We all know ballet is a commitment. Let’s go one more “tendu en avant” (step forward) and acknowledge that ballet is life for those who want to succeed as a professional dancer. This personal devotion begins at a very young age. That is just one of the things we learned from the eloquent and fashionable Boston Ballet soloist Lawrence Rines.
We first met Lawrence during class at Boston Ballet. As always with people who are living their life’s passion, we were impressed. He was, as one would expect from someone dancing in a world-class company, committed. We were more impressed when we had the chance to sit down with Lawrence and chat with him. Immediately, we noticed a few tattoos, which are somewhat unusual for someone involved in ballet. He explained the meaning of each piece of body art with such thoughtfulness. A sun for his mom, who would get him up every morning and the moon for his dad, who always put him to bed, three stars for his sisters… These thoughtful descriptions continued throughout our interview as we transitioned from tattoos to Lawrence and ballet.
Lawrence Practicing In Class
This young man, who we had just watched effortlessly and yet with such thick intensity dance for two hours, articulated the backbone of ballet with such grace and in a way that opened our eyes to what ballet requires from the dancer’s point of view.
After our interview, we once again had the pleasure of sitting down with Lawrence. Only this time, it was social, at the Boston Ballet’s Juliet’s Ball. At this event, we came to know Lawrence as an easy-going, personable, and well, an enjoyable human being.
Those qualities of extreme intensity and the ability to kick-back and enjoy life are the brilliance of Lawrence Rines.
This brilliance began at a young age when a very active little Lawrence was bopping all around the house as little boys do. Except, he was a bit more of a daredevil, jumping off railings and flipping onto the couch. Rather than scolding the young boy, his wise mother decided to be constructive with her son’s energy and enrolled him in gymnastics.
Growing up in the suburbs of Philidelphia, gymnastics classes started as a way for Lawrence to expend his energy. However, he ended up being quite good at it. Those flips off the banister turned into precise moves on the matt. Lawrence started to hone that skill of intensity; the ability to focus and aim for perfection. Being a natural acrobat and a focused child, it looked like gymnastics would be his thing.
Only one problem; he started to grow.
The youngest of three much older sisters, Lawrence wasn’t a stranger to dance. He had watched his sisters in recitals and enjoyed dancing himself. Around the age of 10, when it looked like he might become too tall for gymnastics, he started to take jazz dance lessons. While he was good at it, the dance teacher suggested he try ballet because of his gymnastics training.
He had a natural facility for ballet, and he loved it; two essential requirements to be a professional dancer.
And just like with gymnastics, ballet required precision. As Lawrence described it to us, in ballet, one is always trying to achieve an almost unattainable perfection. There’s still room for improvement. He craved this healthy challenge of competing with himself.
That craving for perfection led him to an audition at The Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia. The Rock School demanded much of their students’ time. But, Lawrence’s parents weren’t ready for him to leave regular school just yet. So, he would dance in the mornings before school and then again in the afternoons.
With Lawrence spending any free moment practicing ballet, it was clear this ballet thing was becoming the main focus of his life. If one wants to be a professional danseur, choices made at this young age of 15 can make or break a career.
Practicing On The Beach
If one wants to be a professional ballet dancer, he/she might have the goal of attending the School of American Ballet in New York. The reason is that being affiliated with this famous school could guarantee entry into the equally renowned ballet company associated with it – The New York City Ballet.
These all became goals of Lawrence. At the age of 15, The School of American Ballet accepted him to their summer camp program. Lawrence packed his bags and spent several weeks during the summer in busy New York dancing out his heart, with the intent of hopefully winning a spot at the school during their regular school year. Summer school paid off, and in the fall, Lawrence moved to New York City.
Now, this wasn’t like any boarding school. Remember that word intense? That describes attending The School of American Ballet. Lawrence was right where he belonged.
Although the atmosphere was heavy with competitiveness, it was also smoothed over by camaraderie. Just a handful of students are accepted to each graduating class. While they were all vying for entry into the company, they were also very honored to have been chosen to study at such a prestigious school and out of so many other applicants. They were the best of the best.
At this age, ballet dancers are always working toward the next step. Just like that unattainable perfection, there also is a seemingly never-ending goal. First, they danced to get into the school, if and after accepted, they are then trying to dance into the company. In the case of the School of American Ballet, most dancers, including Lawrence, are dancing for a contract with the esteemed New York City Ballet.
This was Lawrence’s dream. New York offered his first and only experience with professional dance. He didn’t have a view of the broader world around him. He spent every waking moment aiming for new heights of perfection; all focused on a contract with the New York City Ballet. Lawrence constantly competed with himself. During these relatively young years, he became exceptionally mature, gaining the importance of introspection. He learned a few things some will never grasp; passion is loving what you do, staying humble will make you better, and always look inside yourself to examine how you are presenting yourself to the world.
Lawrence In His Final Year At The School of American Ballet
Graduation loomed for Lawrence, and at the same time, a poor forecast threatened for the economy. Unfortunately, when the economy dips, so does the support for the arts. The New York City Ballet let go of a dozen or so dancers, and the company accepted only a handful from Lawrence’s graduating class. Lawrence was not one of them.
New York was all Lawrence knew; he felt as though his world was ending. But remember, this is a very mature young man. He used that skill of introspection and staying humble and broadened his horizon. He auditioned for the Boston Ballet and recognized the small city as a mix of New York and Phili. It could be a place he might feel at home. His family would still be just a bus or train ride’s distance. It also helped that Russell Kaiser, Boston Ballet’s Assistant Artistic Director, and someone Lawrence knew from New York would now be at the Boston Ballet. In the end, the transition wasn’t a bad thing, just different than what he had expected.
As Lawrence began his professional career, not only did he start to love Boston, but he fell in love with the South End. Fantastic restaurants and the lively neighborhood increased Boston’s appeal. Lawrence’s career progressed from apprenticeship to the core company’s artists to second soloist to soloist so did Lawrence’s social life. Lawrence fell in love. Like many modern romances, Lawrence found his partner, John, on a dating app. And for the past five years, they have been enjoying life together.
Lawrence And His Partner John
Part of what Lawrence loves about the Boston Ballet, besides the family atmosphere, is the varied repertoire. It in that repertoire where the endless pursuit of perfection lives. Lawrence has to bring 100% of himself to every performance. A few classical ballets are hundreds of years old, with the same choreography as the first times they were performed. But the dancer still has to bring him/herself to each role. Even if it’s just through a simple eye gesture, conveying emotion with honesty never ends. Just look at Lawrence’s face as he leaps into the air. Not only does he have a precise technique, but we also see the artist within him. Creativity and perfection – that is the brilliance of Lawrence Rines!
Lawrence Rines in Mikko Nissinen's The Nutcracker; photo by Liza Voll; courtesy of Boston Ballet Desean Taber, Lawrence Rines and Samivel Evans in Marius Petipa's Sleeping Beauty; photo by Liza Voll, courtesy Boston Ballet
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Enjoy a few more photos of Lawrence Rines in action!
Lawrence Rines and Ashley Ellis in Jiri Kylain's Wings of Wax; photo by Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy Boston Ballet
Paul Craig, Paulo Arrais, Lawrence Rines and Patrick Yocum in Wayne McGregor's Obsidian Tear; photo by Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy Boston Ballet