Swan Lake Challenges Conservatory Student’s Mental and Physical Stamina

Erica Lohman performs in one of the most recognized ballets of all time
Kansas City Ballet's Swan Lake

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Erica Lohman

Anticipated Graduation: 2021

Academic Program: Dance, Conservatory

Hometown: Indianapolis, Indiana

High School: Mt. Vernon High School

Erica Lohman, a senior studying dance, chose the UMKC Conservatory because she knew the dance department allowed students to take leaves of absence to participate in professional performances. Since she’s been a student she’s toured with had the opportunity to perform with the Kansas City Ballet in The Nutcracker, and most recently, Swan Lake

Have you performed with ballet companies like this before?

Yes! I grew up dancing at a ballet school in my hometown that put on two full-length ballet productions a year, so I definitely have a soft spot for these types of productions. I took a leave of absence to dance professionally with Albany Berkshire Ballet in 2018, where I performed in their annual tour of The Nutcracker in the northeast United States. I also performed with the Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company last fall before participating in Kansas City Ballet’s productions.

Lohman in rehearsal with Kansas City Ballet
Lohman, left, rehearsing for Swan Lake; image courtesy of Kansas City Ballet, photography Courtney Nitting
What does it feel like to be on a stage with seasoned professionals? 

I have looked up to the dancers in Kansas City Ballet for many years, so at first it felt very strange and a little intimidating to be dancing alongside them. That being said, both the dancers and the artistic staff were encouraging throughout the rehearsal processes for both The Nutcracker and Swan Lake. Once I got used to dancing the challenging choreography with these professionals, I really enjoyed myself. I feel inspired by these amazing artists, and dancing with them has motivated me to keep working hard and pushing myself to someday reach their level of skill and artistry.

Was the experience what you expected it to be?

Swan Lake is a very popular ballet with iconic music, so I knew what to expect with the structure of the choreography. I also knew just how hard it was going to be and how much we had to get done in rehearsals. I was part of the corps de ballet, or the 24 women who dance as the swans. We had to be precisely together and in line at all times. We spent a lot of time in rehearsals going over details like which way to tilt our heads and which wrist to cross in front of the other. It even gets as specific as how we place our fingers. 

“I realized that half the battle was learning to trust myself and stay mentally calm.”- Erica Lohman

Because of this precision and how much the swans dance, doing a full-run of the ballet takes immense mental and physical stamina. For me, I realized that half the battle was learning to trust myself and stay mentally calm. It’s easy to get caught up in being “perfect” and not making any mistakes. Once I let go of those negative emotions, stayed present on stage with the other dancers, and turned to the music to carry me through, I enjoyed myself so much.

Erica Lohman

The music at the end of Swan Lake is so beautiful, and it’s

empowering to finish strong alongside 24 women who I admire more than anything. I was so moved during my last show I actually ended up crying tears of joy during that moment onstage! 

Have you performed with other Conservatory students in professional productions? 

There were three of us in Kansas City Ballet’s The Nutcracker this year. But UMKC dance students really get awesome professional gigs all the time! I am so proud to be a part of this dance department and feel as though it keeps getting stronger and stronger.


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Published: Mar 4, 2020