Ballet Careers
Roderick Phifer in Trey McIntyre's The Boogeyman . Bill Hebert, Courtesy BalletX.

This is one of a series of stories on recent graduates' on-campus experiences—and the connections they made that jump-started their dance careers. Roderick Phifer graduated from University of the Arts with a BFA in dance in 2017.

While walking out of a technique class during the first semester of his senior year at Philadelphia's University of the Arts, Roderick Phifer was approached with an unexpected offer. BalletX needed a guest artist for an upcoming performance, and after seeing Phifer perform in one of his senior shows, a UArts alumnus dancing with the company had offered up his name. Phifer ran straight from his technique class to a company class with BalletX, and the troupe's artistic leadership quickly gave him the green light to perform. "It was so last-minute, that, I kid you not, I had three rehearsals," he says. He performed with BalletX as a guest artist that fall, auditioned for an open company position in the spring and had a contract by the end of his senior year.

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Sponsored by The Rock School
From left: Sarah Lapointe, Derek Dunn and Jeanette Kakareka. Courtesy The Rock School

For more than five decades, The Rock School for Dance Education has been launching young dancers into professional ballet careers around the globe. Boasting distinguished alumni such as Beckanne Sisk, Michaela DePrince and Taylor Stanley, the Philadelphia-based institution has garnered a well-deserved reputation for pairing rigorous training with a tight-knit, welcoming community. Their summer intensives are no different, with a wealth of prestigious faculty members, many of whom are Rock School alums currently dancing at companies around the world.

What inspires busy pros to keep returning to their alma mater? We talked to three of The Rock School's buzziest alums about why they make it a priority to come back and teach:

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Viral Videos

In this video ThePointeShop's Josephine Lee may not be giving her usual pointe shoe advice, but she is putting pointe shoes to good use... in the classic wedding shoe game. She plays with newly engaged Ballet West dancers Beckanne Sisk and Chase O'Connell to find out how well the couple knows each other.

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Courtesy Apolla

Ballet dancers today are asked to do more with their bodies than ever before. The physical demands of a ballet career can take an immense toll on a dancer's joints and muscles—subjecting them to pain, inflammation and an increased risk of injury. Considering all that is required of today's dancers, having a top-notch recovery regime is paramount.

Enter Apolla Performance Wear, which is meeting ballet's physical demands with a line of compression footwear that is speeding up the recovery process for professional dancers by reducing inflammation and stabilizing the joints.

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Ballet Stars
Matt Stamey, Courtesy Santa Fe College.

Gainesville, Florida, may not seem like the typical place you'd see a major revival of a historic ballet. But November 8–9, Santa Fe College will present Cuban choreographer Alberto Alonso's 1967 Carmen Suite, rarely performed in the U.S. Staged by his widow, Sonia Calero-Alonso, the production will star American Ballet Theatre principals Sarah Lane and Cory Stearns as Carmen and Don José, and ABT corps member Luis Ribagorda (Lane's husband) as Escamillo, as well as dancers from New York Dance Project. It will also feature the Gainesville Orchestra, making this the first time the full ballet has been performed to live music in the U.S. since 1974.

Alonso, who died in 2007, had strong ties to Gainesville, and to Santa Fe College in particular. Although he helped found the Cuban National Ballet with his brother Fernando and his sister-in-law, the renowned Alicia Alonso, he and his wife expatriated to Florida in 1993. The pair spent the next 18 years teaching and choreographing at Santa Fe College's dance program. Alora Haynes, chair of fine arts for Santa Fe College, has wanted to produce the full Carmen Suite for over 25 years.

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Ballet Stars

Noëlla Pontois, the striking, lithe and fiercely technical former étoile of the Paris Opera Ballet, was renown for her interpretation of aristocratic roles in 19th-century ballets. In this 1983 performance from Rudolf Nureyev's production of Raymonda, Pontois is at her most imperious and entrancing in the title role's wedding variation.

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Ballet Careers
Miko Fogarty left her corps position at Birmingham Royal Ballet to pursue a college degree. Sonata Dancewear, Courtesy Fogarty.

"I was living my dream, but I wasn't happy," recalls Alexandra Pullen. Since starting ballet at age 5, the Chicago native aspired to join American Ballet Theatre and dance the roles her mother, Ellen Krafft, had performed there a generation before. And she achieved it: Fast-tracked from the ABT Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School to the Studio Company, and then to the main company, by 20 she'd performed her mother's parts in Giselle and Don Quixote, toured the world, and attended galas and New York Fashion Week. And she was miserable.

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News
Lindsay Thomas, Courtesy PNB

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've rounded up some highlights.

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News
Getty Images

Last winter, we found out that a ballet emoji was coming our way as part of Emoji 12.0. The update includes nearly 400 new emojis featuring several disability-related symbols, gender neutral figures, and, thankfully, our favorite new tiny pair of pointe shoes. Since then, Google, Microsoft, Samsung, Twitter and other platforms (see a full list here) have all released their versions, but there was one hold out: Apple. Every iPhone update has left us breathlessly scrolling through the emojis, searching for the pointe shoes... until now! On October 28, Apple released iOS 13.2, and for the fellow iPhone users out there, all of our emoji dreams have finally come true.

Check out the full list of Apple's new emojis below in a post from Emojipedia's Instagram. (The pointe shoe is in the center of the 11th row down from the top, sandwiched between the swim shorts and the banjo.)

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Viral Videos

Have small heels? Josephine Lee of the California-based ThePointeShop gives her top tips on finding the best fitting pointe shoes for when your heel tends to slide around.

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Ballet Stars
Getty Images

We might be biased, but we think that ballet dancers are unusually good at Halloween. After all, they wear costumes for a living, are familiar with elaborate hair and makeup techniques and own leotards in most colors of the rainbow (the perfect base for any costume).

We perused Instagram to find our favorite dancer looks from Halloween 2019. Though it was certainly hard to narrow down the pool, we've rounded up 12 of our favorite posts below. So pull out what's left of your Halloween candy, and enjoy!

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Ballet Stars
Yasmine Naghdi in The Sleeping Beauty with Eric Underwood. Bill Cooper, Courtesy The Royal Ballet.

What is the hardest role you've learned?

Swan Lake. You need so much endurance to get through it. Especially in Act III, when you're about to do the fouettés—I feel like I can't see, I'm so tired by that point. It's a battle of your own mind.

You've danced Aurora for The Royal Ballet and at San Francisco Ballet—how were they different?

In London it was my debut; it was 10 times harder dancing it for the first time. Revisiting it in San Francisco, I had so much more experience—it wasn't as hard as I remembered. Anytime you revisit a role, it becomes slightly less hard than the first time.

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News
Award winners at the 2019 Prix de Lausanne. Gregory Bartadon, Courtesy Prix de Lausanne.

Though we haven't even gotten to The Nutcracker yet, competition season is just around the corner. Yesterday, the Prix de Lausanne announced the names of the 84 young hopefuls who will be competing in Montreaux, Switzerland next February, and the list includes 10 dancers from the U.S.

While eight candidates were pre-selected earlier this year, the majority of dancers applied via video submission and were chosen by a jury of nine dance-world professionals last week. The panel had a tall task: 377 dancers from 44 countries applied for a spot in the lineup. The 84 selected competitors hail from 26 countries including Japan, Australia, Belarus, South Africa and Cuba. Get to know the 10 U.S. dancers below, and stay tuned over the coming months for more updates on Prix de Lausanne.

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News
Nashville Ballet's Julia Eisen and Jon Upleger in A Streetcar Named Desire. MA2LA, Courtesy Nashville Ballet.

In December 1947, Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire rocked audiences with its brutal portrayal of a young southern widow's tragic life. At the Broadway premiere, the theater fell utterly silent after the curtain closed, before the audience erupted into a 30-minute ovation.

Since its creation, Streetcar has won numerous awards and provided inspiration for a plethora of adaptations. Now, choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's balletic version is making its U.S. company debut at Nashville Ballet November 1–3. As a female choreographer with an interest in telling women's stories, Ochoa is championing a new era of narrative ballet, and she wants audiences familiar with Williams' story to see the protagonist's arc in a new light.

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Ballet Stars
Kristie Kahns

There isn't a color or pattern too bold for The Joffrey Ballet's Brooke Linford. "I think it brings life and energy into my day-to-day activities," the company artist says of her style. And playing with color isn't only limited to her studio and off-duty looks—Linford has even experimented with dyeing her long blonde waves bubblegum pink. While she takes her styling cues from Pinterest and Instagram, Linford also looks to her husband, fellow Joffrey dancer Graham Maverick, for ideas. "He wears so much color that it started to inspire my wardrobe," she says.

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Viral Videos
Getty Images

Further showing that whatever mere humans can do, ballerinas can do more gracefully, the Australian Ballet created the most beautiful obstacle course we've ever seen, and then put their dancers to the test. Naturally, when it came to execution, the company members went above and beyond: Why jump over a hurdle when you could pas de chat, or run to the finish when you could chaîné?

Watch the full video (which first premiered on World Ballet Day) below, featuring soloist Nicola Curry and dancers of the Australian Ballet.

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News
Nashville Ballet's Julia Eisen in Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's A Streetcar Named Desire . MA2LA, Courtesy Nashville Ballet.

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've rounded up some highlights.

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Giveaways
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Health & Body
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Picture this: It's the end of class. You're exhausted and ready for reverence when your teacher decides it's time for a drill of 32 changements. If you feel like you might not be jumping at your best, take extra caution. According to a study led by Danielle Jarvis, an athletic trainer and associate professor of kinesiology at California State University Northridge, when dancers are tired, they may lack the muscle control to land jumps correctly, putting them at risk for injury.

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News
Karolina Kuras, Courtesy NBoC

On Friday, National Ballet of Canada announced that artistic director Karen Kain will step down in January 2021 to become artistic director emeritus.

Kain, who has served as artistic director since 2005, joined NBoC as a dancer in 1969 and went on to become one of the company's most beloved stars, often dancing alongside Rudolf Nureyev.

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News
Melanie Hamrick in Balanchine's Valse Fantaisie. Marty Sohl, Courtesy ABT.

Melanie Hamrick has been an undeniable force in American Ballet Theatre's corps de ballet for the past 15 years (16 if you count her time in the Studio Company, she points out). Her technical precision, combined with her luxurious quality of drawing each step out so that it melts into the next, has made her a standout whether she's dancing a featured role or in a corps of swans. On Saturday, she'll take her final bow with the company in Balanchine's Theme and Variations, with just a tiny bit of nerves. "I've always been a calm performer, but this fall season I've been quite nervous," she explained after rehearsal on Thursday. "I want to take in every moment and really enjoy it. I got quite emotional earlier this week because I'm going to miss my friends," she says, adding, "But I'm excited for the next chapter."

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Ballet Careers
Milwaukee Ballet dancers (and twins) Marie Harrison-Collins and Elizabeth Harrison. Tom Davenport, Courtesy Milwaukee Ballet.

This is the third in a series of articles this month about ballet siblings.


Ballet is already a competitive world, but how do you dance alongside someone who looks exactly like you? How do you deal when you're constantly getting mixed up in the studio, or when one gets an opportunity and the other doesn't? For twins, no two approaches are quite the same. Though twin sisters Elizabeth Harrison and Marie Harrison-Collins initially chose to part ways after their training years, they're now in their third season dancing together at Milwaukee Ballet. Meanwhile, twin brothers Shaakir and Naazir Muhammad always intended to stick together, but ultimately found that more opportunities were available to them if they split up and joined different companies. Both pairs told Pointe about their experiences training together, the challenges they've faced and how they support each other.

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Ballet Stars

Master pointe shoe fitter Josephine Lee of the California-based ThePointeShop chats with Colorado Ballet soloist Tracy Jones to hear all about her pointe shoe hacks (particularly for dancers with sensitive skin), her darning tips and the differences between what students and pros are looking for in their shoes.

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News
Ross Brown, Courtesy RNZB

It's been several years since former Pacific Northwest Ballet star Patricia Barker took over leadership of the Royal New Zealand Ballet. In that time Barker and her husband, former PNB dancer Michael Auer, have had to acclimate themselves to a new country, a new hemisphere and a new culture.

She also noticed that RNZB had a different way of working when she took the helm in 2017. The company was then grappling with acccusations of abusive behavior and other workplace grievances by its former director, along with a few vocal New Zealanders with nationalistic agendas stirring up controversy. "The company was trying to lay low and let things blow over," she says. "You can never lay low; you just have to face your troubles head on."

Even though Barker says the turmoil had nothing to do with her, she took it on and moved the company forward by turning attention back on the art form, which she says is what matters most to audiences. And what matters to Barker with regard to that art form is creating more opportunities for female choreographers. So much so that the company's entire 2020 season will feature works choreographed by women.

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Ballet Careers
Eri Nishihara in Rex Wheeler's Symphonic Dances. Sarah Ferguson, Courtesy Richmond Ballet.

This is one of a series of stories on recent graduates' on-campus experiences—and the connections they made that jump-started their dance careers. Eri Nishihara graduated from University of Utah with a BFA in ballet performance in 2016.

As her time in high school drew to a close, Eri Nishihara knew she wasn't ready to dance professionally. She had seen dancers her age from other cities at summer intensives and didn't think that she was up to company caliber yet. "I didn't want to feel like I was having to keep up for a lack of training or experience, while adjusting to a new professional life," she says. Nishihara had trained with University of Utah professors in the past, through summer intensives at Ballet West, and felt that their teaching style would best prepare her for a future career.

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News
The Washington Ballet's NEXTsteps program opens this week. Here are company dancers Ashley Murphy-Wilson and Alexandros Papajohn. Procopio Photography, Courtesy The Washington Ballet.

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've rounded up some highlights.

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