Ballet Stars

All of the Ballet Dancers You Need to Know From Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch" List

Photo credits, clockwise from bottom left: Peter Mueller, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet; Jayme Thornton; Jochen Viehoff, Courtesy Stephanie Troyak; Karolina Kuras, Courtesy National Ballet of Canada; Natasha Razina, Courtesy State Academic Mariinsky Theatre; Kim Kenney, Courtesy Atlanta Ballet; Jim Lafferty; Arian Molina Soca, Courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet; Altin Kaftira, Courtesy Dutch National Ballet; Scott Shaw, Courtesy Shamar Wayne Watt

Dance Magazine has just announced their annual "25 to Watch" picks and we naturally went straight to the ballet people. The 2019 list includes up-and-coming dancers, choreographers and companies, and you may even see a few familiar faces from Pointe's 2018 "Stars of the Corps." You can check out Dance's full list here. In the meantime, get ready to see a whole lot more from the ballet dancers (and choreographer!) ahead.


Aran Bell

Aran Bell with Devon Teuscher in Romeo and Juliet. Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy ABT

Performing Romeo as a 19-year-old corps member would be a feat at any company. But at American Ballet Theatre, where it can take dancers near decades to land promotions and principal roles, it's nothing short of a coup. Yet when Aran Bell did just that last summer—in New York City, at the Metropolitan Opera House, no less—he did it with a gravitas it takes most dancers years to develop and a sincerity only an actual teenager could bring to the role.

Bell was hardly an unknown before his debut. He was profiled in the 2011 documentary First Position, where at age 11 he was already raking in awards and turning like a top. But he hasn't rested on his prodigy laurels. Though he's still a virtuoso technician, he's also a refined actor with an unflagging work ethic—he even spent an extra year in the ABT Studio Com­pany in the midst of a challenging growth spurt. Now 6' 3", he's a natural partner, dancing with some of ABT's starriest women, such as Misty Copeland and Stella Abrera. But his Romeo debut was perhaps his greatest triumph thus far, tackling Sir Kenneth MacMillan's near-impossible lifts with ease and finesse. —Lauren Wingenroth

Sophie Miklosovic

Sophie Miklosovic as a Wili in Giselle. Photo by Jennifer Zmuda, Courtesy BalletMet

A mix of youthful innocence and vulnerability characterized Sophie Miklosovic's Juliet this past August. Dancing Romeo and Juliet's balcony scene pas de deux, she attained a level of artistry that equaled her expert technique. Delicate port de bras accompanied textbook footwork as Miklosovic embodied Juliet's elation and trepidation.

The former competition dancer from Detroit says she always had an affinity for tiaras, but that competing was more than that: It was instrumental in honing her natural skills as a dancer. She earned top honors at the 2015 and 2016 Youth America Grand Prix and a gold medal at the 2017 World Ballet Competition. BalletMet artistic director Edwaard Liang hired her in 2017 when she was only 17.

Despite her many early successes, Miklosovic says the constant challenge of ballet keeps her grounded: "Working to achieve something difficult in a split second is what keeps me going." —Steve Sucato

Chisako Oga

Chisako Oga with David Morse in Balanchine's Serenade. Photo by Peter Mueller, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet

Whether executing snappy, precision pointe work as Coppélia or graceful turns and leaps as the Russian Girl in Balanchine's Serenade, Chisako Oga arrests attention. The 22-year-old technical wunderkind showcased all those qualities, plus riveting acting abilities, during her first season with Cincinnati Ballet as Guinevere in artistic direc­tor Victoria Morgan's King Arthur's Camelot. Oga's passionate dancing melted hearts and sent pulses racing with daring runs and leaps into her partner's arms.

Born in Dallas, Oga swiftly rose from trainee at the San Francisco Ballet School in 2015 to Cincinnati Ballet principal dancer in 2017. Her talents won her a silver medal at the 2016 Shanghai International Ballet Competition and a bronze at the 2018 USA International Ballet Competition. Says Oga, "I want to be the kind of dancer that touches hearts and inspires people." —Steve Sucato

Maria Khoreva

Maria Khoreva with Xander Parish in Balanchine's Apollo. Photo by Natasha Razina, Courtesy State Academic Mariinsky Theatre

Her frequent dance videos and musings in English have earned 18-year-old Maria Khoreva more Instagram followers than superstars Diana Vishneva and Maria Kochetkova. While it's hardly a guarantee of stage success, she isn't just a social media phenomenon. Her airy precision and lively stage personality won over the Mariinsky Ballet, too: Within a month of her graduation from the Vaganova Ballet Academy last summer, she had joined the company and was dancing Terpsichore in Balanchine's Apollo, as well as a pas de deux from Sir Frederick Ashton's Marguerite and Armand, alongside principal Xander Parish.

Khoreva has been documenting her transition into company life through sweet, cheerful Instagram posts about everything from muscle fatigue to St. Petersburg weather. Thanks to her popularity, she is a Nike ambassador and Bloch has made her a spokesperson. This savvy Russian ballerina already has a global audience at her fingertips. —Laura Cappelle

Roman Mejia

Roman Mejia in Balanchine's Allegro Brillante. Photo by Erin Baiano, Courtesy NYCB

New York City Ballet has a long tradition of testing young corps members with leading roles. But no one has had quite as fast a rise lately as 19-year-old Roman Mejia—and he seems perfectly ready for more. Last February, just three months after joining the corps, he was handed the meaty role of Mercutio in Peter Martins' Romeo + Juliet. Wearing a sly, side-cocked smile, he danced with a perfect mixture of musicality, thrilling bravura and unflappable self-confidence. In the same season, he danced soloist roles in Jerome Robbins' Fancy Free and The Four Seasons, his performances as instinctive as if to the manner born.

In a way, he was. Mejia is the son of former NYCB dancer Paul Mejia and Fort Worth Dallas Ballet principal Maria Terezia Balogh. He trained at his parents' school in Texas before following in his father's footsteps at School of American Ballet and NYCB. Compact and boyish, Mejia is a shoo-in for NYCB's Edward Villella roles (he's already tackled Tarantella at the Vail Dance Festival). And with the recent retirement of principal Joaquin De Luz adding to the current dearth of leading men, we're likely to see a lot more of him. —Amy Brandt

Wubkje Kuindersma

Wubkje Kuindersma rehearsing Two and Only. Photo by Altin Kaftira, Courtesy Dutch National Ballet

It didn't take long for Wubkje Kuindersma to establish herself as a choreographer on Dutch National Ballet's stage. In just 10 minutes, her Two and Only portrayed rare emotional intimacy between two men—veteran principal Marijn Rademaker and an apprentice, Timothy van Poucke. The duet she crafted was full of fluid, musical partnering, capturing the emotion in two folk songs performed live by singer-songwriter Michael Benjamin without ever looking sappy. It stood out even alongside a work by Hans van Manen, the Dutch neoclassical master, earning Rademaker a Benois de la Danse nomination.

Born in Cameroon, Kuindersma trained in Rotter­dam and danced with companies including Danish Dance Theatre and Wayne McGregor's Random Dance. Since 2009, she has steadily built up her resumé as a freelance choreographer. 2018 turned into a breakthrough year: Following Two and Only, she served as an Artistic Partnership Initiative Fellow at New York University's Center for Ballet and the Arts. In November, she also premiered a new work for Philadelphia's BalletX. Add Kuindersma to the list of female choreographers ready for bigger stages. —Laura Cappelle

Jessica He

Photo by Rachel Neville, Courtesy Atlanta Ballet

Harmonies emanate from Jessica He as she springs into arabesques in Balanchine's Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux, her port de bras generous, her feet as sensitive as a pianist's hands. In Craig Davidson's Remembrance/Hereafter, she plunges into spiraling falls and inverted lifts with urgency and a disarming sense of trust in her partners. In Balanchine's Who Cares? she lingers for a split second at the top of each high développé, her hips and shoulders coyly catching Gershwin's pulse.

He in Craig Davidson's Remembrance/Hereafter. Photo by Gene Schiavone, Courtesy Atlanta Ballet.

The California-born graduate of The Rock School for Dance Education, newly recruited into Atlanta Ballet from Houston Ballet II last season, breathes freshness into any work she dances. She showed grace under pressure when she stepped into the lead role in Davidson's ballet just three days before the premiere last March. The role drew attention to He's innate ability to dance inside the notes as if in tune with a composer's inspiration. This musicality, proportionately blended with technical strength and a palpable sense of joy, makes He an embodiment of classicism—and an emerging muse. —Cynthia Bond Perry

Sydney Dolan

Sydney Dolan performing the pas de trois in Swan Lake. Photo by Arian Molina Soca, Courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet

Seventeen-year-old Sydney Dolan's career at Pennsylvania Ballet has been nothing short of meteoric. Last year, as an apprentice, the 2018 Princess Grace Award recipient performed Lilac Fairy in The Sleeping Beauty, Dewdrop in Balanchine's The Nutcracker, the pas de trois in Angel Corella's Swan Lake and Tall Girl in Balanchine's "Rubies."

"She's exceeded expectations with everything we've given her," says Corella, Pennsylvania Ballet's artistic director. "She's the perfect example of what an artistic director is looking for in a dancer: someone who works hard to get their reward. She's a wonder."

Now a member of the corps de ballet, Dolan's technique is equal parts clean, correct and dynamic, yet she brings an abandon to each role that's raw and knowing. "She's done so much in such a short time," Corella adds. "She's already a star now. Imagine what will happen when she becomes a principal." —Haley Hilton

Siphesihle November

Photo by Karolina Kuras, Courtesy National Ballet of Canada

With his debut as Bluebird in Rudolf Nureyev's production of The Sleeping Beauty last spring, National Ballet of Canada corps member Siphesihle November quickly established himself as the rightful heir to one of the most challenging male parts in the classical repertoire. While standing only 5' 7", November dances tall. His buoyant jump and clean lines were honed at Canada's National Ballet School, but he possesses a charisma that comes from his early years dancing to kwaito, an energetic style of house music popular in his hometown of Zolani, South Africa.

His debut in the virtuoso role came less than nine months after his graduation from NBS. The now-20-year-old has already further tested his innate talents this season on Puck, the impish fairy driving the plot in Sir Frederick Ashton's The Dream. "I think it's any dancer's ambition to get out of the corps and take on more solo roles," November says. "I am looking forward to the next chapter." —Deirdre Kelly

Ballet Careers
Gray Davis with wife, ABT soloist Cassandra Trenary, after his graduation from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. Courtesy Trenary.

When Gray Davis retired from American Ballet Theatre in July of 2018, he moved home to South Carolina, unsure of what would come next. Last month, just over a year later, Davis graduated from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. Today, he's working as a deputy for the Abbeville County Sheriff's Office.

Though Davis danced in ABT's corps for 11 years and is married to soloist Cassandra Trenary, to many he's best known for saving the life of a man who was pushed onto the subway tracks in New York City in 2017. The heroic effort earned him the New York State Liberty Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by a member of the New York State Senate. We caught up with Davis to hear about how the split second decision he made in the subway affected the course of his life, what it's been like starting a second career and what he sees as the similarities between ballet and law enforcement.

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Sponsored by BLOCH
Courtesy BLOCH

Today's ballet dancer needs a lot from a pointe shoe. "What I did 20 years ago is not what these dancers are doing now," says New York City Ballet shoe manager Linnette Roe. "They are expected to go harder, longer days. They are expected to go from sneakers, to pointe shoes, to character shoes, to barefoot and back to pointe shoes all in a day."

The team at BLOCH developed their line of Stretch Pointe shoes to address dancer's most common complaints about the fit and performance of their pointe shoes. "It's a scientific take on the pointe shoe," says Roe. Dancers are taking notice and Stretch Pointe shoes are now worn by stars like American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston, who stars in BLOCH's latest campaign for the shoes.

We dug into the details of Stretch Pointe's most game-changing features:

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Ballet Stars
Megan Amanda Ehrlich, Courtesy LEAP Program

Claire Sheridan wanted to change the status quo. Leading up to the 1990s, she recalls, "there was a 'shut up and dance' mind-set," and as the founder of the dance program at St. Mary's College of California and a longtime teacher in professional companies, she had seen too many dancers retire with no plan for a successful career transition. "At that time, if you thought about education and the future," she says, "you were not a committed dancer. I wanted to fight that."

With the support of St. Mary's, Sheridan developed the Liberal Education for Arts Professionals program, or LEAP, an innovative liberal-arts bachelor's degree program designed especially for professional dancers. She first presented her idea to executives at San Francisco Ballet. "Kudos to that company, because they said, 'This is great,'" she says. "Eleven of the first 18 dancers who started in August 1999 were from SFB."

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Ballet Training
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I'm a college freshman, and my dance program isn't challenging enough. We only have ballet three times a week and a few hours of modern, and my classmates aren't as dedicated as I am. There's a small dance company nearby, where I was hoping to take extra classes, but I don't have a car. I want to transfer, but I feel like I won't be in good enough shape for auditions. —Tara

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