Lapointe just retired at age 26, taking her final bow at the end of the 2022-23 season that ended last month. But her career’s far from over. In fact, she already knows what she wants to do next.
This January, she’ll attend Wingate University to pursue a doctorate in physical therapy. Her goal: to help other dancers and athletes honor their bodies and avoid injuries.
Lapointe grew up in Bel Air, Maryland, near Baltimore. Recalling those early dance classes her mother enrolled her in, Lapointe spoke of creativity and spinning around in circles with friends. “I’m an only child, so she wanted to get me around children my age.”
Lapointe’s mom was actually choosing between dance and ice skating but ended up in dance because her mom didn’t want to sit in a cold ice rink.
The twirling toddler eventually enrolled at the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Performing Arts. By age 12, Lapointe was hooked.
“When I got my pointe shoes, I knew that this was something I wanted to pursue long-term,” she said. “I remember growing up and seeing all the older dancers at the studio wearing them, and I envisioned myself doing that.
“It was a defining moment.”
Getting experience at an early age
In 2012, Lapointe won a full scholarship to attend The Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia. Three years later, at age 18, she won a national YoungArts award for young emerging artists.
Soon after began her interaction with Charlotte Ballet. In the summers of 2013 and 2014, Lapointe attended the Chautauqua Summer Intensive program, where the company had an eight-week residency.
“I got to watch the company dancers rehearse and perform with them,” she said. Following the program, Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, Charlotte Ballet’s artistic director at the time, offered Lapointe a contract to join the company — a full-time gig before she even had graduated from high school.
Lapointe moved to Charlotte in 2015 and joined Charlotte Ballet.
Among her highlights were appearing multiple times as the Lilac Fairy in “Sleeping Beauty” and performing in “A Picture of You Falling,” by Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite.
“It’s a world-renowned piece and getting to perform a piece by Crystal Pite is what dancers dream of,” Lapointe said.
Another memorable moment was dancing the role of “Tall Girl” in George Balanchine’s “Rubies.”
“I got to work with Patricia McBride on that role. She got to work with Balanchine when she was younger, so getting words directly from him through her was very special,” Lapointe said. “I also love the costume and the movement of the Tall Girl. It’s very me.”
Always have a back-up plan
As much as she loved to dance, having a back-up plan always was part of Lapointe’s long-term vision. “I think just being ready with something else is important, just in case,” she said.
Immediately after high school, while dancing with Charlotte Ballet, Lapointe began taking online courses and working toward a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology, the science of human body movement.
She chose physical therapy based on her own personal experience with it following various injuries over the years.
“Fortunately, nothing has stopped my career. But I’ve had to take some time off and really rethink things to make sure that I was focusing on myself.”
In high school, Lapointe overexerted herself and ended up with a stress reaction in her hip.
She was devastated that she couldn’t perform in “Nutcracker” at school because of the injury. “I really didn’t listen to my body when I should have.”
With those memories in mind, she wants to help other dancers, especially the younger ones, focus on what’s best for them.
The pandemic had a lasting effect, too.
“We were not dancing at all for a full year and it was devastating… and so upsetting that our art was being taken away,” she said. “I kept thinking, ‘What if this were to happen again? Can I go through this again?’ ”
A new chapter begins
Lapointe’s final mainstage bow came on April 30, closing night of Charlotte Ballet’s “Peter Pan.”
Beaming in her Tiger Lily tutu with a bright bouquet of flowers presented to her by artistic director Alejandro Cerrudo, Lapointe enjoyed an extended standing ovation from the Knight Theater audience.
“I’m really going to miss the camaraderie between the dancers within the studio,” Lapointe said. “I’m so grateful for those opportunities.”
She said she’ll also miss the connections she created with younger dancers in the academy.
“I love seeing their smiling faces in the audience or meeting them after shows in the lobby or by the stage door,” Lapointe said. “But I’m also really excited about being in the audience now and watching from a different perspective, supporting the dancers that I got to work with over the years.”
In mid-June, Lapointe performed in her final show — two works at “Choreographic Lab” at the smaller Center for Dance. There, she also was met with a standing ovation.
For “Choreographic Lab” performances, some dancers take on the role of choreographer. Retired dancers commonly stay in the field, working in education programs or in choreography.
Other Charlotte Ballet dancers have gone on to pursue different paths, like Juwan Linkston, who retired in 2020 and now works in financial services at TIAA. Amelia Sturt-Dilley, who also retired at the end of the last ballet season, plans to pivot to interior design.
As for Lapointe, she’s resolute in her decision to go to Wingate and get her doctorate in physical therapy. She already updated her LinkedIn profile to read: “Wingate DPT Class of 2026.”
“It’s bittersweet,” she said. “But I’m also really excited for a new challenge and a new chapter.”
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This story was originally published July 12, 2023, 6:20 AM.