The Bay State teen is youngest member of this season's company roster.
At 18 years old, Emily Hoff is the youngest dancer in this season's Boston Ballet company. The Massachusetts native, who grew up in Wellesley, moved to London at the ripe age of 15 to train at the Royal Ballet School for two years, before being offered a place as a trainee at San Francisco Ballet. In her first professional role, Emily is returning to her roots as a member of the renowned company where she first fell in love with dance.
When did you first start dancing? Was it something you loved right away?
I first started dancing at the age of three. I liked my ballet classes, but what I really loved was performing. After my first ballet performance I said to my mom, "That was so much fun! Next year can I just do a performance every day instead of taking classes? I think I like the stage part of ballet better!" Even to this day dancing on stage is still my greatest passion, but I have come to love every part of ballet and am always happier when I am dancing!
When did you know you wanted to dance professionally? How did it change from a hobby to a career?
After seeing Boston Ballet's The Nutcracker every year, it was always my dream to dance the role of Clara. When I was 12, 13, and 14 years old, I was lucky enough to have the incredible opportunity to dance this role alongside Boston Ballet's company. I think my first year as Clara was when I realized that I wanted to dance professionally. I had achieved my childhood goal, and so I needed something new to work towards. Since then, there has never been anything I have wanted more than to be a professional dancer. I honestly still cannot believe that this dream I have had for so long has finally come true.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I wake up at 7 a.m., eat breakfast, and then walk over to the studios early to warm up and mentally prepare myself for the day ahead of me. I take company class from 9:45-11:15 a.m. and then head to rehearsals for whatever ballets we are working on that day. I work with stagers and choreographers to learn new roles or our ballet masters to rehearse roles that we have already learned. Every day is different depending on what ballets we are rehearsing. I also find time during the day to do some combination of Pilates, Gyrotonics, and physical therapy to keep my body strong and healthy. During a performance run, my days are longer and can include both matinee and evening performances. At the end of the day, I like to make dinner and relax before doing schoolwork. I am currently taking several online classes. After completing my school work for the day, I like to read a book in bed until I fall asleep.
What's the craziest thing that ever happened during a performance?
Ballet performances are live, so there is always the possibility that unexpected things can go wrong on stage. I have certainly been the victim of various wardrobe malfunctions, but probably the craziest thing that has happened was during The Nutcracker when I was still a student. Mother Ginger, who walks on stilts under her giant skirt that fits eight little girls underneath, fell over on stage while I was under her skirt as a Polichinelle. It was frightening during the moment, but no one was injured and we were all able to laugh about it afterwards. It is a tough part for the dancer on stilts, but I am happy to say I will never have to do that role since it is always played by a male dancer!
What's the biggest challenge or struggle you've faced in dance?
I have always been a perfectionist, which is both a blessing and a curse. One of the hardest things for me has been trying to come to terms with the fact that everything cannot be perfect all the time. I have struggled at times with my confidence, as I can easily pick apart every single step and find many things that do not look exactly like the picture of "perfection" that I have in my mind. I have been trying to use my perfectionism as motivation to work harder and improve faster. Even if perfection does not exist, if I learn from my mistakes and give 100% of myself in every single class, rehearsal, and performance, then I can at least be confident in the fact that I will come a step closer to the dancer I want to be every single day.
What's something people would be surprised to know about you?
People are always surprised by how much I eat. Since ballet dancers are usually very thin, everyone always assumes that we do not eat anything, but in reality that is not true. We need to fuel our bodies in order to enable us to get through long days of rehearsals and performances, and food is essential for maintaining strong and healthy muscles and bones. If ballerinas really ate as little as we are stereotyped to, there is no way we would be able to do what we do.
If you hadn't become a dancer, what do you imagine you'd be doing?
I If I was not a dancer, I would be about to start my freshman year of college right now, and I think I would probably be studying something in the sciences. Science has always been the subject that I found to be the most interesting, particularly human biology—anatomy, psychology, neurology—so I imagine I would be working towards a major in one of those fields.
What is your advice to young boys or girls who dream of being a professional dancer one day?
Even if you have all the natural talent in the world, you can never sit back and wait for things to work out for you. Give 100% of yourself every single day, and take advantage of every opportunity to learn something new. Take risks and try things outside your comfort zone—sometimes those are the best opportunities to see what you are capable of achieving.