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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