By Mary Hierholzer
As ballet students, we always admired Carolyn Lippert. Her sense of musicality and movement stood out in a sea of young bunheads, and her grace extended down to her fingertips. An aptitude for ballet is in Carolyn’s blood (her mother Carla Stallings-Lippert, our teacher, was a soloist with the American Ballet Theatre and a principal with Boston Ballet), as well as a result of intense and dedicated work ethic.
Watching Carolyn in class and in recitals, we always knew she would go far, and sure enough—the 23-year-old ballerina has just completed her third Met season with the American Ballet Theatre.
Her balletic beginnings took root at Severance Dance School in Fresno, CA when she was just three years old. At age 12, Carolyn began attending ABT’s summer intensives until age 16, when she joined ABT’s Studio Company. After dancing as an apprentice for an ABT Met season, she joined the Washington Ballet for a season, and then went on to San Francisco Ballet for another season. In 2015, Carolyn returned to ABT in the corps de ballet, where she has danced in ballets including Swan Lake, Giselle, Don Quixote, Onegin, The Sleeping Beauty, Balanchine’s Symphony in C and Alexei Ratmansky’s new work for ABT, Whipped Cream.
Currently listening to: I have classical radio on a lot when I’m at home. Currently I’m playing Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings, one of the most rewarding and beautiful pieces of music to dance to.
Binge watching: My last binge watch was House of Cards; I had to remember what happened prior to starting the new season!
Summer vacation plans: I’m going to Florida, where my boyfriend’s family is, for a week (and to Disney World for the first time!), then to San Francisco to see my old friends in San Francisco Ballet before going home to Fresno for the rest of August.
Something that not many people know about you: Not many people know I have a dog, or that I’m taking college courses online. I’m also terrified of spiders.
Favorite role: Balanchine’s Serenade, and as hard as it is, I love being a swan in Swan Lake.
Dream role: Giselle and Tatiana in Onegin.
BDJ: How has your mother influenced you as a ballerina?
CL: She’s a constant support for me and always inspires and pushes me to believe in myself and keep pushing.
BDJ: What was the moment when you knew that you wanted to be a professional dancer?
CL: Probably the moment I got my pointe shoes. I was really into gymnastics until then, and I had to choose between the two, but it was a very easy decision for me even at age nine!
BDJ: What did it take to get from a small city in California to ABT?
CL: I suppose a combination of many things! So much of this career depends on being in the right place at the right time. Of course, having a coach who knew the ropes of the career helped immensely as well, and so did the countless hours of work in the studio with her!
BDJ: What does it feel like to dance onstage and go on tour with ABT?
CL: It had been a dream of mine for so long that it was hard to believe I was actually there doing it. The first time I performed with ABT was during Met season, and the feeling of being on the Met stage with all of the artists I had grown up watching was such a magical experience. I am still blown away that I get to dance and travel with such amazing dancers and call them colleagues.
BDJ: What have you learned while dancing with ABT?
CL: I’ve learned that every dancer brings something different to the table. You can’t compare yourself. I try to focus on learning from the other artists around me instead of trying to be the same.
BDJ: Besides your mother, who have been some of your role models?
BDJ: What’s your favorite style of ballet to dance, and why?
CL: I love dancing the classics, but at the same time dancing with other styles, like ballets by Balanchine and Alexei Ratmansky, is always a lot of fun because you get to use your body in a more dynamic way.
BDJ: What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in ballet?
CL: The biggest challenge I've faced so far was my ankle injury. I had a recurring issue with a tendon that followed me from 2011–2016 and really affected my dancing and career. I finally took the time to let it heal correctly, and I’ve been back and am stronger than before now!
BDJ: What gets you through challenges?
CL: My family is my biggest support system. I don't think I would be able to get through the daily challenges or would have been able to get through my injury without them. My dog Chloe is also a huge help!
BDJ: What are some of your current and long-term goals as a dancer?
CL: Currently I just met one of my goals: to dance an entire season injury-free! Long-term goals include continuing to be injury-free (of course) and to be strong enough to be offered opportunities to learn more challenging and stand-out rolls.
BDJ: What is the most rewarding thing about being a ballet dancer?
CL: After all the hard work in the studios it is always so rewarding to finally perform. Having the opportunity to touch an audience and give part of yourself onstage is why I do what I do.
Catch Carolyn Lippert in an upcoming performance with the American Ballet Theatre. For tickets and showtimes, visit ABT's webpage.