An Afternoon with a Ballerina

June 2, 2016

When you see Drew walking down the street, it’s hard not to take a second look. She’s strikingly beautiful; she’s tall, slender, and walks with a grace that seems other-worldly. Then you take one look at her calves and it doesn’t take a detective to put it all together: Drew is a ballerina. Her deceptively slim frame is chiseled and defined from endless hours of physical training and performance, her heels covered in band-aids, and her eyes slightly tired from the unconventional hours of a performer.

Drew studied at the School of American Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, and Pacific Northwest Ballet. She then started her official career in 2002 with Lines Ballet in San Francisco where she was principal dancer. She then went on to Japan to perform in principal roles alongside dancers from the Royal Ballet and Paris Opera Ballet. In 2005, she won the Princess Grace Award and in 2006 she was voted Dance Magazines ‘It Girl’. The list of her accolades goes on and on–her move to New York City to begin a freelance career, her co-founding of ‘Jacoby & Prank’, a small project-based touring company, her move to the Netherlands to join the Nederlands Dans Theater 1, and now her involvement with the Royal Ballet of Flanders as a principal dancer.


We met Drew over ten years ago on a Manhattan rooftop. She and her friend Ruby were dressed in eccentrically colored 80s-inspired jazzercise-wear and it was wonderful. Our brother-in-law snapped photographs as they leaped over what seemed like the entire Manhattan skyline–it was a magical moment where we felt lost in the fantasy of it all. Even though for Drew and Ruby it was just a fun and even silly photoshoot, it was in that moment we realized that dancers are not merely entertainers but amazing examples of what the human body is capable of.

©Chad Riley
©Chad Riley

When we heard Drew was coming to Lausanne (what a small world!) we couldn’t wait to catch up with her after all of these years. We were also curious about what was bringing this world-class ballerina to our small & humble town of Lausanne–turns out it was our world-class ballet company: Béjart Ballet. This June, Béjart Ballet will be unleashing their show Bolero, a masterpiece that some believe made Béjart famous in the first place. It features a single woman, surrounded by twenty male dancers, and is known for its staggering crescendo in both choreography and music. Drew spent two weeks working with Béjart Ballet and learning the part of the principle. We decided to ask Drew a few questions about her life as a dancer, as well as some tips for those of us who travel a lot like her:

How long have you been dancing? Did you always want to be a ballerina?

My mother put me in ballet when I was about 5 years old. I think I needed an outlet for my need to constantly move (and be the center of attention). By the time I was 10, I had my mind made up that this was what I wanted. 

What is the most challenging or difficult thing about working in ballet/dance?

Do I have to pick just one? At this stage, fairly late into my career, a huge challenge is actually the transition from being a dancer to not being a dancer. There’s no smooth way to do it. I’m not quite there yet, but it’s a complex and abrupt change. To be a dancer, you have to be obsessed and disciplined from a young age. Your identity is wrapped up in dance. You enter the field so young and so fully immersed, that it’s hard to think about and prepare for what happens after. Even though I have many outside interests and dreams, it’s virtually impossible to find time to invest in anything else. The sacrifice is real. And that’s a challenge. But of course, it is a choice that I’ve made, and I wouldn’t have changed it. 

Drew twirling

Can you tell us a bit about what brought you to Lausanne?

I am dancing for The Royal Ballet of Flanders in Antwerp, Belgium. We are one of the few companies outside of Bejart Ballet that has been granted the permission to dance Maurice Bejart’s Bolero. A few of us came to Lausanne to learn the main role in the piece for two weeks. 

How did you find the routine of Bolero? How does it compare with other dance routines you are used to?

Bolero is a legendary piece. It’s very famous and many dance legends have performed the main role. So it has a big history and there’s a lot to live up to. It takes a big personality to dance this role because it is quite simple. The choreography is some of the most challenging I’ve ever learned, not because of the steps themselves, but because of the repetitiveness of the music and steps. It has very intricate and complicated counts. It’s a lot of brain work, whereas most other works rely on muscle memory. Many dancers have used a screen with the names of the steps in the wings to help remember what comes next. This is quite a dream role for me though. It’s got something very special and magnetic about it and the music is legendary. 


What were your favorite aspects of the city of Lausanne? Any highlights?

My favorite part about Lausanne is the natural beauty surrounding it. It truly is stunning. And the sunshine! I love the combination of the lake, mountains, sunshine, and old world culture. And it is so CLEAN! 

You tend to travel a lot for your profession, what are your top 5 travel tips/what are some things you make sure to do when visiting a new city?

  • DON’T FEEL STUPID TAKING THE BIG BUS TOUR. It’s actually fun and educational and a very efficient way to see a new city with limited time.

Thanks Drew for spending the afternoon with us! You can find out more about Drew by visiting her website or following her on Instagram.