Courtney Shealy, from Fort Walton Beach, Florida, trained with Northwest Florida Ballet for nine years. She received scholarships to Summer Intensives at Boston Ballet, Next Generation Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and American Ballet Theatre. In 2014, she received third place at the Youth American Grand Prix semi-final for both senior classical and contemporary. Shealy joined the American Ballet Theatre Studio Company in September 2015, became an apprentice with the main Company in August 2016 and joined the corps de ballet in January 2017.
How did you start dancing and why?
I started dancing, like most little girls do, at a small studio around 5 years old. Where I would skip around in my pink tutu and jump over obstacles placed on the ground. When I was eight, my grandmother, saw an ad in the newspaper for a tuition free ballet/public school program. I auditioned and was accepted in the program. I trained at Northwest Florida Ballet from 3rd grade all the way until I graduated the Pre-professional Program when I was 17. Ballet was just something I started as a hobby, and cultivated into something I love. Performing on stage was something I craved. Being on stage was my happy place.
Most memorable moment of your career?
One of the most memorable moments so far was my first tour with ABT as an apprentice with the company. We were performing Alexei Ratmansky’s “The Sleeping Beauty” at the Opéra Bastille in Paris. Standing on stage during the bows I looked around, seeing my co-workers taking their bows, hearing the roar from the audience. I had to pinch myself as people I had looked up to for years, were standing right in front of me. It was a moment that I knew I truly am doing what I love as my job.
Photo by Ben Majors
Who is your role model and why?
I have many role models! Sarah Lamb, Gillian Murphy, Stella Abrera, Devon Teuscher, and Cassandra Trenary just to name a few. I look up to them, not only because of their technique, work ethic, but because of their artistry. I gravitate towards dancers that really inspire me to work hard.
Do you have a specific way of warming up for a performance or to get focused for a main role?
It really depends on the ballet. For example, “Swan Lake”, I do a full barre and try some pirouettes before the show. Or for “Giselle”, I do a full barre and some petit allegro before.
What is your favourite theatre in the world to dance in?
My favorite theater is definitely the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center. It's by far the biggest stage I have ever danced on. It’s incredible to be in such a grand theatre.
How is company life at American Ballet Theatre?
Company life at ABT is pretty unbelievable! ABT is, what most people would say, a “big family”. The atmosphere is very positive and lively. It’s amazing how the staff, crew, and dancers all come together when we perform. My co-workers motivate and inspire me to become a better dancer everyday.
Photo by Ben Majors
What is your favorite ballet trick/step?
Ballet is ballet, I enjoy the art form as a whole and can’t really pick a favorite step or trick.
What has been the hardest and most challenging role you have performed?
Act 2 Swans from ABT’s “Swan Lake” is by far the most challenging role I have done yet. It’s not only difficult stamina wise, but actually the standing during the act is a pain that i have never experienced before on stage. Before I perform this particular ballet I have to eat a ton of bananas to reduce cramping in my feet and calves.
What’s your escape from the ballet world?
I have a couple of different ways I escape from my work life. For me to clear my head, I like to take walks in different parks in NYC and read a book, hang with friends, or just a simple night in my apartment, with Netflix is my go to.
Any words of advice for those aspiring to become professional ballet dancers?
My advice to someone who wants to be a professional ballet dancer is to take advantage of every opportunity that arises and to be fearless when it comes. I have found that in this career path its hard to stand out. Especially in a huge corps de ballet, like ABT. So, don't be afraid to really put yourself out there.