Meet Claire Coffman
Claire Coffman was born and raised in Houston, Texas, and at age 6, she began her formal training at the Houston Ballet Academy. Claire progressed through every level in the Academy, culminating with her promotion to invited guest with Houston Ballet II. During that time, Claire was given the opportunity to perform alongside the second company and the professional company in numerous productions. She started her professional career as an apprentice with the Atlanta Ballet in the 2019/2020 season.
Up-close and personal with Claire...
Corsu: How did you end up in Atlanta Ballet?
Claire: I originally wasn’t supposed to go to Atlanta but then Gennadi reached out to Claudio Munoz during the summer and asked for recommendations. Claudio recommended me and I sent my materials, was asked to come take class, flew to Atlanta a few days later and took one of the maintenance classes with the company. That’s how close to the start of the season it was!! Gennadi offered me an apprentice contract after class and I signed it then and there.
Corsu: What was it like to work with a professional company and was it what you expected?
Claire: Working with a professional company was challenging as expected. I came to the season a little late since I got my contract later, so I had to catch up with the rest of the dancers on choreography while learning multiple ballets at once. It was a big challenge being thrown into a completely new environment after dancing at HBA for 12 years, plus living on my own and moving away from home for the first time. In a professional company you have to be 110% focused - this is now your job and you are getting paid to work in a company. You don’t have teachers on top of you and pushing you in class anymore, you might not have the same resources or scheduled classes as you would in an academy, and you especially might not be dancing as much as you used to. You have to do these things for yourself now. This is hard enough on its own, but can be even more challenging with outside distractions.
Corsu: What was it like to be injured during such an integral part of any dancer’s career and with the Covid 19 virus, how has it affected you?
Claire: I faced a lot of personal problems and changes during the beginning part of my career, but the one thing that made it hardest to do my job was the distraction of pain from my injury. It was hard to focus on choreography and movement while I was hurting in the studio which disabled me from presenting my best self to staff and choreographers. I had to miss many shows and performance opportunities - especially during Nutcracker which is an integral part of any ballet company’s season. This also caused me to miss auditions, and once I was finally recovered, the current pandemic situation seized all performances and auditions I would have participated in.
Corsu: What are your plans now?
Claire: I guess the only thing I can do as of now, with the current crisis in mind, is go back home after my lease in Atlanta ends and continue to stay in shape/prepare for auditions for the following season. This pandemic caused everyone in the ballet world, no matter their own situation, to find alternative ways to keep dancing and none of us are really sure when this will end or what will happen when it’s over. The best we can do is keep working for ourselves everyday and preparing for when the next opportunity where we can finally dance in a studio or on stage again.