Inquirer: The secret life of a ballerina

Brooke Moore finds her offstage challenge outdoors, hiking national parks across the country. Photo by SHARON GEKOSKI-KIMMEL / Staff Photographer
Brooke Moore finds her offstage challenge outdoors, hiking national parks across the country. Photo by SHARON GEKOSKI-KIMMEL / Staff Photographer

I cover the secret passions of a handful of Pennsylvania Ballet dancers in a story for the Philadelphia Inquirer yesterday.

It was last summer when Brooke Moore figured she and her father had probably scared away a mountain lion.

The deer they discovered was freshly killed, its leg just torn off; there were no bugs and the blood trail was visible. The two didn’t pay it much mind, though, and continued their weeklong, 85-mile backpacking trek through the Pennsylvania Laurel Highlands.

Just another day in the life of a ballerina. Read the rest here.

See the story, comment and return to see the Pennsylvania Ballet in action and to read what didn’t make it in my story.

Martha Chamberlain, principal dancer
Center City, 37

  • She gets help from the ballet’s wardrobe department.
  • For the past three years, she has been the predominant designer for BalletX, a troupe that preforms at the Wilma Theatre.
  • Her sister, who went to the Rhode Island School of Design, is still in the fashion industry
  • She started designing for the Pennsylvania Ballet by working on smaller shows in 1992. Her first large piece was for a performance at the Academy of Music in1993.
  • She took classes at the University of the Arts in the early 1990s, learning jewelry crafting.
  • Her jewelry appeared in stores through Philadelphia.
  • “I would go through phases. Things were selling and it became more than a hobby, so I’d take a break and return whenever I found inspiration.”
  • She returned to sewing in 1995 after her jewelry hiatus.
  • “I was sick of the leotards I was wearing. So I decided to make my own.”
  • “I see a lot of dancers, younger dancers, going to school, even if online. A lot of dancers prepping themselves for ‘what if I can’t do this anymore?” said Chamberlain, who didn’t attend a college.
  • “I think this economy is making the younger ones realize they need something for when they’re done dancing.”
  • She’s busy, too. After recently completing one design job, she had four more waiting.

Julie Diana, principal dancer
Cheltenham, 33, wife of principal Zachary Hench

  • While pregnant with her daughter last year, Diana was approached by Dance Spirit magazine to blog.
  • She has also been published by the University of Pennsylvania’s literary journal.
  • Hench proposed to Diana in 2005 on stage at the Academy of Music after serving the respective lead roles of a performance of Romeo and Juliet.
  • Principal dancer Julie Diana agrees that an outside hobby “enriches” her dancing.
  • “I’ve always loved to write. It’s always been a passion.”
  • For years I was chipping away at a college degree. I can finally be proud of that,” said the new Penn alumnae.
  • She has been dancing professionally since she joined the San Francisco Ballet at 16.
  • “As long as my body holds up and my love for it is still there, I will be a dancer.”
  • “The body is probably the huge issue. The instrument gets trashed along the way.”
  • “I would enjoy writing for a magazine.”
  • “I have a degree in English. I’m hoping that opens a lot of doors,” she said with a laugh.
  • Her daughter was born on June 23, 2008, and then she started dancing again in September,
  • She had two pieces in Dance Spirit in February and another in September.
  • “I’m still trying to figure it all out. Being anew mother, working and writing. It’s pretty crazy.”
  • “Having outside interests definitely enriches my dancing.”
  • “Going to school helped my ballet, it never detracted from it.”
  • She has hopes of going back to get her master’s. “I have to pace myself.”

Brooke Moore, soloist
Art Museum district, 27

  • “I’m the outdoorsy type.”
  • Dancers operate on two-week contracts, she said. They get off July, August and most of September.
  • In-season, we get weekends. It’s like a 9-6 day job, but you’re really physically tired.
  • “I take yoga. I used to ride my bicycle, but my bike was stolen.”
  • When performing, I’m not in until 11 but it goes into the night. When performing, I’m not doing any additional activity.
  • “I’m only living in the city for my job.”
  • “When I’m not physical, I want to keep going. I want to keep challenged. It’s also mental.”
  • “My most recent accomplishment I’m proud of was probably backpacking last summer with my father. We hiked 70, more like 85 miles in a week in The laurel highlands  trail in Central Pennsylvania.
  • When I lived in San Francisco, it was climbing in Yosemite and other things like that in California.
  • “The majority of dancers have hobbies but they are less strenuous.”
  • “I think with any hobby, it can make you a better dancer.”
  • “Also my hobbies keep me in shape in the off-season. It’s cross training, but not with wear and tear.”
  • “It might remain just a hobby, but making it another career has crossed my mind.”
  • “We spend so much time together and in such intimate settings. It is like a tight knit family. We know each other so well.”
  • “Doing things outdoors make me happy, and my well being affects me as an artist,” Moore said.
  • “Everyone’s other outlet, well, it’s a whole other life,” Moore said.

Jonathan Stiles, chorus
Center City, 32 (husband of Martha Chamberlain)

  • “I’d say cooking and cycling are both my avid hobbies.”
  • “I’ve done catering for garden parties a few times with a good friend Kathryn Frazier.”
  • It’s developed over the past three or four years.
  • “It could be a future. It’s what I’m interested in. Caterring is every bit as time consuming and exhausting as dancing is.”
  • “As a dancer or any performer, you are the people who work weekends and holidays, when other people are being entertained. It’s much the same in the catering industry. I want might try to a schedule.”
  • “There are traits in people that help them become a succesful dancer. If you’re looking at people dancing for their careers, the highest caliber kind of dancer in this country, well then there are traits that are required to get to a place like the Pennsylvania Ballet. Almost everyone had to decide at a very early age that they would be dedicated to this thing. They’d spend a lot of hours. I went to an arts school for high school and college. With my work study jobs, that meant 14 hours a day.”
  • “Dancers from the time that they are 10 or 11, they are being driven to dance classes every single night. Maybe we’re not very comfortable having much down time.
  • Dancers are very passionate about the other things they do.”
  • There are kind of two through lines with a lof these hobbies. They are things that relate to being a dancer. Design work comes out of being around dance so much. Julia Diana, her writing comes from dance. And the hiking or in my case, cycling, helps to keep in shape.”
  • It also has to do with self-determination. Dancers, more than other people, don’t get a lot of being able to decide their own schedule, like what parts they do.

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