Pointe Stars

Ana Sophia Scheller on Her Surprising Switch From NYCB to San Francisco Ballet

Photo by Gene Schiavone, courtesy of Ana Sophia Scheller.

Earlier this month, San Francisco Ballet surprised us all by announcing that longtime New York City Ballet principal, Ana Sophia Scheller, would be joining its roster as a principal. The Argentinian-born dancer moved to New York at the age of 13 to study at the School of American Ballet, and later joined NYCB as a corps member in 2004. In her 13 years with the company, Scheller steadily worked her way up to the title of principal (she was promoted in 2012), dancing featured roles in all of the classics and even originating roles in several of NYCB's new works.


Making her own announcement of her departure on her Instagram, Scheller gave her final performance with NYCB at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC on June 10th, and is now preparing to join a new company (and a new coast!) at San Francisco Ballet.

"I was seeking new challenges and a change," Scheller tells Pointe on how the big move came about. "My agent, Abigail Simon, made me aware of an opportunity with SFB and I went for it."

Though she recalls many fond memories with NYCB (her favorite was when she danced her first full-length ballet with the company in Sleeping Beauty), Scheller is eager to get to work over at SFB. "I feel that artists need change sometimes and I'm so grateful for the opportunity to have a fresh start with a top company like SFB," she says. "San Francisco Ballet has Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, but they have the classics and a variety of hot new choreographers for the 2017-2018 season, too."

Courtesy of Ana Sophia Scheller

Along with the new repertoire, Scheller is also looking forward to exploring a new city. "This will be my first time living in San Francisco," she explains. "I'm excited to eventually own a car and on my time off go to all the different beautiful places outside of the city—including the scenic coastline and parks. I'm also looking forward to not having to deal with the snow and cold of East Coast winters!"

Also making a major switch is Ulrik Birkkjaer, who joins SFB as a principal having formerly danced with The Royal Danish Ballet, and Madison Keesler, who will return as a corps member after dancing with English National Ballet.

While we'll missing having Scheller so close by in New York, we can't wait to see her dancing new roles at SFB—and, okay, we're a little jealous of all the warmer weather she has ahead of her, too.

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Angela Sterling, Courtesy of Pacific Northwest Ballet

Clear your schedule now for Monday, January 29th, 2:45PM (EST)/ 11:45AM (PST). Pacific Northwest Ballet will be live-streaming rehearsal from Kent Stowell's Swan Lake, straight from their Seattle, WA-based studios. To psych us up for their on stage performances February 2nd - 11th, PNB is letting us in on their Act II rehearsal.

From the corps of swans to Odette and Prince Siegfried's pas de deux, and the infamous four swans, this rehearsal is not to be missed. You can sign up now for a live-stream reminder on their site. In the meantime, we'll be brushing up on our Cygnets with this PNB sneak peek.

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Rigorous program, check. Well-rounded technical training, check. Purposeful liberal arts curriculum, check. Study your craft abroad, check! If you are looking for all the above, the Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance at Dean College truly has it all.

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Summer Study Advice
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Videos are a great alternative when auditioning in person isn't possible. Here are some general guidelines for making a good impression.

1. Follow directions. Before filming, research what each school you're interested in requires. "It demonstrates your ability to follow instructions, and schools pay attention to that," says Kate Lydon, artistic director of American Ballet Theatre's summer intensives and the ABT Studio Company. "If the guidelines haven't been followed, your video might not be watched the whole way through." You may need to make multiple versions to accommodate different schools.

2. Videos should be no longer than 10 minutes. "Keep it short, simple and direct," advises Philip Neal, dance department chair at The Patel Conservatory and artistic director of Next Generation Ballet. "You have to be sensitive to how much time the director has to sit down and look at it." Barre can be abbreviated, showing only one side per exercise, alternating. Directors will be looking at fundamentals—placement, turnout, leg lines, stability—but don't ignore musicality or movement quality. Make sure music choices match combinations and are correctly synced in the footage.

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Career
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I want to be a professional dancer, but my parents won't listen. They either don't think I can do it (contrary to what my teachers have said) or they won't let me take the necessary steps to become a professional. Please help. —Audrey

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Videos

They say that pigeons mate for life—perhaps that's why these birds naturally symbolize the young lovers in Sir Frederick Ashton's The Two Pigeons. In these two clips from a 1987 performance in Pisa, Alessandra Ferri and Robert LaFosse—then stars with American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet, respectively—dance a rapturous pas de deux at the end of Act II. With tiny pricks of her feet and bird-like flaps of her elbows in Part 1, Ferri marks her anguish, thinking she's been abandoned for another woman. Later, both she and LaFosse grow more and more entangled as they reconcile, Ferri dancing with the passionate abandon she's famous for. I love how in Part 2 (0:20), they can't seem to get enough of each other as their necks arch and intertwine. At the end of the ballet, two pigeons fly in to perch symbolically on the chair—er, there's supposed to be two. It looks like one missed its cue at this performance! No matter—Ferri and LaFosse's dancing make it clear that these young lovers are meant to be together for life. Happy #TBT!

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Summer Study Advice
The author at 13, rehearsing at her home studio, Ballet Arts Theater, in Endicott, NY. Courtesy McGuire.

This story originally appeared in the December 2010/January 2011 issue of Pointe.

As a young student at a small ballet school in upstate New York, I was obsessed with getting into the School of American Ballet. From the age of 10, I entered class each day with the ultimate goal of studying at SAB dangling before me like a carrot on a stick. Every effort I made, every extra class I took was for the sole purpose of getting into what I thought was the only ballet school that really mattered.

I auditioned for SAB's summer program for the first time when I was 12. In the weeks that followed, I became a vulture hovering over my family's mail, squawking at my mother if the day's letters were not presented for my inspection when I walked through the door. The day the letter finally arrived, it was thin and limp. I cried for a week as I dealt with the crushing feeling of rejection for one of the first times in my life.

My mind filled with questions and self-doubt. What was wrong with me? Why wasn't I good enough? I figured I must be too fat, too slow, my feet too flat. I had worked so hard. I had wished on every fallen eyelash and dead dandelion in pursuit of my single goal, just to have a three-paragraph form letter conclude that I was a failure. For a while, I let myself wallow in the comfort of my resentment, content to believe that success should have come easily, and that to fall was the same as to fail.

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