting and precision; Stella Abrera for her positivity; Julie Kent for transitioning to leadership from a dance role and using her platform for social change and championing diversity in ballet.
I know that you are a 2020 Nikolay/Grishko Ambassador! Can you tell us a little bit about that program and the role you play as an ambassador?
I am so lucky to have been named an ambassador, specifically as a result of a diversity search. I am an advocate for equality, representation, and diversity in all things, but especially in ballet. I have had the great fortune of getting training in some wonderful studios with excellent teachers, but I have often found myself to be the only person of color in my classes and, even a time or two, in my whole school. It’s been wonderful to see so many brands like Nikolay doing some self-reflection and opening themselves up to including dancers like me in their campaigns and product lines.
What are some of your other favorite dancewear brands and why?
PointePeople has been so great in helping me to get a predictable result with my pointe shoes; using face makeup has always been a streaky mess.
What is one product in your dance bag that you can’t live without!?
I can’t live without spray rosin. It has saved me when I am dancing in unfamiliar studios without marley.
What is something interesting that people might not know about you?
I am in the process of starting a foundation that helps young people of color get costumes for ballet competitions. I realized how much money goes into the costumes, and if a student can’t pay for a nice one, they might feel like they are not going to do well. My mom says that it is part of equity and access. Everyone who competes should be able to compete on even ground so that their talent, not their costume, is what is being judged.
What’s next for Charlotte? What are your short term and long-term plans or goals?
Long-term, I would love to be a professional ballet dancer. I am taking as many college-level courses as I can so that when I graduate from high school, I’ll still be on track to get a college degree, even though I am dancing full time. In the immediate future, I would like to take as many dance classes as I can to expand my repertoire and polish my technique. Once this quarantine lifts, my fondest wish would be to take classes in London or Milan. I love to travel, so this would be so wonderful. I have been to the UK and Italy before, and I loved every minute of
Charlotte Felicity Blake © Andrea Justiniano
POINTE PAINT Q&A!
What do you love most about using Pointe Paint?
I love that Pointe Paint is easy to apply, dries quickly, and has vibrant colors. I love that the sponge applicator makes it easy to apply. It goes so much faster than trying to smush makeup onto the satin of my shoes. It is hard to predict what the face makeup will look like on my shoes. Pointe Paint gives me an expected result. (You KNOW my face and my legs are two VERY different colors!)
What colors/shades have you tried?
Buttermilk for pancaking my all-too-shiny satin shoes and Burnt Crimson to try to get a skin tone color closer to my own.
How was using Pointe Paint different from conventional pancaking?
Quick and easy.
Do you think it’s important to have dance shoes that match your individual skin tone? Why?
Yes. The color extends the line of the leg and representation matters. If I were to wear skin tone tights, my line would be cut short by pink, satin shoes.
What shade(s) of Pointe Paint would you love to try?
I would love to try the color Matcha. OMG, that is a pretty color.