Last month, Kristin Sloan, a comely member of the New York City Ballet, began appearing in a television ad for the iPhone, one in a series of Real People telling slightly implausible stories against a black backdrop. Ms. Sloan’s tale—that she runs a dancers’ blog called The Winger, and sometimes mobile-blogs backstage on her iPhone during performances—may have generated some skepticism among her many male fans (surely this … this … vision is just a crass creation of the Mac-ocracy?), but it is entirely true.
An only child raised in the Boston suburbs, Ms. Sloan has been dancing since she was 9, after an ice-skating teacher suggested that it would give her “some grace.” Within a couple of years she had turned her focus to ballet. Skating, “you’re in your own cold little world,” said Ms. Sloan, 27, sitting at a bustling cafe near Tompkins Square Park on a recent Saturday afternoon.
She was 14 when she saw the New York City Ballet for the first time, at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. “I’d never seen anything like it,” she said. “It was so pure.” Soon after she was accepted into the School of American Ballet and moved to New York.
High school consisted of correspondence classes and a stint at the Professional Children’s School, where Ms. Sloan studied biology and history alongside the actors Macaulay Culkin and Christina Ricci. At 17, she joined the City Ballet as an apprentice, becoming a full-time member of the corps the following season.
Ms. Sloan started blogging in 2004 while recovering from hip surgery, posting crummy-quality pictures taken around the city with a cellphone camera. Her audience was mostly friends and family. “I called it Photojournal or something totally lame,” she said.
Ken Tabachnick, general manager of the Ballet, said the company was “completely supportive” of Ms. Sloan’s forays into cyberspace, so long as they didn’t trespass into private Ballet business. “She’s always been very sensitive, very judicious about what appears there,” he added.
In 2005, she went wide with The Winger, in part to explain the oft-romanticized dancer’s life to mere civilians. “My friends had no concept of what I did. ‘Oh, you stretch all day?’” Ms. Sloan said. Brunet and creamy-skinned, she sat in a dark corner of the cafe, wearing a loose gray turtleneck sweater and tight black pants, and maintaining admirable posture despite a lingering case of bronchitis (chronicled on her blog, of course, from bed). Intermittently she coughed, with grace.
A few months before launching The Winger, she had begun dating Doug Jaeger, a self-employed design type (“call me a creative entrepreneur,” he said later on the phone), whom she met through Dodgeball, a cellphone networking service. The couple, who ride motorcycles around town and currently share a one-bedroom in Alphabet City (and “many Macs”), salivated last winter when Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone, but made a pact not to buy it until the early bugs had been fixed. Then Mr. Jaeger caved, as men will.
“I felt so betrayed and jealous and upset,” said Ms. Sloan, recalling how her boyfriend revealed his purchase at a party the very day the iPhone was released last June. “He took it out on the couch and said, ‘Play with it,’ and I said, ‘No.’”
Her wound was salved when Mr. Jaeger arrived home the next day with a second phone: the one now resting sleekly on the table in front of her, next to an untouched cup of tea, glowing gently every few minutes with unanswered calls. The shiny gadget vastly enhanced her blogsperience, Ms. Sloan averred with apparent sincerity.
How did Apple find her? Next question. “I can’t even tell my friends,” she whispered. (If only Mr. Jobs could lock up the phone itself so easily!) But who cares? Before the commercial, in which Ms. Sloan’s beauty is only slightly muted by a shapeless brown dress, The Winger had been getting about 2,000 hits a day; the day the ad first aired, the site got 48,000 hits. (It has now leveled off at a respectable 15,000.) YouTube commenters speculate eagerly if ungrammatically about her flexibility. The Web site kickedinthenuts.com recently offered to pay her cash money (she didn’t want to say how much) to appear in a video. Ms. Sloan declined; she had loftier aspirations.
The Winger now has more than two dozen contributors from several countries—mostly dancers (alas, not ballerina Toni “I’m Bananas for Butt Sex” Bentley), but some teachers and a couple of doctors. In October Ms. Sloan started The (Inter)Mission, a private social networking site for dancers, their friends and families; its membership is already approaching 600. Between the two sites, she spends at least two hours a day approving comments, fixing posts and setting up new contributors. “I get nerdy about it,” she said.
The bloggerina then dropped a bombshell: After multiple comeback attempts from three hip surgeries in less than two years (“I had this crunching noise,” she shuddered, recalling that time), she has decided to retire from the corps, and has accepted the job of director of new media for the Ballet, which started last week. “I feel I can be more valuable to them in this position,” Ms. Sloan said. Sitting in front of computer, feet together: à la septième!
In the meantime, she continues to enjoy the response to her 30 seconds of TV fame, such as the recent Saturday Night Live skit spoofing the iPhone ads, in which an average Joe extols the pleasures of using the iPhone to cheat on his wife. “It’s true!” Ms. Sloan exclaimed, before catching herself. “If you’re in that situation.”