Growing up, we were forbidden to wear nail polish at our studio. It was considered strictly taboo, as offensive as wearing a messy ponytail or a  necklace to class.

I remember I once had an audition just 3 hours before prom. I had to paint my nails in the car afterwards on the way to the dance because I was afraid that if I'd worn polish to the audition I would get cut. (I ended up getting cut anyways, but I think that probably had more to do with my being so distracted by what I was gonna say to my date that I couldn't pick up the combinations. I probably should have just skipped that audition...)

One of the joys of taking open classes nowadays is being able to wear anything I want: a skirt, black tights, leg warmers, and even nail polish. It sounds silly, but I love dancing with nail polish. Bright red, sparkly silver, or neutral pink, I don't care; I love having color at the tips of my fingers. During plies, I watch  a splash of color float through the air as my hands go from first to second position. My favorite is elonge. I love looking over my hand and seeing each fingertip perfectly placed in an elegant, classical position.

I understand why students shouldn't wear nail polish in class: It looks messy in a studio full of black leotards and pink tights, it undermines the discipline of the classroom and it's not something you should ever wear onstage. But at the same time, I know it helps me polish my port de bras  (excuse the pun). When my nails are colored I think about my hands more than I usually do, focusing on how I can use them more gracefully without becoming affected. I think there's value in breaking this rule once in awhile, if only to remind yourself to leave no body part ignored. If you aren't aware of where you are placing each limb, muscle and finger nail, it might not be going to the place you'd like it to.

Francisco Estevez, Courtesy Colorado Ballet Academy

When you're looking for a ballet program to take you to the next level, there are a lot of factors to consider. While it's tempting to look for the biggest name that will accept you, the savvy dancer knows that successful training has more to do with the attention and opportunities you'll get.

We put together a few of the most important things for dancers to look for in a summer or year-round training program, with the help of the experts at Colorado Ballet Academy:

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Everything Nutcracker
Pennsylvania Ballet demi-soloist Thays Golz as the Sugar Plum Fairy during a stage rehearsal for George Balanchine's Nutcracker. All photography by Arian Molina Soca.

For many professional ballet dancers, Nutcracker means weeks of performances. That usually translates to multiple casts—and important breakout opportunities for those in the junior ranks. On the afternoon of December 13, Pennsylvania Ballet demi-soloist Thays Golz made her debut as the Sugar Plum Fairy along with her Cavalier, corps member Austin Eylar. For the Brazilian-born dancer, who joined PAB in 2018 after two seasons at Houston Ballet, Sugar Plum marks one of her first principal roles.

"I'm really excited," says Golz. PAB artistic director Angel Corella appointed 12 casts of Sugar Plum Fairies over the run's 29 performances. "When I first found out, I was like, 'Pinch me!' I still can't believe it."

We caught up with Golz just before her debut to see how she prepared for her big break.

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Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy US Prix de Ballet

The US Prix de Ballet is taking an unconventional approach to the ballet competition—by putting the competitors' health first. After a successful first year in 2018, the Prix is returning to San Diego, CA this February with an even more comprehensive lineup of wellness workshops and master classes, in addition, of course, to the high-level competition.

Though the talent is top-notch, the environment is friendly, says HARID Conservatory faculty member Victoria Schneider, who serves on US Prix de Ballet's elite panel of judges. "The wellbeing of the dancer is the main focus," says Schneider, who awarded three scholarships to HARID at last year's competition.

US Prix de Ballet was born after its founders traveled to the Japan Grand Prix International Ballet Competition in 2016. "The company ran every aspect of the competition with professionalism, dignity, honor and precision," says founder Neisha Hernandez. "We knew we wanted this level of experience for America."

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