Ballet Stars

Lower Rank, Higher Reward: Three Dancers Who Flourished When They Took a Demotion at a Different Company

Chyrstyn Fentroy and Francis Lawrence in "Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux" with Dance Theatre of Harlem. Photo by Renata Pavam, Courtesy Fentroy.

Taking a lower rank at a new company can feel risky. But whether you're breaking out of your comfort zone, yearning for bigger challenges or finding a better company fit, you can make a successful transition. Here are three ballerinas whose recent moves have advanced their growth and artistry.


Fentroy at DTH. Photo by Rachel Neville, Courtesy Fentroy.

Chyrstyn Mariah Fentroy: Dance Theatre of Harlem to Boston Ballet

Although Dance Theatre of Harlem isn't a ranked company, Chyrstyn Mariah Fentroy spent much of her five years there dancing principal roles. She loved the touring, the repertoire and dancing beside her boyfriend, but she longed to try her luck at a larger company with more variety. And with DTH's mainly neoclassical focus, Fentroy felt her chances of dancing in a classical story ballet getting slim: "I wanted to do a full-length before it was too late."


She's now in her first season as a corps member at the much larger Boston Ballet. "Here we're learning new ballets all the time, so I was discombobulated at first," says Fentroy. But, she's loving the new stuff, which includes Justin Peck's In Creases and William Forsythe's Pas/Parts 2016, along with Romeo and Juliet and a big company Nutcracker.

After years of dancing leading roles, Fentroy was completely on board with joining the corps de ballet. "I wanted to work on my classical technique, to start low and work up," she says.


Fadeley and Jovani Furlan in "Diamonds." Photo by Alberto Oviedo, Courtesy Miami City Ballet.

Lauren Fadeley: Pennsylvania Ballet to Miami City Ballet

After nine years with Pennsylvania Ballet, four as a principal, Lauren Fadeley felt that the company's recent change in leadership opened up space for her to consider a change, too. "I didn't see myself in the new environment of PAB," says Fadeley.

She considered her Balanchine roots as she looked for a new home, joining Miami City Ballet in 2016 as a soloist. "It was exciting and scary, but I owed it to myself to finish out my career in a Balanchine company." She didn't mind giving up principal status, either, treasuring the time to work on herself and regroup. "I needed to get my attack back."

Fadeley, who was promoted to principal soloist in 2017, is currently in the midst of her dream season, dancing the lead in "Diamonds" and the soloist role in "Rubies." "MCB has been a natural fit," she says. "Plus, it's two blocks from the beach. You can't beat that."


Keesler and Luke Willis in Helgi Tomasson's "Trio." Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy San Francisco Ballet.

Madison Keesler: English National Ballet to San Francisco Ballet

After a season at Hamburg Ballet, Madison Keesler spent four years at San Francisco Ballet, where she mainly danced in the corps. While she treasured her time at SFB, she felt she needed a larger toolbox of skills to truly develop as an artist. "I also wanted to experience some coaching," Keesler says. She joined English National Ballet, where over four years, she danced solo and principal roles as a first artist, including the title character in Akram Khan's Giselle. She was also nominated for the company's Emerging Dancer Award twice.

Despite her success abroad, Keesler rejoined SFB last July. "I had gained strength and was ready to return." While she hoped to return as a soloist, there was not a position available. But she has no regrets. "It's great to be back," she says. "I have more experience and knowledge from my time at ENB."

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Elisabeth Beyer. Photo Courtesy VAM Productions.

Congratulations to the 2018 YAGP winners! After months of semi-finals, 1,800 dancers from around the world were chosen to attend a week of finals in New York, competing for ballet scholarships and contracts. We've been following the action all week (you can catch up on our backstage coverage, here). The 2018 competition wrapped up on April 19 with the Stars of Today Meet The Stars of Tomorrow gala which featured performances from pros like American Ballet Theatre's Isabella Boylston and New York City Ballet's Tiler Peck. Following today's awards ceremony, YAGP has just announced this year's winners (aka the dancers you're going to want make note of). Check out the full list and highlights from the competition below.

Senior Women

1st Place: Elisabeth Beyer (15), Ellison Ballet - Professional Training Program, NY, USA

2nd Place: Guo Wen Jin (16), Shanghai Dance School, China

3rd Place: Seon Mee Park (18), Korea National University of Arts, Korea

3rd Place: Basia Rhoden (15), Master Ballet Academy, AZ, USA


Guo Wen Jin; Courtesy VAM Productions

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Ballet Stars
Photo by Rob Becker, courtesy DePrince.

In January, a commercial for Chase's QuickPay Mobile App starring Michaela DePrince aired on national television. In March, it was announced that Madonna would be directing the movie version of DePrince's autobiography. And in April, she graced the cover of Harper's Bazarre Netherlands. With all the buzz, it's easy to forget that the Dutch National Ballet soloist has been sidelined since August 2017 with a ruptured Achilles tendon. Pointe checked in with DePrince to see how her recovery is going.

Last fall, you ruptured your Achilles tendon. How did that happen?

It was the first of August. I was in Sicily doing an event with Google. We had dinner at a temple and it was just absolutely incredible. I'm kind of clumsy outside of ballet, so I thought it would be safer if I took my shoes off. Then Lenny Kravitz starts to sing a song and he dedicates it to me. I got up and went to go sit next to him on the stage. When I got up from sitting, I stepped in the wrong place at the wrong time. I knew right away that I ruptured my Achilles. They brought me to an ambulance and took me to the hospital. I flew back to the Netherlands the next day and had an appointment with the doctors here in Amsterdam. They said, "Yeah, you ruptured three quarters of your Achilles." And then on August 14, I had surgery.

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From left: Jennifer Stahl, Lonnie Weeks and Sasha De Sola in rehearsal for Trey McIntyre's new work. Photo by Christian Peacock for Pointe.

Photography by Christian Peacock

Summer is always a lively time at San Francisco Ballet, as the dancers return from vacation and launch into rehearsals for the upcoming season. But last July through September felt absolutely electric with creativity as the company created 12 world premieres for Unbound: A Festival of New Works, a cutting-edge program that will run April 20–May 6 at the War Memorial Opera House.

Artistic director Helgi Tomasson invited a wish list of international choreographers to participate: David Dawson, Alonzo King, Edwaard Liang, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Cathy Marston, Trey McIntyre, Justin Peck, Arthur Pita, Dwight Rhoden, Myles Thatcher, Stanton Welch and Christopher Wheeldon. Each got about 12 dancers, three weeks' studio time and, aside from a few general guidelines, total artistic freedom.

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Ballet Careers
Make sure you're comfortable slipping into pointe shoes for center. Photo by Jim Lafferty.

I was offered a company contract (my first!) starting this fall. What should I do in the meantime to make sure I'm as prepared as possible? —Melissa

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News
Olga Smirnova. Photo by Quinn Wharton.

Several weeks ago, Youth America Grand Prix announced that the lineup for tonight's Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow gala at Lincoln Center's Koch Theater would include Bolshoi Ballet principal Olga Smirnova and first soloist Jacopo Tissi. But an article in Page Six published last night states that Smirnova and Tissi were denied visas to enter the US.

YAGP organizers "believe the Department of Homeland Security's decision may be motivated by the myriad tensions between the superpowers," says the piece, noting that "Smirnova is so revered in Moscow that her treatment could create a Russian backlash." The Mariinsky Ballet's Kimin Kim did receive a visa and was allowed to perform as scheduled.

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Ballet Stars
Houston Ballet principal Connor Walsh getting early practice as a leading man. Photo courtesy Connor Walsh

It's that time of year again—recital season! And not so long ago, some of your favorite ballet dancers were having their own recital experiences: dancing, discovering, bowing, laughing, receiving after-show flowers, making memories, and, of course, having their pictures taken! For this week's #TBT, we gathered recital photos—and the stories behind them—from five of our favorite dancers.

Gillian Murphy, American Ballet Theatre

Murphy gets ready for her role as "Mary Had a Little Lamb." Photo courtesy Gillian Murphy.

"This photo was taken by my mom when I was 11, waiting in the dressing room (the band room of West Florence High School in South Carolina) before I went onstage as 'Mary' for a recital piece featuring 3-year-olds as little lambs.I had so much fun being the teacher's assistant in the baby ballet class each week, particularly because my little sister Tessa [pictured below] was one of the 3-year-olds. I remember feeling quite grown up at the time because I was dancing in the older kids' recital piece later in the program, but in this moment I was just looking forward to leading my little lambs onstage in their number."

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