Ballet Stars

2019 Stars of the Corps: Pacific Northwest Ballet's Christopher D'Ariano

Christopher D'Ariano with PNB soloist Leah Merchant in Robyn Mineko Williams' The Trees The Trees. Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB.

During a recent performance of Matthew Neenan's Bacchus at Pacific Northwest Ballet, corps de ballet dancer Christopher D'Ariano stood out not only for his elegant lines and crisp jumps; audiences couldn't help but notice his unruly dark hair that defied any attempts to slick it back.


His wild curls exemplify the energy the 21-year-old dancer brings to all his work, whether he's in the corps for The Sleeping Beauty or featured in a solo by such contemporary choreographers as Robyn Mineko Williams or Donald Byrd. D'Ariano invests himself fully in every role, exuding an onstage confidence more typically found in dancers 10 years his senior.

D'Ariano with Leah Terada in Alexander Ekman's Cacti

Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB

The Bronx native came up in the competition-dance world before entering Ballet Tech, a New York City public school for dance. After later training at the School of American Ballet, D'Ariano spent a year in PNB's Professional Division before artistic director Peter Boal tapped him for the company in 2017.

D'Ariano loves dancing, but he's equally invested in choreography. In June, Professional Division students performed his latest piece, Timebomb, at their annual spring showcase. This up-and-comer relishes every challenge, whether its tackling a new role himself, or creating one for somebody else. "I want to inspire dancers to take a step outside their comfort zones," D'Ariano says. "That's what I'm trying to do. It's important to satisfy your inner voice."

Francisco Estevez, Courtesy Colorado Ballet Academy

When you're looking for a ballet program to take you to the next level, there are a lot of factors to consider. While it's tempting to look for the biggest name that will accept you, the savvy dancer knows that successful training has more to do with the attention and opportunities you'll get.

We put together a few of the most important things for dancers to look for in a summer or year-round training program, with the help of the experts at Colorado Ballet Academy:

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Everything Nutcracker
Pennsylvania Ballet demi-soloist Thays Golz as the Sugar Plum Fairy during a stage rehearsal for George Balanchine's Nutcracker. All photography by Arian Molina Soca.

For many professional ballet dancers, Nutcracker means weeks of performances. That usually translates to multiple casts—and important breakout opportunities for those in the junior ranks. On the afternoon of December 13, Pennsylvania Ballet demi-soloist Thays Golz made her debut as the Sugar Plum Fairy along with her Cavalier, corps member Austin Eylar. For the Brazilian-born dancer, who joined PAB in 2018 after two seasons at Houston Ballet, Sugar Plum marks one of her first principal roles.

"I'm really excited," says Golz. PAB artistic director Angel Corella appointed 12 casts of Sugar Plum Fairies over the run's 29 performances. "When I first found out, I was like, 'Pinch me!' I still can't believe it."

We caught up with Golz just before her debut to see how she prepared for her big break.

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Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy US Prix de Ballet

The US Prix de Ballet is taking an unconventional approach to the ballet competition—by putting the competitors' health first. After a successful first year in 2018, the Prix is returning to San Diego, CA this February with an even more comprehensive lineup of wellness workshops and master classes, in addition, of course, to the high-level competition.

Though the talent is top-notch, the environment is friendly, says HARID Conservatory faculty member Victoria Schneider, who serves on US Prix de Ballet's elite panel of judges. "The wellbeing of the dancer is the main focus," says Schneider, who awarded three scholarships to HARID at last year's competition.

US Prix de Ballet was born after its founders traveled to the Japan Grand Prix International Ballet Competition in 2016. "The company ran every aspect of the competition with professionalism, dignity, honor and precision," says founder Neisha Hernandez. "We knew we wanted this level of experience for America."

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