Finishing Strong at SAB

As a red-headed guy, you’re going to stand out on stage anyway; it might as well be for the right reasons. Nineteen-year-old Alexander Peters had that covered at the School of American Ballet’s annual workshop performances in June. Peters showed off his immaculate technique in Wheeldon’s Scènes de Ballet and then turned in a remarkable, crowd-pleasing performance in Balanchine’s Bourrée Fantasque. The Pennsylvania native has won the Princess Grace and Mae L. Wien awards and will start at Kansas City Ballet in August. We talked to him on his last day of classes at SAB.

What’s the one thing you’ll always remember about SAB?
AP: The opportunities. There were a huge number of things they let us do. I got to choreograph a little this year, and I got choreographed on. I got to do some of George Balanchine’s greatest ballets. I got to go to Denmark on an exchange program (with the Royal Danish Ballet). It was definitely a life-changing experience.

Could you talk a little about the workshop performances?
AP: This was my third workshop, but the first time that I was doing a principal part (Bourrée). It was exhilarating. We don’t perform on stage very often. It’s once a year, in the workshop, and to finally be out there performing, it’s the reason we take class every day. It’s, like, The Point.

Who are your favorite dancers?
AP: Sara Mearns and Abi Stafford (of New York City Ballet). What I like about Abi is just the technical precision and cleanliness of her dancing. And what I like about Sara is her reckless abandon: She just goes for it! When I’m dancing, I try to combine those two things.

What is your dream role?
AP: Definitely the principal in Square Dance. I love the variation, and I love the music. Baroque music, I don’t know, it speaks to me. I can dance to it so easily. I actually really enjoy playing baroque music on the piano. The choreography is brilliant: It’s very technical but it’s so much fun.

Could you describe your approach on stage?
AP: I really like to play off of the music. To dance is to describe what’s going on in the music, so the music is the most important part. When I’m partnering, it’s not about me, it’s about making her look the best that she can. When I’m dancing alone, I think of what the audience is seeing. There are obviously the basic technical things, but you just have to make it look like it’s the easiest thing in the world. No one wants to go to the ballet to watch somebody struggle.

 

--Michael Northrop

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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