When Texas-born Sterling Hyltin entered the School of American Ballet in 2000, she wasn't entirely sure that she wanted to make a career of ballet. Even more challenging, the then-15-year-old battled a serious case of homesickness. But she turned it around: "I had to focus myself on working so I wouldn't miss home so much."
Turns out, all that work paid off. After becoming an apprentice to New York City Ballet in October 2002, she was invited to join the corps de ballet in 2003. Now she has even more to show for it: Ms. Hyltin is the recipient of the 2005-06 Janice Levin Dancer Award, which is given each year to one of the most promising members of the corps de ballet.
Ms. Hyltin is an example of a dancer who truly absorbed what SAB and the Company have to offer‹and used it to help in making the decision to stay on the professional track. Watching the older SAB students in an annual Workshop performance piqued her ambition about what roles she might dance in the future. But really, it was seeing NYCB on stage as often as possible that kept her engaged and eager. "What made the difference for me was the tickets that SAB made available to the students," she says.
At one performance, Ms. Hyltin was particularly inspired by Darci Kistler's dancing. Then, to top it off, the youngster attended a class taught by Ms. Kistler the very next day. "She's really elated when she dances," Ms. Hyltin says of the principal dancer. "And that enthusiasm carries over into class and reaches the students."
With the Janice Levin Dancer Award to her credit, Ms. Hyltin has her eye on a bright future at NYCB. On her list of ballets she'd most like to dance are Divertimento No. 15, Thou Swell, and "a lot of Stravinsky."
But she's not taking anything for granted. "It's nice to be featured," she admits, referring to her growing repertory of featured roles. "But my motto is to do this only as long as I enjoy it. And right now, I love being on stage."
Indeed, she even knows exactly what she loves about dancing: "I like to be light, but also sharp with my feet. Light, but sharp."
This winter, audiences will mostly likely be able to see her in a number of ballets, including Western Symphony, which was among the first that she danced as an apprentice. "It's such a fun ballet," she says. "Especially since I'm from Texas!"
Pia Catton is a columnist and editor at The New York Sun.