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Cheryl Mann, Courtesy the Joffrey Academy

The Joffrey Academy’s Summer Intensive Is *The* Path to a Company Contract

When José Pablo Castro Cuevas got scouted by The Joffrey Ballet at Youth America Grand Prix Mexico back in 2015, he'd never even heard of the company—let alone its official school and training program, the Joffrey Academy of Dance. Now in his second year as a full-fledged member of the company, Castro Cuevas says with certainty that he's where he is today because he spent that fateful first summer intensive at the Joffrey Academy in Chicago, Illinois.

"I'd never even considered that joining a company could be possible for me," he says. "Those five weeks prepared me physically, mentally and technically for everything that would come after." Five years from now, you could well be saying something similar about your own journey to becoming a professional ballet dancer.

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Jayme Thornton for Pointe

Join Us for a Q&A With ABT's Gabe Stone Shayer on January 21

Gabe Stone Shayer, American Ballet Theatre's newest soloist, has long been a standout onstage. But the 27-year-old dancer—the first African-American male to graduate from Russia's Bolshoi Ballet Academy—is also branching out into choreography and spearheading a flurry of creative projects. Shayer has big ideas for ballet's future. "I want to be the person who facilitates the idea of possibility in this historically exclusive world," he told us in our December/January digital cover story. "And I want to present the possibility of success through my own story."

Now you have a chance to ask Shayer about his training and career, his advice on navigating a path in ballet, his recent work with Alicia Keys, his thoughts on diversity in dance and more. Click here to register for free with your questions. Then tune in for an exclusive conversation and Q&A with Gabe Stone Shayer on Thursday, January 21, at 7 pm Eastern.

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Andrew Fassbender, Courtesy Ellison Ballet

Set—and Achieve—Your Goals This Summer at Ellison Ballet

Summer intensives are much more than just a way to stay in shape over a break. The rigorous schedule, as well as exposure to new teachers, programs and styles, sets dancers up for the school year ahead, and allows them to make huge strides towards their dance goals. Intensives are often the gateway to pre-professional programs and other opportunities, so selecting the intensive that will help you meet your goals is key.

Ellison Ballet in New York City offers three distinct summer courses that help students achieve their most important training goals, whether that's being accepted into Ellison Ballet's renowned year-round program, getting a taste of pre-professional life, preparing for ballet competitions and auditions, or dancing for a company in the upcoming season.

Be intentional

Christopher Mitchell (second from right) in EBSI Sr. Men's class with international répétiteur Maina Gielgud and artistic director Edward Ellison

Courtesy Christopher Mitchell

Edward Ellison, artistic director and founder of Ellison Ballet, stresses that it is a dancer's mindset and dedication to working hard that truly sets him or her up for success. Being clear about your goals for the year and your career ambitions can help you choose the right summer intensive where you can achieve the results you really want.

Maya Read, a current Ellison Ballet student who has trained with the school since 2018, says that it is important to look at the current and former students to know if a summer intensive is right for you. "You should look for somewhere that reflects where you want to be as a dancer," she says. "I remember hearing about how many Ellison Ballet graduates joined companies and all the wonderful things they had to say about the school, the teachers and the training. That helped me know it was the right place for me."

Taking ownership of your goals also helps others help you. The Ellison Ballet Summer Intensive teachers, which include year-round faculty as well as prominent guest teachers from around the world, focus on each student as an individual. "They are so passionate about the students, and they want us all to succeed," says Read.

Christopher Mitchell, a dancer with the Dutch National Ballet Junior Company who trained with Ellison Ballet from 2018–20, says that the EBSI also has a unique camaraderie among the students, where everyone lifts each other up. "You can feel comfortable asking other students for help and working toward your goals without any judgment."

Seek out new experiences

Maya Read in Central Park during her time at EBSI

Courtesy Maya Read

A summer intensive is a great opportunity to test out what life as a pre-professional is like."You learn how you need to work when there are no other distractions, like performances, and get used to the structure and the schedule," says Mitchell. There's a lot to learn outside the studio too. "I wanted to come to Ellison Ballet to experience life in New York City, and see if it would be a good match for me," recalls Read. Taking advantage of all the unique arts and culture that New York City has to offer alongside top-notch training could be a goal in itself for some dancers this summer.

Ellison Ballet offers three unique summer courses: a four-week classical training program, and two two-week specialized programs in areas that are crucial for aspiring pros: classical variations and classical pas de deux. "In our four-week EBSI, students are immersed in all aspects of study vital to becoming dancers," says Ellison. That includes ballet technique, pointe, character, contemporary, conditioning, and more, not to mention valuable exposure to the many benefits of Vaganova technique, a signature aspect of Ellison Ballet's program. From there, Ellison encourages students to keep building on their progress with a deep dive into either classical variations or classical pas de deux. "The two-week programs explore classical works in-depth, from choreographic detail to musical nuance. Combining two intensives into a six-week course allows for an even greater opportunity for growth," he says.

Read, who attended the Classical Variations Intensive in 2018 and 2019, says, "The teachers explain the meaning behind all of the steps. It helps the students become trained not just in the body but in the mind, too."

Additionally, Ellison Ballet offers robust men's training as part of its summer programs, with separate daily technique classes and extensive pas de deux work. "We even have professional dancers who attend our programs to further hone their skills," says Ellison. "Many report that after returning to their companies, directors comment about the great strides they've made over their break."

Reap the rewards

Courtesy Christopher Mitchell

"When students approach our programs with an open mind and heart, willing to give themselves completely to the work, the rewards can be substantial," says Ellison. His students are quick to express how the summer intensive was where they first discovered the mental tenacity and courage to push themselves to achieve their biggest goals.

"At Ellison, you really learn how to become a dancer, not just how to dance," says Read.

Mitchell, who is currently dancing in his first season with Dutch National Ballet's Junior Company, says that attending Ellison Ballet was the decision that had the biggest impact on his training. "It was the hard right turn that brought me to where I am today, and what prepared me to be a professional."

Sarah Ferguson

These Dancers Pursued Passions Outside of the Studio—and Found Fulfilling Second Careers

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Vadim Shultz, Courtesy Mariinsky Ballet

Catching Up With Maria Khoreva: The Rising Mariinsky Star on Her TV Competition Win and New Book

The coronavirus pandemic has not slowed down the Mariinsky Ballet's Maria Khoreva. Although Russia's Mariinsky Theater was closed in 2020 from March until August, the 20-year-old first soloist used the time in quarantine to her advantage. She wrote a newly published book titled Teach Me Ballet, and won Best Female Dancer on Russia's hit TV show "Grand Ballet," a competition which brings young ballet dancers from all parts of the country to the national spotlight. (This season, filmed over the summer, was broadcast on Russia's arts channel from November 4 to December 19. All seven episodes are now available on YouTube.)

Pointe spoke with Khoreva to find out more about her experience on the show, her fitness regime during quarantine and her new book.

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