News

Dancers & Dogs Teamed Up With a Local Animal Shelter for the Second Annual "Muttcracker"

Pratt + Kreidich Photography, Courtesy Dancers & Dogs

The holiday season is coming our way, and with it good cheer, a giving spirit and, of course, The Nutcracker. Our favorite photography duo, Dancers & Dogs, has found a way to garner that energy for a good cause: pet adoption.


A ballerina in a red and black lace costume holds a leash attached to a dog in a wheelchair apparatus.

Pratt + Kreidich Photography, Courtesy Dancers & Dogs

Kelly Pratt and Ian Kreidich, the St. Louis–based husband-and-wife team behind the popular photography project, have collaborated with Saint Louis Ballet and Stray Rescue of St. Louis for the second year in a row for what they've termed "Muttcracker." "Since the beginning of Dancers & Dogs, people have really wanted us to incorporate dogs that are up for adoption," says Pratt. "We have a really strong relationship with Saint Louis Ballet, so we asked if they'd be comfortable wearing Nutcracker costumes to help get these dogs adopted in a new, fun and interesting way." Not only was this project the perfect way for Saint Louis Ballet to promote its Nutcracker, which runs November 29-December 23, but it was a great fit for Stray Rescue as well. As the largest no-kill organization in the greater St. Louis area, it's focused on saving pets that have been abused and neglected. "They were really excited about showing their dogs in a positive way," says Pratt.

A dancer dressed in a rat costume holds a small, blind dog.

Pratt + Kreidich Photography, Courtesy Dancers & Dogs

In choosing which pets would get their moment in the limelight, Stray Rescue picked some that already been given visibility on Instagram, and others that have had a harder time finding adoptive homes, like the elderly, blind chihuahua pictured with the Rat King above. But working with rescue dogs that are largely untrained comes with a whole new set of challenges. "With 'Muttcracker' we're keeping things really simple," says Pratt. "We have the dancers do simple moves, or just sit and interact with them. These dogs have never seen anything like this before."

Three ballerinas in Nutcracker costumes hold kittens in front of a pink background.

Pratt + Kreidich Photography, Courtesy Dancers & Dogs

Last year, all of the dogs that Pratt and Kreidich shot were adopted within two months of being featured. This year they worked with even more pups, as well as three kittens, but the team is hopeful that all of these animals will find new families in time for the holidays. Will any of the dancers they were photographed with end up taking a pet home? "I don't think so," says Pratt, "But they really, really want to."

On November 19, Pratt and Kreidich release Dancers & Dogs, The Book, their brand new coffee table photo book. A percentage of the proceeds will go to Stray Rescue of St. Louis. We're giving away two copies to our readers. Click here to enter!

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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