Miriam Miller: Balancing School and the Stage


Miriam Miller, in addition to dancing professionally, is a student at Fordham College at Lincoln Center. (EMMA DIMARCO/THE OBSERVER)


Miriam Miller is about to embark on her second spring season with the New York City Ballet. At age 19, Miller is already a breakout star with the company, having performed coveted roles such as Titania in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and the Lilac Fairy in “Sleeping Beauty.”

Miller joined the company as an apprentice in January 2016 and was performing principal roles within four months.

“I didn’t have time to process everything, but in the moment you just do it. You go day by day and you just get it done and enjoy it. Looking back on it now I can’t believe that that was even my life,” Miller explained. She continued, “It’s been amazing and I am so fortunate that we get to perform so much because it’s what I love to do and being on every night is pretty amazing.”

One of Miller’s favorite roles is Titania in George Balanchine’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Miller’s tall frame makes her perfect for the role of the fairy queen, who guides the company throughout the ballet. Miller also recently debuted as the Lilac Fairy in “Sleeping Beauty” and as the Siren in Balanchine’s “Prodigal Son.” She hopes to one day perform “Swan Lake” as Odette/Odile (White Swan/Black Swan).

“It’s such a feat to be able to get through that entire ballet. Of White Swan and Black Swan, Black Swan would be more challenging for me and to be able to conquer that would be amazing. It’s something I look forward to in the future,” Miller said.

One of the most memorable moments for Miller over the past two years was performing George Balanchine’s “Agon” with principal dancer Amar Ramasar. “When I came off stage I was like ‘Oh my god! That’s the most fun I’ve ever had on stage.’ I felt like I was in a whole other world. The music is so intense, the lights are so bright, and you feel so exposed because you’re only in a leotard. It’s so thrilling.”

This season, the New York City Ballet is hosting the Here/Now Festival, which celebrates choreographers and works of today. The company will be performing 43 ballets by 22 different choreographers, including world premieres by Justin Peck and Alexei Ratmansky. Miller is excited to be working with Christopher Wheeldon on “Mercurial Manoeuvers” and “After the Rain,” and Ratmansky on “Namouna: A Grand Divertissement.” She will also be performing Peter Martin’s “Jeu de Cartes,” among other new works. The company rehearses for only four weeks before the six-week season.

On top of this heavy rehearsal and performance schedule, Miller finds the time to take classes at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus. She is currently taking Introduction to Sociology as well as an online US History course. Miller is interested in the social sciences, and believes that pursuing academic interests keeps her grounded.

“It’s hard sometimes to have a personal life outside the New York City Ballet and that’s part of why I go to school, because it gives me an outlet and I feel like it helps me focus on something else and not be consumed in the ballet world,” Miller explained. “I think everyone is capable of having school and being in the company. It’s just prioritizing and managing time.”

One of the biggest challenges for Miller is also one of her favorite parts of being a ballet dancer: the struggle of always trying to be perfect.

“It’s great to always be perfecting yourself and finding things to work on. It’s challenging but it’s also a part of why we choose this job. It’s that challenge of being okay with where you stand and how you are and who you are and not looking at other people and comparing yourself and wanting to be just like them. You’re your own dancer and you have to work on your own things and try to be your better self,” Miller said.

Miller’s advice to aspiring dancers is simple. “Just be confident in yourself and your dancing, in who you are and how you like to dance. Don’t let anyone force you to dance a way that you don’t want to. As long as you’re confident with who you are and you have that drive and are passionate about it, you’ll be able to get where you want to go. So never lose your confidence.”

Don’t miss New York City Ballet’s Spring Season, April 18 through May 28 at the David H. Koch Theater.