Ballet Careers
Lenai Alexis Wilkerson. Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Michelle Tabnick Public Relations.

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. Lenai Alexis Wilkerson graduated from University of Southern California with a BFA in dance (dance performance concentration) and a political science minor in 2019.

As Lenai Alexis Wilkerson looked at colleges, she wanted a school that would prepare her for two totally different professions: dancing and law. "I knew, pretty much when I was 16, that I wanted to go to law school," she says. "So I wanted the opportunity to have a dual college experience, where I could have a conservatory training style within a university and I could focus equally on my academics." When she auditioned for the inaugural class of University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, she knew it was the right fit.

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Sponsored by Ballet Arizona
Tzu Chia Huang, Courtesy Ballet Arizona

These days, ballet dancers are asked to do more than they ever have—whether that's tackling versatile rep, taking on intense cross-training regimens or managing everything from their Instagram pages to their summer layoff gigs.

Without proper training, these demands can take a toll on both the mind and the body. But students can start preparing for them early—with the right summer intensive program.

The School of Ballet Arizona's summer intensive takes a well-rounded approach to training—not just focusing on technique and facility but nurturing overall dancer growth. "You cannot make a dancer just by screaming at them like they used to," says master ballet teacher Roberto Muñoz, who guests at the program every summer. "You have to take care of the person as well."

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News
Nicolas Pelletier in Carmina Burana. Francisco Estevez, Courtesy Colorado Ballet.

Last week, Colorado Ballet interrupted Nutcracker rehearsals for an exciting announcement: Four dancers were being promoted. Though all made the jump from the company's corps de ballet, Nicolas Pelletier ascended directly to the rank of soloist, while Sean Omandam, Emily Speed and Melissa Zoebisch were promoted to demi-soloist. This news comes hot on the heels of last August's promotion of Francisco Estevez to principal.

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Courtesy School of Pennsylvania Ballet

While many of us are deep in Nutcracker duties, The School of Pennsylvania Ballet director James Payne has been looking further ahead, finalizing preparations for the school's summer intensive programs. In January, he and his staff will embark on a 24-city audition tour to scour the country for the best young dancers, deciding whether or not to offer them a spot—maybe even a scholarship—in the school's rigorous 5-week intensive focused on high-caliber ballet instruction. Though he'll be evaluating aspirants, he urges that as a student, you should be equally selective in choosing programs that could galvanize your training—and possibly even your career.

We got Payne's advice on strategizing your summer intensive plan before the audition cycle kicks in:

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Jayme Thornton for Dance Magazine

It is perhaps the understatement of the century to say that Misty Copeland—American Ballet Theatre principal, trailblazing role model, and straight-up ballet icon—knows how to work a pair of pointe shoes. But a new campaign for Stuart Weitzman, in which Copeland trades her ballet "boots" for some boots of the more traditional kind, proves (yet again) that she's a dance goddess in any kind of footwear.

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Courtesy Grishko ltd. (Moscow, Russia)

If you're one of the many American ballet dancers who loyally wear Grishko pointe shoes, you may have noticed something different about your shoes recently.

In the midst of a lawsuit, Grishko ltd. is now selling in the U.S. under the name Nikolay to reduce confusion and ensure that American dancers get the high-quality shoes they've come to expect.

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Ballet Training
Hortense Millet-Maurin (third from left) and her classmates perform August Bournonville's La Conservatoire. Svetlana Loboff, Courtesy POB.

As a little girl, Hortense Millet-Maurin fell in love with the wide spiral staircase that dominates the center of the Paris Opéra Ballet School. Today, as a focused 15-year-old POB student, she and her classmate Vincent Vivet navigate the school's spacious architecture on a daily basis. In a hallway strewn with foam rollers and tennis balls, their faces are laced with concentration as they prepare alongside their peers for afternoon ballet class. Color-coded uniforms reflect Vivet's and Millet-Maurin's third division; with only two advanced divisions remaining, they are increasingly close to realizing their professional aspirations: joining the Paris Opéra Ballet. Pointe spoke with these two young dancers to see what it's like studying inside the world's oldest ballet academy.

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Rachel Neville, Courtesy Audition Dancewear

When you dig through your collection of leotards before class, do you ever think about how they're made, or what they're made from? Chances are, most dancers don't, and Audition Dancewear wants to do something about that.

The company—run by two mother-daughter duos, Kathy and Caroline Perry and Shelly and Suzanna Lathrum—has begun making leotards from recycled materials to reduce their carbon footprint and raise awareness around plastic consumption. The result is a sleek line of leos that don't sacrifice style or function, and that use four or five recycled water bottles per leo.

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Ballet Training
Emily Giacalone, modeled by Elizabeth Steele of The School at Steps.

If you're feeling wobbly in adagio or wish you could hold your piqué attitude a bit longer, there are ways to assess and improve your balance. Try these four exercises, recommended by Heather Southwick, Boston Ballet's director of physical therapy.

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Ballet Stars

For many a bunhead, "The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" is not just a holiday tradition, but a rite of passage. The variation, with its tinkling celesta, bourrées and petit battus, is one that all ballet dancers are familiar with, and getting the opportunity to perform it often represents moving into new realms in your training or career. Such was the case for Soviet ballerina Ekaterina Maximova. In this 1957 clip, the 18-year-old aspirant performed the Sugar Plum variation at a ballet competition, where she represented the Bolshoi Ballet Academy.

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Getty Images

For any young dancer performing in The Nutcracker, Marie (aka Clara, depending on the production) is a dream role. But Charlotte Nebres, who will be playing Marie in New York City Ballet's Nutcracker this year isn't just bringing her own dream to life—she's also making history.

Charlotte is the first black dancer to ever perform the role of Marie in NYCB's production of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker, which dates all the way back to 1954. Charlotte was, of course, hugely excited to perform the role of Marie, but, according to the New York Times, when her mother told her that she was the first black dancer cast in the role, she said "Wow. That seems a little late."

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Viral Videos

Same feet, but different shoes... Josephine Lee of the California-based ThePointeShop interviews Milwaukee Ballet dancers and identical twin sisters Elizabeth Harrison and Marie Harrison-Collins to find out all of their pointe shoe hacks, proving once and for all just how individual each dancer's pointe shoe preferences are.

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Everything Nutcracker
Boston Ballet's new Nutcracker Bear Instagram stickers. Courtesy Boston Ballet.

By this point in the year, Nutcracker has already taken over most parts of your life. So why not let it play a role in your Instagram stories too?

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Ballet Stars
Elle Macy in Benjamin Millepied's Appassionata. Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB.

Cross-training misconceptions: Before Elle Macy became an apprentice with Pacific Northwest Ballet, she was apprehensive about cross-training. "I was warned that it might bulk you, or not to do certain activities because they could potentially injure you." But a stress fracture in her foot changed her perspective. Unable to bear much weight, Macy reluctantly tried stationary biking at her physical therapist's suggestion. "What I learned is that you're not going to get injured from being on an elliptical for 20 minutes or by taking a Pilates class," says Macy. Today, it's not uncommon to find the soloist training on the elliptical, doing ankle stability exercises, using the Pilates reformer or taking a hot yoga class.

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Ballet Stars
Carolina Ballet soloist Sam Ainley, shown here as a teenager, was initially not jazzed about dancing as a Big Mouse in his childhood Nutcracker. But he learned to appreciate the role. Photo Courtesy Ainley.

You have your heart set on a role. Casting goes up. You're crushed. Not only were you passed over for the part you were hoping for, but you're definitely not excited about the role you received.

You're in good company—nearly every dancer has gone through this. We spoke with four professionals about their less-than-desired Nutcracker roles growing up, and asked them to reflect on what they learned from the experience.

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Longaria gave herself daily barre outdoors while at Zion National Park. Courtesy Longoria

For ballet dancers, taking daily class is one of the most natural things they can do.

But taking class in nature is an entirely different story.

Last September, outdoor barre became the new normal for Sarah Longoria during her monthlong stint at Utah's Zion National Park. She lived onsite as an artist in residence, the park's first-ever dancer to be selected for the position. We caught up with Longoria about her time dancing in the shadows of the canyon.

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News
Including ballet competition standout Alina Taratorin (photo by Oliver Endahl, courtesy Taratorin)

Congratulations to the 39 talented dancers just named 2020 YoungArts award winners! This year's group of awardees includes several familiar faces from the competition scene.

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News
Silvia Saint-Martin dancing her free variation from Jerome Robbin's Other Dances. The dancer competed against seven of her peers to earn the one coveted opening for a première danseuse. Photo by Svetlana Loboff, Courtesy Paris Opéra Ballet.

Dancing with the Paris Opéra Ballet normally entails performing to sold out crowds and admirers from around the world. But imagine dancers attempting to give their best performance in an opera house that's eerily quiet and closed to the public. That's what happened on November 6 and 8 when dancers competed in front of a jury, with only a handful of colleagues and journalists in attendance. Welcome to POB's annual "concours de promotion," or competitive promotional exam. In a company that employs 154 dancers, it is the only way to climb the ranks.

Outsiders are often baffled by this system because it is so different from how other companies promote their dancers. This year, Pointe was invited to take an inside look at this high-stakes event and spoke with two of the 14 dancers awarded promotions that go into effect in January 2020.

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Ballet Stars
Sisters and New York City Ballet corps dancers Mary Thomas MacKinnon and Olivia MacKinnon. Courtesy Ezra Hurwitz.

When Elle Decor approached Ezra Hurwitz to create a campaign with Tiffany & Co., the former Miami City Ballet dancer-turned-filmmaker knew just who he wanted to feature: the dancers of New York City Ballet.

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Boylston photographed by Jayme Thornton for Dance Magazine

There are few things we love more than big movie and TV dance scenes. Are they, generally speaking, accurate and flattering depictions of the IRL dance world? Well...no. But each one is an opportunity to bring a more mainstream audience inside this wonderful, HIGHLY specific universe we inhabit. And who better to break down some of the most iconic dance scenes of the past three-odd decades than American Ballet Theatre principal/Instagram celebrity/all-around delight Isabella Boylston?

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Everything Nutcracker
Boston Ballet in The Nutcracker. Angela Sterling, Courtesy Boston Ballet.

Last year, we brought you the first ever Great Nutcracker Roundup, a listing of 71 of our nation's professional Nutcrackers, organized by state. Now we're back, and this year we've included 99 productions in 40 states. So as you get ready to sit down to your turkey (or tofurkey) dinner this week, take a look at this list to find the nearest Nut to you.

Please remember, we're not perfect! If we missed a major Nutcracker production (no schools, please), we want to know. Email clansky@dancemedia.com for consideration.

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Viral Videos

ThePointeShop's Josephine Lee gives some of her top tips on finding the best fit for dancers prone to sickling.

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Health & Body
Emily Giacalone, modeled by Elizabeth Steele of The School at Steps.

In fall 2012, New York City Ballet associate artistic director Wendy Whelan, then a company principal, was taking morning class when her foot slid out from under her, causing her to pull the very top of what felt like her right hamstring muscle. "It shocked me from the inside out," she notes.

Whelan spent three months nursing her hamstring. But once she got back to performing, her right hip flexor began flaring up. "By the end of Nutcracker season, I could no longer bear standing in fifth position. I could not lift my right leg without severe pain," she says. "I couldn't imagine why or how this was suddenly becoming so debilitating." A sonogram revealed a complex labral tear in Whelan's hip.

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Ballet Stars

Carlos Acosta and Tamara Rojo both took The Royal Ballet by storm when they arrived at the company in 1998 and 2000, respectively. Virtuosic, enigmatic performers, the two forged a storied partnership over the course of their next decade together at The Royal. Now they've both gone on to lead the next generation of ballet dancers in England: Rojo has been the artistic director of English National Ballet since 2012, and Acosta will take the helm of Birmingham Royal Ballet in January. With this 2007 clip of their balcony scene from Sir Kenneth MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet, it's easy to see why they are already the stuff of ballet legend.

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News
Vadim Muntagirov and Marienela Nuñez in the Royal Ballet's Swan Lake. Bill Cooper, Courtesy Trafalgar Releasing.

Get your popcorn ready! The Royal Ballet is making its way to select North American movie theaters starting November 26 as part of The Royal Opera House's 2019/20 LIVE Cinema Season. Filmed at London's Covent Garden, the season continues through the spring and includes seven ballet productions—some pre-recorded, some captured live—ranging from 19th century classics to world premieres by Cathy Marston and Wayne McGregor. "We make sure we really give a mix of what you can get at the Opera House," says Royal Ballet artistic director Kevin O'Hare. "The idea that you're never really far from the theater is a nice one, and it's caught on fast."

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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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