Sara Hoenes

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What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on “Apassionata: The Beginning”. It’s an equestrian show that has been running in Europe for 9 years and is making it’s US debut. There are 14 dancers in the show in Europe and only 4 here in the States. The choreographer is Lorin Latero, and the director is Scott Faris. It’s been a total blast so far, and a lot of hard work!

When did you decide you wanted to be a dancer?

When I was 13 I auditioned for “The Nutcracker” at Oregon Ballet Theatre. I wasn’t in the school yet, which made it rare to even get a part. James Canfield was the Artistic Director at the time and he cast me in 2 roles because I could tumble as well as dance. 40 Nutcrackers in a month and I knew that I wanted to dance every role in the ballet. I would watch every rehearsal I could and learn all the dances on my own. I used to watch performances from the 1st wing. I would curl my knees up so I was out of the way and just watch the entire show until I had to get ready to go on. If I was in the dressing room, I would do all the dances I had memorized from rehearsal. I’m sure it was quite annoying to everyone else, but I just loved it.

When did you start your training?

I started tap class when I was 10, then jazz, then when I was 11, I had to take ballet to be in the performing group at my studio. Acro and gymnastics followed. I started training at a professional ballet school when I was 14 (the year after I did Nutcracker) and was asked to be in a professional training program when I was 16, so then I took only 2 classes in high school and danced the rest of the day.

Who were your mentors and what roles did they play in your growth as an artist?

Summer Lee Rhatigan was my most influential mentor. I trained with her at LINES and SFCD after college and when I was recovering from an injury. She just has undying belief in my abilities. She taught me to reach further that I thought possible, audition for highly reputable companies, think in different ways and ALWAYS give more, more, more. She taught me new tools, textures and images. She taught me a whole new thought process for dance and for life. Another mentor has been Warren Adams. I danced in his piece “The Audacious One” 3 years ago and we share a lot of the same views on dance, art and life. He is another person that has had tremendous belief in my abilities.

Where are you based out of?

I’m based out of New York.

What’s your favorite on stage memory?

I have 2. The first was in college when I danced the Diana and Actaeon variation. I felt so powerful to be able to perform and execute such a difficult variation. I love the dynamics of the variation that go between soft and hard, light and heavy, and the story it tells. The other would have to be the performance I did with the Steps Ensemble in an outdoor amphitheater in Stellenboch, South Africa. We were dancing Andrea Miller’s piece, “Snow” and there is a part where you fall on your back in the beginning of the piece. It started raining a little, and it was amazing to be laying outside in the midst of this powerful piece, staring up at the clear night sky and have small drops of rain falling on me. It was a very real moment… like, “you’re here in South Africa dancing amazing works of art”… so thrilling.

What inspires you to keep going?

My hunger for knowledge and experience. My career has been very different that the one I expected, but has brought me the most amazing experiences and travel opportunities I could ask for. I’m so grateful. I love, love, love to work in the studio too. Just feels so good to dig my heels in and create something. Collaborative and new works are my favorite.

What are your goals or hobbies outside of dance?

Anything art related really. I love to go to museums, see dance, broadway and plays. I also have a life coaching business that I started this year. I use very specific techniques and tools to achieve my goals and I love to see others have success in their lives. I work freelance as an event planner as well and see my next career heading in that direction. I’ve already received full-time job offers, but I’m not quite done dancing yet! My other goals include getting married and having children…. which is something I never thought I would say!

What was your first professional job as a dancer?

My first job was an apprentice at Oregon Ballet Theatre. The same director that cast me as a rat and a russian candy in “The Nutcracker” when I was 13 offered me a spot in the company when I was 17 years old, right out of high school. It was an absolute dream come true.

What has been your greatest triumph to date?

My greatest triumph is over coming an injury I had when I was 24. I was dancing in a small contemporary ballet company in Minneapolis and the night we opened at the Joyce, I discovered that I had a stress fracture in my femoral neck (hip). By the time I got an MRI the fracture was almost all the way across the bone. The doctors said that if I had kept dancing, or walking on it I would have needed a full hip replacement. I was on crutches for about 4 months and then rehabbed with Pilates, swimming and training with Summer Rhatigan. It was a very slow process and it took me over a year to come back to dancing full out. It was a very tedious and slow process. Many doctors told me I wouldn’t dance again. It was a huge challenge to start my career over again when I was 26, but I just set my mind to it and didn’t listen to any negativity. My best dancing years have been 26-30.

Do you have any advice to give to other dancers whether they are just starting or in the thick of it?

Listen to your heart. It will tell you if you are making the right decisions. Work hard. People can tell if you work hard and they are more likely to want to work with you. Alonzo King once told me that it doesn’t matter how you feel, you come and dance your best every day.

What is your favorite place you have ever performed?

The outdoor theatre in Stellenboch, South Africa.

Was there a particular performance that changed your life or changed you as a dancer?

I think seeing performances has changed me more than performing myself. I think change as a dancer has come through work in the studio, taking artistic risks, constantly auditioning and did I mention work in the studio? Whatever I have been interested in, I have gone after full force and it has definitely changed me for the better more than once in my career.

As far as performances I have seen that have changed my life, I would say Sylvie Guillem’s “Sacred Monsters” with Akram Kahn, and the first ballet I saw was “Sheherazade” at Oregon Ballet Theatre. Also, anything by Pina Bauch.

Do you have a pre-show ritual or superstition?

No. I just try to make sure that I am well prepared, that I am warm, I have certain areas of choreography in my head before the show and that I feel good about my hair, make up and costume, because I don’t want to be thinking about it when I am dancing. I prepare myself the best I can so I can be present in the moment on stage.

What music are you listening to right now?

Adele, Lady Gaga and anything my boyfriend sends me as my “song of the day” while I’m away on tour.

List five inspirations.

Summer Lee Rhatigan, Karine Plantadit, Claire Livingstone, Holly Cruikshank, Twyla Tharp.

***Source of pictures unknown.

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