With his old-school athleticism, clean lines and compact frame, John Mark Giragosian stands out among the Joffrey Ballet’s many strong male dancers. He partners effortlessly, crisply articulating the essence of each step. In his solos, he seems more expressive than determinedly impressive, bringing color and inflection even to abstract movement.

Giragosian is not a Joffrey newcomer. Promoted from apprentice to company member by artistic director Ashley Wheater in 2008, his opportunities have grown steadily. While he has danced featured roles in The Nutcracker, Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella and Ronald Hynd’s The Merry Widow, Giragosian still has untapped facets to his artistry that he may eventually be able to explore. “I see John Mark as a leading dancer,” says Wheater. “Right now he is a very strong soloist. But I see him taking on many things. Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet is coming back in a few seasons and definitely he should be a Mercutio. In the next few years, Twyla Tharp will do some things here, Ashley Page will do a new work here. So John Mark’s future looks incredibly bright and very interesting.”

Giragosian, like many male dancers, came to ballet through his sister. At 5, following one of her performances in his hometown of Manassas, Virginia, he jumped onstage and began dancing. When the audience started filing out, he burst into tears. Before long, Giragosian had added dance class several days a week to a roster of activities that included soccer, karate and piano. By the time he was in high school, he was studying at the Maryland Youth Ballet six days a week. He had to leave school 90 minutes early and make up the classes he missed online and at the local community college. Nonetheless, Giragosian graduated at the top of his class.
Although there was a period when he dreamed of being a doctor (science was his favorite subject), Giragosian steadily refined his classical technique, encouraged by his instructor Olivier Munoz, now a teacher at Orlando Ballet School. While he kept a tight focus, with Munoz’s encouragement he experimented from time to time. Giragosian even brought a contemporary piece to the Helsinki International Ballet Competition. It was a stretch and he did not medal, but both he and Munoz remember the process as a welcome learning experience.

Giragosian admits that it’s been “a journey” getting his body to feel comfortable in nonclassical pieces, even at the Joffrey. “I did Paul Taylor’s Cloven Kingdom my first year here,” he recalls. “It was the most modern thing I had done and so a lot of the steps felt like they didn’t look very good. I was doing them the way I’d been told to do them, but I was thinking to myself, This looks weird.”

Thoughtful and self-aware, today Giragosian, 23, has a good sense of his strengths and weaknesses. “My biggest struggle as a whole is really my line,” he says. “My feet and legs don’t always shape the way I want them to. When I am onstage, I’ll really try to think of shaping my legs and feet. Sometimes that will make the rest of my dancing stiff. So it’s a fine line for me to be able to work in a way that allows my legs and feet to be stretched to their maximum while maintaining relaxation and good form in my upper body.”

Giragosian’s learning curve isn’t dictated solely by the studio and the stage. In January, he began working toward a degree in economics at Northwestern University. “It will be a challenge,” he admits, “because I’ll be going to night school and balancing that with touring, rehearsing and performing. But I want to be able to have options after my ballet career. And I really love learning.”


At a Glance

John Mark Giragosian
Age: 23
Company: The Joffrey Ballet
Training: Maryland Youth Ballet
Favorite Role: George Balanchine’s Tarantella
Dream Role: Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet

















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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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Lopez in Circus Polka. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy MCB.

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But when Lopez was planning MCB's Jerome Robbins Celebration for the 100th anniversary of the legend's birth, she saw an opportunity. She asked the Robbins Trust to allow her to perform the Ringmaster in Robbins' Circus Polka, a role the choreographer originated himself.

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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.

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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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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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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.

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