For Dancers, the Not-So-Lazy Days of Summer

Five performers tell us about their off-season. It’s not all work and no play, but they didn’t forget to stay in shape.ImageSarah Hayes Harkins, a dancer at Charlotte Ballet, teaches ballet in the summer — and drives for Lyft.CreditCreditKennedi Carter for The New York TimesPublished Aug. 29, 2019Updated Aug. 30, 2019, 1:04 p.m. ETA body…

For Dancers, the Not-So-Lazy Days of Summer

Five performers tell us about their off-season. It’s not all work and no play, but they didn’t forget to stay in shape.ImageSarah Hayes Harkins, a dancer at Charlotte Ballet, teaches ballet in the summer — and drives for Lyft.CreditCreditKennedi Carter for The New York TimesPublished Aug. 29, 2019Updated Aug. 30, 2019, 1:04 p.m. ETA body in motion tends to stay in motion, so summer can present a challenge for dancers. For those who work at ballet companies, the period after July 4 usually means a layoff of at least a few weeks. But free time doesn’t necessarily mean sloth. (Though, like all of us, dancers crave rest.) Summer is festival season. With events like the Vail Dance Festival or the Fire Island Dance Festival, the summer months can offer opportunities to try on new roles or different styles, to choreograph or maybe to collaborate with dancers from other companies.It can also be a time of anxiety, particularly for dancers at smaller companies or freelancers. With downtime comes a loss of income, which must be supplemented in other ways. For a lucky few, summer is time — at least in part — for some much-needed rest from the demands of an art that takes its toll on the body. I spoke with dancers from different disciplines: ballet, modern, tap and Indian classical dance, about what they do in the summer months. Their accounts have been edited and condensed.Sarah Hayes Harkins: A Ballerina Behind the WheelSarah Hayes Harkins, 29, has been a dancer with Charlotte Ballet in North Carolina since 2008. Though the company has no official ranks, Ms. Harkins has performed most of the principal parts: Cinderella, Aurora in “Sleeping Beauty” and Sugarplum in “The Nutcracker.” The company has 20 dancers, for whom it guarantees at least 36 weeks of work. (This arrangement is not unusual, and 36 weeks is considered good in the field.) That leaves up to 16 unpaid weeks a year. During the summer layoff, my husband — a classical guitarist — and I definitely have to hunker down and be really conscious of the money going out and coming in. My main source of other work here in Charlotte is teaching private ballet lessons. I also drive for Lyft. I have a Volkswagen Tiguan, a little silver baby S.U.V. I make a solid average of $10 an hour. I’ll do it for most of the day and not take a break. If I stretch for a while after I’m done, I’m fine. It doesn’t make my body feel any worse than it already does.To be honest, the time goes by very quickly. I’m a super social person so if they want to talk I’m totally down for that. For me it’s the perfect little side job. Last year I drove Aziz Ansari. I picked him up from Bojangles’ Coliseum where he had been doing a show. Aziz and his dad came out the back door and hopped in. He was really nice. He was watching videos of the show he had just done on his phone. At one point, his dad was trying to give me directions, and Aziz stopped him and said, dad, she’s got the thing, you don’t have to tell her how to get there!Shantala Shivalingappa: Back to NatureImageMs. Shivalingappa in Mysore, India, this summer.The Chennai-born dancer Shantala Shivalingappa lives in Paris and spends much of the year on the road. Her training is in the Indian classical dance form kuchipudi, but just as often, she works with contemporary choreographers and theater directors. Each summer, Ms. Shivalingappa, 43, leaves her performing life behind and returns to India.I spend almost two and a half months in India, without anyth
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