Few people have many memories at the age of 4, let alone know what they want to do for the rest of their lives. But Brittany Bochow Brandwein — director of events for the White Plains Business Improvement District — remembers being 4 and the moment she knew what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.
She was sitting at the Tarrytown Music Hall watching the then-Mid-Atlantic Ballet perform “The Nutcracker” when she decided to become a ballerina.
“I just wanted to be up there and dance,” she says.
From age 4 through most of high school, Brandwein trained and performed constantly, about 30 hours a week, commuting after school and on the weekend from her Westchester County home to Manhattan.
Her ability to perform a fouetté — a whipping turn on one leg made famous in the “Black Swan” pas de deux from “Swan Lake,” in which the ballerina does 32 consecutively — landed her on a national commercial before age 12.
Before graduating from New Rochelle High School, Brandwein had danced in some of the most prestigious national venues and with some of the country’s most accomplished young performers — including the likes of American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland.
Brandwein trained with American Ballet Theatre, the Pennsylvania Ballet and Studio Maestro, dancing in productions that included “The Sleeping Beauty” at the Metropolitan Opera House and “Il Cordellino,” in which a 1999 New York Times review described her as one who “caught the eye for her quietly assured ballerina manners.”
But her favorite memory from those years was dancing in “Le Corsaire” with American Ballet Theatre.
“I was in the first casting of this role where I danced en pointe with the corps members and I was relied upon for the next three years that they did it. … You’re on stage with corps members, principal dancers — it was a truly fulfilling experience on the stage at the Met Opera,” she says.
To dance en pointe means “you’re performing to the fullest extent of a dancer’s expectations” — a feeling you could venture to describe as euphoric.”
By the time Brandwein was in her late teens she was on track to become a professional dancer, was graduating early from high school and had just been cast in the principal role for a performance with Studio Maestro when she suffered an anterior cruciate ligament tear, an injury that would alter the trajectory of her life.
“This was kind of my big break. There would be people there looking to offer contracts,” she says. “Unfortunately, I missed that opportunity and ended up in surgery instead.”
In May 2002, Brandwein had a complete ACL reconstruction, but her body didn’t respond well and she ended up back in surgery to take care of a benign cell tumor that ultimately led to a chronic nerve pain condition.
“I decided I needed to change my career path,” she says.
But it didn’t change completely. Brandwein made her own major at the Macaulay Honors College at the City University of New York, earning a dual degree in performing arts administration and economics.
Today Brandwein lives in the Valhalla area and works in White Plains at the BID. In her spare time she is teaching a pre-ballet class for 2- to 5-year-olds, a Mommy, or Daddy, and Me ballet class for similar ages and a class she developed called “Ballet: Bouncing Back Gracefully.”
Though Brandwein keeps ballet close to her, both personally and professionally, it wasn’t easy to get back into it after her injury.
“It’s a chord that has always strummed in me and after my injury it was devastating and you go through this healing process and acceptance process where I didn’t want to be, I can’t be around it, I can’t be with it, I can’t see it,” she says. “That didn’t last very long.”
Since graduating college, Brandwein has worked in various roles teaching, assisting and administering dance programs, but developing the “Bouncing Back” ballet class was something that has given her a completely different perspective on teaching and being a part of the dance world.
“I specifically designed it for postpartum women, postmenopausal, those recovering from injury,” she says. “It is basically something to restore your sense of self, your sense of grace, finding yourself in a new body.”
Brandwein created the six-week class last year and is looking to teach a second round of students again this year.
The experience, she says, has been a cathartic and restorative process for her.
“It’s not about getting back to who you were,” she says. “It’s about getting acquainted with your new body and the changes that are happening or have happened.”
For more, email Brandwein at firstname.lastname@example.org.