Juliet Doherty is an up and coming dancer who has done it all. She’s competed at YAGP and IBC Varna, danced as Clara in the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes Christmas Spectacular, danced along Tiler Peck in Susan Stroman’s “Little Dancer” musical, and has two movies coming out within the next year. We sat down and talked to Juliet about being a plant-based ballerina, what it’s like to dance for movies, and what it means to be a whole dancer.
Jessie Frazier: Thank you for joining us Juliet. Let’s just dive in. How did you get your start in dance?
Juliet Doherty: My great-grandparents started a school in 1945 in my hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico. And now my grandparents are the directors of it.
My mom was pregnant while teaching ballet class and jazz class with me. So basically you can say I was dancing before I was even born, because I was in the studio. It’s just always been a part of my life. I’ve always felt like a dancer since its part of our family history.
Jessie: That is so cool. Do you have any special memories in the studio growing up working with your mom or grandmother?
Juliet: I have a lot of memories taking class from my grandmother when I three years old in pre-ballet class. My mom taught me until I was 14 years old, so there are a lot of memories of that, you know not always agreeing with her, but she still teaches me now and choreographs for me. It’s been amazing to have that support of my family from the very beginning.
Jessie: On a lot of your social media you talk about being a Vegan, or plant-based ballerina. What made you decide to go Vegan?
Juliet: When I was 15, my dad gave me a book called “Green for Life” [by Victoria Boutenko] and it just smoothie recipes really. But it was really informational and it talked about the value of putting more fresh fruit into your daily diet and drinking big amounts of fresh produce.
It talked about how this changed this woman’s life; it’s kind a health biography was well for her. I found it really just amazing to learn all of that information. It was my first glance into a plant-based lifestyle. As I kept digging deeper into a living plant based, I learned more about Veganism, which encompasses not only what you eat, but what you wear and the cosmetics that you use and things like that.
All of the values of Veganism resonated with me. Like ok I get this, I really want to live like this. I pretty much went Vegan over night. Just from reading and researching and watching videos and things like that. It happened pretty quickly.
Jessie: Was it hard making the switch from normal eating to eating Vegan? Or did you feel like it just made sense to you?
Juliet: For me it just made sense. I think everyone has different habits of eating and things like that. My family always ate very healthily and not a lot of processed food. We never really had much dairy in the house, we weren’t really big much on milk drinking. We had meat, we were definitely omnivores, but we didn’t eat it for every meal. So for me, it was a pretty smooth transition. I was like oh I don’t really need this stuff.
Jessie: What benefits have you found from going Vegan?
Juliet: Overall, I feel more vital. I feel like I have energy. I’m not waking up still digesting last night’s dinner. I feel energized when I wake up in the morning. Throughout the day, I’m putting clean, useable energy in my body and I feel good.
Jessie: What’s your hands down favorite Vegan recipe?
Juliet: Anything dessert. I definitely have a sweet tooth. But if I’m going to make something at home, I love to make curries. Like Indian curry or Tai curry with coconut milk, veggies, and tofu and rice on the side. I love that.
Jessie: That sounds like a nice post rehearsal dinner.
Juliet: Yeah, it’s amazing.
Jessie: Do you do any cross training and if so what type?
Juliet: I do. I think that ballet is the best workout you can get for your legs. So I don’t really focus, when I’m doing cross training, on my legs very much. I do a lot of stuff for the core, just ab exercises and Pilates exercises that I’ve picked up over the years, and things from floor barre that I’ve learned.
I focus a little bit on my upper body, things I can do to strengthen my back and help support my port de bras. I like to do things on the bosu ball for balance. I try to run once or twice, or just walk at an incline for stamina once or twice a week. I find it kinda helps if I’m working on a full-length pas de deux, I’m trying to do everything I can for stamina.
Jessie: That’s the hardest thing. Do you run a couple miles or do you just say ok, I just need to do the length of the pas and then that’s it.
Juliet: It’s different every single time. It depends on how I’m feeling and I try not to push it too much with the running, because you know I have to be able to go into class the next day and be fine and not too sore. I try to do 30 minutes, and that differs on what speed I’m going, it will usually even out to be a couple miles or so.
Jessie: Kudos, I do a half-mile and then I’m like: “ok I’m good! I’m done! I can’t do this anymore.”
Juliet: I just play music really loud and it distracts me.
Jessie: I try to find music that is at my running speed, so I found that the song “My Shot” from Hamilton the musical is really great running. It’s five minutes, so it’s a good length of a variation or pas or something. It makes me think: I can do this! I can be great! Lin-Manuel Miranda thinks I can do this.
You have a new movie coming out called, “On Pointe”. The trailers for it look really awesome. What was the creative process like for that? How is it different than rehearsing for stage performances or competitions?
Juliet: I have two movies actually coming out this year. I have “On Pointe”, which will probably come out first in the next few months. And then I have “High Strung: Free Dance”, which will be out next summer. The creative process, it’s different. It has its similarities, but it’s different in that you don’t rehearse as much usually.
It depends on the scene for acting. Usually you won’t rehearse the scene or you won’t get the blocking for it until you step onto the set. You’ll get the pages the day of. You’ll get the scenes that you’re filming, and you don’t film in order of how the film goes. You’ll be filming all of these different pieces out of order.
So you’ll learn the blocking or choreography for that specific scene right before you start filming most of the time. You don’t get a lot of preparation, it’s more spontaneous. So you just have to be easy going. If something changes, you just have to go with it and make it part of the scene.
With dance its more control, you have a lot of preparation, it doesn’t change with choreography like if you were doing Sleeping Beauty, you’re going to do the same thing over and over again. You’re not going to change anything really, especially if you’re dancing with a partner.
You don’t want to freak them out and be like what are you doing? In that way I saw a big difference. I had to let go of my mentality to try and control every little thing and just say ok it happened and let’s play with it and make it a part of what we’re doing right now.
Then also, the fact that when you’re doing live performance and you only get one shot is not the case with acting on film. Because of course you’re trying to get it in one take, but that rarely happens. So you do have the ability to try again in your close up or ask the director for another chance if you want to do it again, which is nice. If you feel like you didn’t get it the first time you can always try it again, you don’t feel it as much pressure to get it in one take.
Jessie: Did you have a hard time using your voice? Because a lot of time as dancers we say, no as an artist I speak with my body and vocalizing your lines feels very foreign to dancers. So how did you deal with that?
Juliet: For me, I felt like it wasn’t foreign at all. It was almost like as soon as I started speaking my lines, it was just another way to connect on a deeper level with my character, and find how they would use their voice. I really love it. I love speaking to people and being able to tell a story with words as well as movement. I like both aspects of it so I had a good time and I didn’t find it too challenging.
Jessie: While you were on set, did you have any problems fueling yourself both as a dancer and as a Vegan? I feel like you so often hear about in Hollywood, so here’s the table of donuts and massive sandwiches. Was that a problem? Or were they more mindful that they had dancers on set?
Juliet: the past two movies I’ve done have had dancers in them and focused around dance, so I think they have been very mindful of that. Most dancers are not eating pizza and donuts for every meal, though we do sometimes occasionally.
They’ve been really helpful for me on set. When I was filming High Strung, I was in Romania. I was really worried going to Romania what my options were going to be. But it turned out to be amazing. The catering was great. They had someone following me around all the time with a plate of fruit and nuts, just like: do you need more food? Do you need more food? I’ve head really wonderful experiences so far.
Jessie: What was filming in Romania like? That sounds so neat.
Juliet: It was incredible. We were there for two months. The whole crew was Romanian. Everyone was really friendly, really warm. It was such a cool experience. We got to film for a couple weeks in the opera house there where their national ballet company performs. I got to take class with the company once, which was a great experience.
Jessie: Was the opera stage raked? Because I know a lot of theaters in Europe are still raked.
Juliet: This one was not thank goodness.
Jessie: That’s good because I hear so many horror stories about raked stages, with the slope upward.
Juliet: I performed on a raked stage a couple of times. One of the times, I didn’t know going into it. I arrived that day and was like oh, it’s raked, that’s fun. I had no mental preparation for that. I just had to do it.
Jessie: What is your next step or goals in your career? Do you want to do more movies, do you want to join a company, I know you’ve done Broadway, so would you want to go that direction? You have so many possibilities.
Juliet: It’s a problem because I’m so indecisive and I want to do it all. Right now it works really well to dance with a small company and give myself the freedom to explore these other avenues of live performance, and on film, things that I really love.
I love acting. I love being able to express myself through my voice, but also dancing, as I said earlier, has always been something in my life so I’m never going to go away from dance, it’s always going to be there. I’m always going to consider myself a dancer, but I’m open to all things and taking life as it comes.
Jessie: I know you’re indecisive, but in a perfect world, what would your ultimate dream job be?
Juliet: Probably, acting more. But I don’t know a company right now is still an option for me. I love ballet. It’s something that every time I’m in class I’m like yeah this is me. It’s hard to choose.
Jessie: What makes you a whole dancer?
Juliet: Being a whole dancer to me is being well rounded and balanced in every aspect of your training, which not only includes physical, but includes mental preparation, nutrition, and your rest and recovery. Being diligent about all of these things will just take your training to the next level and elevate your training on a daily basis.
Jessie: What do you like to do for your rest and recovery? It’s your day off and you need your body to take a chill pill, what do you do?
Juliet: On a day off, I probably I won’t really get out of bed if I’m having a really hard week. I really like to take baths, like Epsom salts. I like to take walks. I think doing other forms of exercise, like lighter things, on a day off is good, just to keep the body moving. But I don’t turnout on days off. I do things in parallel, to give my body a break from that. I really just focus on rest, whatever that means that day. I’m just not going to stress my body in any way.