The T+L Carry-On: American Ballet Theatre Principal Dancer Isabella Boylston
Welcome to our series, the T+L Carry-On, where we take a look inside the luggage of those who find themselves frequently traveling around the world—and gain a few expert tips along the way.
This week, we sat down with the American Ballet Theatre Principal dancer, Isabella Boylston. Originally from Sun Valley, Idaho, Isabella finds herself traveling at least once a month—with at least 10 pairs of pointe shows in tow. Read on to find out what it’s like to grace the stage at The Metropolitan Opera, the best places ballet has taken her, and of course, to get a look into her carry-on essentials. Plus, don’t forget to check out last week’s column with Tata Harper.
On Her Relationship with Travel:
“I usually travel at least once a month—sometimes more. Most of the time that I travel it’s a lot of freelance work. Maybe half of the time it’s because I’m guesting somewhere, and the other half of the time is with ABT. With ABT, usually we do six tours a year. The longest tour I ever did was a month, but they’re typically a week or two. For a trip like that, I’d probably pack at least 10 pairs of pointe shoes and probably one leotard for every day I’m on the road—a ton of tights, too.
Traveling with the company is a lot of fun—you can think of us as a team on the road. So a lot of my trips are with ABT, and we’ve performed in some really amazing places. Tokyo is one of my favorites—I’ve been lucky enough to go there to dance several times. We got to go to Havana in 2010, which was incredible, and we went to Oman, which was very exotic. And then Paris, London…I’ve gotten to go to so many incredible places.”
“I’ll bring a leotard—or several, usually, depending on how many days I’ll be gone. You get pretty sweaty, so you change your leotard often. My favorite brand of leotards is Yumiko. And I wear Gaynor Minden tights. I’ll bring Tiger Balm if I have injuries or anything. I’ll just rub that on anywhere I have pain. Then I bring a sewing kit with ribbons and elastics—I use this Bunheads Stitch Kit. I always bring a pair of sneakers—right now I love EYTYS—and a lot of warm stuff, like this APC cashmere cape that I wear on flights. And then a silk pajama set, which I travel in, too. I’m obsessed with this Kiki de Montparnasse robe I got from a photo-shoot—I always love having loungewear for when I’m at the hotel, even if I’m just by myself. All of my socks are Muji—I’m obsessed with Muji socks. I love these Valentina Kova pants—they’re silk, but wool lined, and they’re great for flying. They could be sweatpants, but you could also wear them with heels and that looks really chic. And I love my eye mask. The principal dresser at ABT made it for me, and I love it—it was for when I did Sleeping Beauty, and I always bring it on the plane.”
A Typical Day in the Life:
“I usually wake up between 8:30 and 9:00am, drink coffee, and get ready to start the day. Every day at 10:15 I take ballet class, which is basically warming up and working on perfecting your technique. That’s usually an hour and a half long, and that just sets you up for all of your rehearsals or performances. If I don’t have a show, I’ll typically rehearse for up to seven hours after that. If I do have a show, I’ll rehearse a little bit, take a nap, eat something and head back to the theatre to put my makeup on. We do a different ballet every week, so we’re rehearsing so many ballets right now—it’s kind of intense. I have Sundays and Mondays off, but once we start performing, Sunday is my only day off.”
Where To Go Before (or After) Seeing a Show:
“If you’re coming to see us at The Metropolitan Opera, The Smith is always a good option, or Epicerie Boulud, if you want some oysters and rosé. There’s also Café Fiorello—sometimes I’ll go there for pasta before a show to fuel up.”
Her Beauty Routine:
“This guy Jordan Samuel—he went to the School of American Ballet, and now he has its own skincare line. I’m not just plugging him, but his products really are the best. They’re all natural, all organic, and I use them every day. The Gentle Treatment Cleanser is incredible for taking off stage makeup, and the Hydrating Serum is incredible—my skin has never looked this good. So those two products are my essential skincare regimen. I use North Coast Organics Death by Lavender deodorant, which I got from Whole Foods—I’m always trying to find the perfect all natural deodorant, and this one is the best I’ve found. I bring lots of lipsticks. For daytime, my favorite is Bobbi Brown in Rose. I use Rahua’s Daily Hair Drops, Aesop Rejuvenate Intensive Body Balm, and Dr. Jart’s BB Beauty Balm. Chantecaille mascara is the best, ever. For aromatherapy, I use Tata Harper Love Potion—it just smells so good. And then if I need sunscreen, I like to use Josie Maran.”
Her Favorite Stage She’s Ever Performed On:
“I think it’s got to be the Met stage because that’s home. It’s just beautiful, it’s huge. But also the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, was incredible to dance on because its incredibly old and there’s so much history there. It’s a beautiful opera house. It was always a dream of mine to dance with them.”
How Much Dance Gear She Packs for a Trip:
“It depends on how many shows I have, but I bring at least one pair of pointe shoes per show. I wear Bloch shoes. And I’ll bring additional pairs for rehearsal, as well—if they died, it would be a disaster. If I were on vacation I would not bring pointe shoes. I might do a couple of exercises if I felt like I needed to, but I definitely wouldn’t be strapping these on. But at ABT, we have these things called theatre cases, which is a big plastic box, basically, and I just cram as many leotards, tights, and shoes that I can in there because they end up taking up more space than my street clothes usually. So I just pack it all in there, and the company ships it for us, and that definitely saves a lot of space. Plus, all the shoes can get really heavy. But I always have a spare pair of shoes in my carry-on, as I said, because I’ve had my costumes and my point shoes get lost before, and that’s not a good situation to be in.”
“Sometimes I’ll just wear silk pajamas on a flight and keep it simple, or sometimes I’ll wear something like an Alexander Wang t-shirt and Acne jeans with a little bit of stretch. I’m not above wearing sweatpants on a plane, either, and I never wear makeup on a flight.”
Her Favorite Place She’s Ever Visited:
“One of my favorite places I’ve ever been is Iceland—it’s just so beautiful, and it was actually the first trip I ever went on with my husband when we were first dating. It was a total whim. My great grandmother is actually Icelandic, so I’ve always wanted to go and it was just gorgeous. I also really enjoying hiking and outdoor activities, so Iceland perfect for that. Second favorite? Capetown, in South Africa.”
Carry-on, or Checked?
“Carry-on, definitely. I refuse to check my suitcase no matter what, so I’ll get weird at the airport if they try to check it. When we flew to Australia, they have a weight requirement for carry-ons, and on the layover they weighed it and told me I had to check it. And I was like “no, I’m not checking it, you don’t understand”—so I literally started putting on everything in the suitcase. “
Isabella will make her debut as Juliet in Romeo & Juliet on June 22nd. To see her perform with the American Ballet Theatre at the Metropolitan Opera House, click here to purchase tickets.