(NEW YORK) —Courtney “Coco” Lavine has been a professional ballerina as part of the American Ballet Theatre (ABT) for the past 13 years. Lavine (@cocolavine) who is a member of the American Ballet Theatre’s Corps de Ballet, talked to The Click about her passion for movement and how the image of a ballerina is changing.
The Click: When was it that you first pursued an interest in dance, wanting to become a professional ballerina?
Lavine: I got serious about ballet when I was eight years old and I moved away when I was 16 to New York, and went to ballet school in New York City. And then when I was 18, ABT called to audition for the junior company.
You want to get in when you’re really young. So you can learn everything. And then by the time you’re like, 21, 22, you know the ropes.
Ballet, similar to other professional sports, often has retirement at an age when other industry professionals are just starting to gain momentum in their careers. Do you agree with that?
I think we’re able to sustain a career a little bit longer than in the past. And even like, 10 years ago, when I joined, a lot of people were retiring in their early 30s. I’d say now, I see it getting pushed back, I think with all of the new science, and new technologies—we have physical therapy, and I think cross-training is a huge part of it. This isn’t in the ‘80s when people would only have, like, an apple and a cigarette, now people are just healthier. So, I’m gonna be here a little bit longer.
Lavine often works a 12-hour day or more with classes and rehearsals starting at 10:15 a.m. and a show that ends at 10 p.m.
It’s a long day, but … I love movement. I think I do feel dancing is my passion. But I also feel like storytelling may be a bigger part of that passion than I’ve known or realized until I got a little bit older.
As social media started to grow, Lavine started telling her ballerina story by posting dance photos on Instagram, which caught the attention of fans and major brands, kickstarting a modeling career.
It kind of shifted my perspective. I think for a while dancers were these people that you see on stage. And then when the show’s done, they disappear. And the old school mentality is that they are these mystical beings, but now, through social media, we’re real people who you can get to know, and also, through us, you can get to know and love the art form as well. I think it’s really been a great step for ballet. Now, there’s a new generation of people who are becoming interested in it.
In addition to dancing full-time, Lavine enrolled at Fordham University for a degree in psychology.
I’m happy to say at this point in my career, it’s been such an interesting journey. I love the mind-body connection.
I think a lot of dancers put much of their self worth in what they do. And so I’ve seen when people retire they can no longer say, “I’m a professional dancer,” and that can hit home —Because who am I if I’m not a ballet dancer? And now we’re on our own and have to figure out what to do to get to that next step when we’re done with dance. But what I’ve learned is you don’t have to just be one thing, now you can be many things.
As she continues to study psychology, Lavine will be dancing on tour with ABT for the next few months, returning to New York City in the spring for performances at the David H. Koch Theater and The Metropolitan Opera House, both at Lincoln Center.