Miriam Miller, New York City Ballet
Where did you grow up and how did you get interested in dance? MM: I grew up in a small town called Iowa City, Iowa. I have two older brothers currently in college. My parents encored us to explore multiple interests, so growing up I took lessons in dance, piano and percussion, and participated in soccer, softball, gymnastics, tennis and track. I started dancing at the age of 4, taking tap, jazz and ballet. But, after a few years, I knew that I most enjoyed ballet. How did your background and your family's background; affect your passion for dance? MM: The dance world was completely foreign to my family, so we had to educate ourselves and learn from each experience, not quite knowing what to expect next. My passion is derived in part from my parents. They have been very supportive. For example, when we learned that summer intensives were important for my development as a young ballet dancer, they would drive me four hours to Chicago in the winter months to audition. When I was fortunate to be invited to join the winter term of the School of American Ballet, it was a hard decision for them to let me move from the small town in Iowa to New York City at the age of 15. But, they trusted my commitment and knew that this was a defining period if I was to have a career in ballet. My passion for ballet also comes from the joy I get from dancing and the never-ending challenge to improve. What career would you have chosen if you could not have been a dancer? MM: This is difficult because right now I can't imagine not dancing! I will be attending Fordham University beginning in the fall and will need to decide on a course of study. I have always been interested in how people think and act, how they respond differently to situations and especially why people can sometimes make bad decisions. I like talking to people about things that they are struggling with and would love to be able to help other people with their problems. So, if I had to choose another career, I would probably be a psychologist. What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started dancing professionally? MM: Having confidence in yourself will help you become a stronger dancer. It's not about being conceited or worrying about whether you are good enough, but feeling focused and confident about your dancing. This will improve your artistry and presence and help you stand out more. Also, having confidence allows you to take more risks and realize your full potential. Of all the roles you have performed, which role helped you to grow the most as an artist? MM: Since I am new to New York City Ballet, I haven't performed much of the repertory. But, of my performance opportunities, I was most able to grow as an artist during the choreographic workshops at SAB. Having someone choreograph on me and create a completely new piece allowed me to interpret the movements and ideas in the way that I felt them, rather than watching somebody else dance and try to mimic them. I enjoyed this process and have been able to discover a new side of myself as a performer with each new piece. If a child told you they wanted to be a dancer, what advice would you give them? MM: Your passion has to be strong so that you can move past the negativity and the obstacles that may come and continue working hard. Who would you like most to have a coffee with (could be dead or alive)? MM: Anyone that has a cooking show on Food Network! Because I'd hope they would invite me to their house and make me dinner! Who were some of the people who influenced you the most in your career? MM: One of the most important people to influence me was my ballet teacher from Iowa City, Sarah Barragan. Early on, she emphasized the importance of summer intensives and helped me set the goal of attending SAB winter term. She has been a mentor and I still ask her for advice. She even made a special trip to NYC earlier this year just so she could watch my debut performance with NYCB! I know that she will always be there to help me. What do you most value in your friends? MM: Their honesty. What is your idea of perfect happiness? MM: I have no complaints about my life right now, so I would have to say I'm living my dream. If you could be an animal, what animal would you choose and why? MM: I would chose to be a fish. But a small one, like a beta fish, that's a house pet. I could swim and "dance" around all day long and just people watch from my fish bowl. Also, I wouldn't have to find my own food or clean my own living space. Which person (dead or alive) would your most want to dance with if you could? MM: It would be an honor to partner with any professional dancer, I would just want them to be taller than me! What is your greatest indulgence? MM: Netflix thrillers. What are your worse fears (professionally or personally)? MM: A personal fear is that I will be unable to have a child of my own. My biggest professional fear is that I will get injured and have to prematurely end my dancing career. What was your biggest mishap in a performance? MM: While performing as a Court Woman in Peter Martins "The Sleeping Beauty", my wig (which was a huge bundle of curled hair with a feather sticking out of the top) somehow became entangled with another girls wig. With our heads attached to each other, we had to walk to the front of the stage and mime during the awakening scene. Everyone on the stage was laughing and I was relieved to see the ballet masters in the wings smiling as well. Is there a special meal you have before performances? MM: I need to eat protein otherwise I don't feel as strong and energized. I just make sure I only eat enough to feel content but not so much that I feel stuffed. Caffeine helps too! It's after a performance that I refuel.