Here's What It Takes to Become a Professional Dancer as Told by a Boston Ballet Ballerina

Ballet is one of the most graceful forms of dance.

But don't let the smiling faces of ballerinas fool you—a ton of training and hard work goes into perfecting those elegant arabesques and pirouettes.

To find out just what it takes to become a professional ballet dancer, we got the lowdown from Boston Ballet II member Abigail Merlis about how she got involved with dance, her training regime and what pushes her to keep going when times get tough.

Scroll below to see what she said!

Ballet dancer Abigail Merlis from Boston Ballet

(Photo credit: Rosalie O'Connor)


Sweety High: How did you get involved with dance?

Abigail Merlis: I was first exposed to dance through my two older sisters who both danced at our local studio. As soon as I was old enough to talk I asked my mom put me in classes, too.

SH: When did you realize you wanted to dance professionally?

AM: Dance classes were always my favorite part of the day growing up, but it had never really occurred to me that it could be my career. When I was about 12 or 13, I started getting more serious about ballet. Even though I still took modern, jazz and tap classes, ballet was all I could think about. I became more exposed to the professional ballet world through videos on YouTube, and I realized that I wanted that to be my career.


SH: What does your weekly training routine look like?

AM: Six days a week I take an hour-and-a-half ballet class in the morning and have rehearsals for the rest of the day. I like to cross-train by doing Pilates and swimming.

A male and a female ballet dancer training together

(Photo credit: Igor Burlak Photography)


SH: What's the most difficult part about your training?

AM: Maintaining self-confidence. It is easy to compare yourself to others and get down on yourself, but you need that confidence to be able to dance your best and improve.


SH: Who are some dancers you really admire?

AM: So many of the dancers that I am around everyday! I especially look up to the principal women of Boston Ballet. They are all such unique and seasoned professionals. I love watching all of the different choices they make in their dancing. The fact that they each put so much thought and care into everything they do makes it easy to see why they are the highest ranked dancers in our company.


SH: Other than The Nutcracker, what's one production you'd love to dance in?

AM: I am really excited to be a part of William Forsythe's Artifact, coming up this season. It is such an epic work and is so different from anything I have ever danced before. Also, Balanchine's Theme and Variations has always been a dream ballet of mine.

Boston Ballet dancer Abigail Merlis

(Photo credit: Igor Burlak Photography)


SH: What drives you to pursue this career even when times get tough?

AM: Music is what usually inspires me when I am going through a rough period or am low on confidence. It is incredible how music can make you feel, and I am so lucky that my job is to express that feeling and dance to beautiful music every day!


SH: What is your advice for girls who dream of being a professional dancer one day?

AM: I think if you love dancing and want to be a professional, you have to be driven and focused. Daily ups and downs can be distracting, but it is important to remember that the discipline and focus of ballet is a constant in your life. It is your anchor during the ups and downs, and it inspires you to try to grow as a dancer every day.


Chances are you found your way here because you're a ballet dancer yourself. We're guessing you'd relate to THESE bun head struggles.