DANCE ‣ Dancer of the Month, May - Alyssa Eyster, USA
Updated: May 16
Victoria Parker, Senior Editor, Dance
Born in San Jose, CA, USA, Alyssa Eyster is our May dance of the month! She began her training at Cincinnati Ballet’s Otto M. Budig Academy and Northern Cincinnati Youth Ballet, both located in Ohio. At Inland Pacific Ballet in Claremont, CA Alyssa continued her training where she was also able to perform as a trainee with the company. Her senior year of high school, Alyssa attended the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and received a high school diploma with a concentration in ballet in 2016 and a Bachelors of Fine Arts in 2019 also from UNCSA under Dean of Dance, Susan Jaffe. After graduation in 2019, she joined Nashville Ballet’s Second Company under the direction of Paul Vasterling and Nick Mullikin where she has been able to perform full length works such as The Nutcracker and Romeo and Juliet, as well as numerous contemporary works.
Currently Alyssa is continuing to dance with Nashville Ballet’s Second Company as they have had the opportunity to dance in person since August 2020. Nashville Ballet has created a safe environment for their dancers by requiring masks in the studios and social distancing their dancers when it does not affect their choreography. The company has also brought in local providers to test the dancers weekly, along with rapid testing for when they film some productions without masks. This is a rare opportunity for dancers during this time and Alyssa expresses her gratitude to be with a company that has the resources and ability to take these measures and bring their dancers back into the studio. Many dancers are still unable to enter the studios, making this exciting news that some companies have been able to open their doors again successfully and safely. Dance is a contact art form making it difficult to stay safe during the global pandemic, however with stories such as the one of Nashville Ballet, one can see that normalcy is coming back and people are becoming more adaptable.
Alyssa did still have to endure quarantine though prior to August 2020. Like every dancer and athlete she was confined to training in her apartment. She took this time to get outside and enjoyed several walks throughout the quarantine. Along with walks she was able to take a lot of Pilates classes and other zoom exercise classes taught by one of Nashville Ballet’s ballet mistresses. While many exercise classes can be complicated to perform at home, Pilates is one that can be easily done in a small space, thus making it ideal for dancers as it is already a top cross-training form for dancers regardless of the pandemic.
Alyssa did some interval training as well, which is another great cross-training tool for dancers. Dance has been proven to be a high intensity interval (HIIT) style of training, rather than an endurance style, making HIIT workouts much more comparable to dance rather than running for instance. Alyssa tried to pick up running at the beginning of quarantine, likely due to its ease of accessibility, but said that did not last long for her. Many dancers find running difficult as it requires a different breathing technique and stamina than dance does. It also puts a lot of pressure on the knees, which dancers already put arguably, too much, pressure on.
Being away from the studios can be very difficult, luckily for Alyssa, her boyfriend helped her install a bar and 5x6 foot, sprung floor in her room. She was able to use this space during the summer and the other short quarantines that occurred in Nashville. Having a space that feels at least somewhat familiar is very helpful during such a hard time. When Alyssa missed being in a usual ballet studio, she pursued bedroom improvisation. This is a way to let go and feel your body however you want to in that moment. Improvisation can be a great relief mechanism for dancers who feel that they cannot move properly. You can adapt improv to your space and make it completely your own, expressing any emotions you may not be able to verbally express.
If you want to check out Alyssa performing, they have just finished filming 4 works that will be premiering soon! The works were each choreographed by another one of Nashville Ballet’s Second Company members. These unique works are currently in the editing phase, but I have linked the Nashville Ballet website below, so keep an eye out for these works to premier and help support Alyssa as she continues her dancing career!