I had the opportunity recently to ask Leahnees Miller some questions about her journey as a ballerina. Leahnees is an amazing dancer, she graces the stage with poise and elegance. Her love for ballet is incredible. Below are her responses.
Q1: When did you start ballet?
I started ballet when I was three years old
Q2: Where do you currently dance?
I currently dance at a pre-professional ballet school- Kingsport Ballet
Q3: How long have you been en pointe for?
I have been on pointe for 7 years. I got my pointe shoes very early at age 9
Q4: What pointe shoes do you currently wear?
I am currently wearing Gaynor Extra Flex Stiff ( the yellow bag).
Q5: How did you first get involved in ballet?
When I was three years old my mother enrolled me in dance classes where I would go once a week; the school was an hour away. The next year I started taking classes at a local studio, where I stayed for 2.5 years. Finally, my mother and I decided that if I wanted to become serious with ballet I would need to go to a serious school so at age 7 I was enrolled in Angelina Ballerina Camp (a two week summer intensive for little kids) after that I was enrolled in the fall program and I have stayed at Kingsport Ballet ever since.
Q6: What is your favourite variation?
My favorite variation might come as a shock to most because it is known for it’s infamously aggravating choreography- the red fairy (or the finger fairy) in Sleeping Beauty
Q7: What company would you love to work for?
My dream company is Ballet Met! I would love to dance with them!
Q8: Do you have a favourite memory/moment in ballet?
Yes! I love whenever the rehearsal season is very busy and we have to come into the studio in the morning to rehearse our variations. I loved rehearsing Sleeping Beauty in 2019
Q9: Who are your ballet roles models? Dancers that inspire you.
In the ballet world, I look up to Isabella Boylston, James Whiteside, Natalia Osipova, and Kathryn Morgan!
Q10: Best advice you’ve ever received from a teacher?
Some of the best advice I’ve received might sound a little harsh but it’s that the audience does not care about what is going on in your personal life or backstage they only want to see a good performance, not all the drama behind it. Once you enter the studio you are in the studio and when you leave the studio that is personal life
Q11: Advise you’d give a young version of yourself?
Don’t listen to your teachers too much, most things they say shouldn’t be taken to heart, be nice to yourself- you are so beautiful
Q12: Best thing about being a ballerina?
The hard work!
Q13: Hardest thing about being a ballerina?
Body image and criticism are the hardest parts of being a ballerina. Its important to separate yourself from ballet sometimes and see yourself for who YOU are and not just as the ballerina or what you want to be, what your teachers want you to be, or what you aren’t
Q14: It seems like such hard work, did you ever have days growing up where you were like “ugh maybe I’ll just pick an easier career so I can be like a normal teenager”?
That is certainly a thought that I think that should be more normalized. I have thought that many times and that’s okay. At the beginning of every fall season I used to get very unmotivated to go to class and listen to all the criticism and do the same thing over and over. A good thing to keep in mind is that ballet is not everything. You are a person with a life that could be potentially filled with many beautiful diverse experiences. There’s no reason to limit yourself to one career or one life. Ballet is not life, ballet is a part of your life right now and if it isn’t a part of your life in the future that is okay too. There shouldn’t be this pressure to always succeed and always be 100% driven towards a career in ballet.
Q15: Classical or romantic tutu?
Q16: Have you ever suffered a serious injury?
Yes! In the fall of 2017(13 years old), I fell during a fondue combination and my kneecap dislocated and came then came back into socket. Once I fell down I was too scared to get back up so I sat up against the wall and waited for my fellow students to finish their combination and for my teacher ( he was a guest teacher) to come over see what had happened. Once he got over to me he asked if I could bend my leg and I told I couldn’t but he insisted and bent it for me. Later, we found out that when my kneecap dislocated it scraped off a pea size bit of cartilage with it. My former doctor told me that we could either do surgery or start a physical therapy. At the time, we thought the safer option would be to start therapy since the doctors said that having surgery would give me a 50/50 chance of getting the results the doctors wanted. So I started a special type of physical therapy that involves a where a pressure cuff around my thought, above my knee, to move all of the blood from my calf up to injured spot to form a scab where the missing cartilage had left a whole on the inside of my knee. So fast forward to this year, I had assumed that my knee was okay since we did everything that the doctor said and but after dancing for 2 years on a knee that was chronically swollen with horrible chronic pain I thought this probably isn’t normal so my mother and I went to a different doctor. It turns out that the pea size bit of cartilage had expanded into over the size of marble, my kneecap was extremely weak and loose, and had arthritis. A month and half later I had a major reconstruction surgery where they scraped and polished the back of my kneecap, removed the extra cartilage, and added in a ligament on the inside side of my knee to secure the patella ( kneecap). I have been in recovery mode since then and I am proud to say that I am officially back on pointe and doing everything that I was doing before!
Q17: What do you like to do when you aren’t dancing (your free time)?
I really enjoy spending time with friends, family, and pets, modeling drawing, painting, swimming, intertubing, boxing, and working out!