Ballet Stars

This New Video Collab with Tiffany & Co. Features NYCB Dancers Dripping in Jewels

Sisters and New York City Ballet corps dancers Mary Thomas MacKinnon and Olivia MacKinnon. Courtesy Ezra Hurwitz.

When Elle Decor approached Ezra Hurwitz to create a campaign with Tiffany & Co., the former Miami City Ballet dancer-turned-filmmaker knew just who he wanted to feature: the dancers of New York City Ballet.


Elle Decor was looking to develop organic sponsored content featuring the famous jewelry brand, and gave Hurwitz a huge amount of creative freedom in building a concept. "Tiffany & Co. had initially suggested something about featuring a modern family and highlighting unusual or progressive family units, and how that looks in their domestic spaces," says Hurwitz. "Having been a professional dancer, I felt that a company is very much like a family." Hurwitz decided to develop that idea on two levels: an imagined dream house in which dancers from NYCB all lived together, and individual family units that have developed within the company. His finished video, seen below, features nine current and former NYCB dancers, among them Troy Schumacher and his then-nine-months-pregnant wife Ashley Laracey (they welcomed their twin babies into the world last week), sisters and corps de ballet dancers Olivia MacKinnon and Mary Thomas MacKinnon, principal dancer Maria Kowroski and her four-year-old son Dylan, and former soloist and current ballet master Craig Hall and his husband, NYCB yoga teacher Frank Wildermann.

The film is accompanied by three stories published on the Elle Decor website on Korowski, Schumacher and Laracey, and Hall and Wildermann, featuring stills from Hurwitz's shoot. "The whole thing was about this domestic intimacy, and I wanted the dancers to be more than pretty faces," he says. "I was really happy that we could expand upon the visual story with these articles."

"Jovani Furlan just joined NYCB from MCB this fall," says Hurwitz. "It was fun to play with having Jovani be the outsider, coming into this house and interacting with them."

Courtesy Ezra Hurwitz

Filming took place over one day in Elle Decor's Manhattan apartment showroom, which came with its own set of challenges. "Shooting in lived spaces can be tricky, because you don't only need space for the talent, but twice as much space for the equipment," says Hurwitz. There was also the task of making all of the dancers—including the very pregnant Laracey and injured Jenelle Manzi—comfortable. Hurwitz brought Sara Mearns into the mix with the idea of shooting her in a bathtub while wearing diamonds. But he didn't realize that the showroom didn't have hot water. "She full on submerged into a cold plunge pool," he says. "She was totally game, so kudos to her." Hurwitz's partner, NYCB principal Gonzalo Garcia, was on set to wrangle Kowrowski's young son; the jewelry also came with its own babysitters. "There was security on set from Tiffany & Co. for the four plus million dollars worth of diamonds that we had," says Hurwitz.

"Jenelle (Manzi), who I grew up with at School of American Ballet, is about to launch her own food start-up called Get Golden," says Hurwitz. "For readers and viewers I think subtle references like that add texture and intrigue."

Courtesy Ezra Hurwitz

Nevertheless, Hurwitz was able to bring his dream to fruition. "The concept was a play on glamour and fashion but in a domestic space, with lots of quirky colors," he says. "I definitely wanted it to be less than realistic. Not dancers in their homes in their pajamas, but a fantasy of how we imagine them." That goal is more than evident in the images of the MacKinnon sisters sitting on a couch, dripping in jewels while sewing their pointe shoes, and Kowroski playing with her son in a red Valentino gown. To that end, Hurwitz titled the campaign Ballet Flat. "It's just a fun play on words," he says. "It was my fantasy of what a house of dance might look like."

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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