In reaching the top, how much is talent and how much is sweat?
For me, it was definitely more determination than talent. I know principals all over the world who are actually not naturally talented, but have worked very hard.
What are you most proud of?
My productions of La Sylphide. Staging it at the Bolshoi was an enormous personal achievement, because they’d just done a different production of La Sylphide, and I was able to change the dancers’ opinions of the ballet.
You were trained in Bournonville technique. What do you love most about it?
For a dancer it’s an amazing technical base. Maybe especially for boys, because for all the jumps you’re not using your arms to get you in the air. It comes from the stomach. That core strength makes everything else easier.
What’s your biggest indulgence?
I’m a shopaholic. If you let me loose in Dolce & Gabbana and I see something, I just think, ‘I work so hard, I should have it.’ It’s not good. I’m also a bit of a sparkler—I always wear gold sneakers. I have lots of pairs.
You trained as a tenor—do you still sing?
I traveled most of Europe singing, but I stopped at 16 when I began to focus on ballet. Lately, I started again and even make pop songs on my computer!
You and Alina Cojocaru are on- and offstage partners. What is your favorite role to perform with her?
Giselle is very special for us both. We’ve traveled the world with this ballet, and we can do so many things together in it.
What talent do you have that few people know about?
I’m not bad at designing costumes. I’ve done a few, for The Royal’s production of Napoli, for instance. I also used to do a lot of circus stuff, so I can juggle, ride a monobike and do magic tricks!
What advice do you have for students hoping to be professional dancers?
Unless your heart and mind are telling you that this is really what you want, then forget about it. It’s too hard to not love it.
What inspires you?
In reaching the top, how much is talent and how much is sweat?
The coronavirus pandemic may have postponed English National Ballet's annual Emerging Dancer competition last spring, but the show must go on—digitally! You can still watch ENB's best and brightest talent during the competition's livestream, taking place on September 22 at 7:20 pm BST (that's 2:20 pm ET). Now in its 11th year, the competition for the Emerging Dancer Award will be broadcast live from the company's East London production studio for the first time. Tickets are available for $6.99 per device and will remain available to view on demand until September 29.
Pointe shoe brand Gaynor Minden recently welcomed 32 young dancers to its coveted roster of Gaynor Girls. But this year, the company included two applicants who push the boundaries of what it means to dance on pointe. While both Mason Simon Underwood and Colleen Werner are longtime GM wearers, they stand out from the rest of this year's group: Underwood is the first ever Gaynor Guy, and Werner is a body-positivity activist.
Mason Simon Underwood<p>Mason Simon Underwood's favorite variation is Aurora Act III, from <em>The Sleeping Beauty</em>. Last month <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CD-E14vASJ7/" target="_blank">on Instagram</a>, he shared a video of himself rehearsing it in his family's living room. His lines are long and clear as he moves confidently on pointe. Underwood, age 16, started dancing when he was 12, and like many of his peers at the School of Nashville Ballet, he got his first pair of pointe shoes two years ago, at 14. "I was in the level where all my friends were starting, and I thought it was really cool," he says. "I saw some guys on Instagram doing it, so I thought I might as well try."</p><p>While Underwood was the only guy in his school interested in pointe classes, his teachers were supportive. "They encouraged it, and said it would be good for strength and expressiveness," he says. And his hard work has paid off. Having attended virtual intensives at Nashville Ballet School, American Ballet Theatre and San Francisco Ballet School over the summer, Underwood is now moving to California to start full-time training at SFB in October.</p>
Mason Simon Underwood practices his pointework at home
Colleen Werner<p>Colleen Werner is not your typical Gaynor Girl. While most are on a pre-professional ballet track, Werner, age 23, is getting her master's in clinical mental health counseling at Trevecca Nazarene University. "One of my overarching career goals is to create an eating disorder treatment program for dancers, because dance was a huge contributing factor to my eating disorder," says Werner.</p><p>Originally from Long Island, New York, Werner began dancing when she was 3. She started on pointe at 13, and attended intensives with the Joffrey Ballet and Eglevsky Ballet before entering New York City's Hunter College as a dance major. But while recovering from an eating disorder, she switched her major to psychology. "I realized that as much as I loved dance, it was coming from a toxic place," she says. After a healthy period of distance from ballet, Werner got back into the studio two years ago. Since moving to Nashville last summer to start graduate school, Werner has made taking classes with Nashville Ballet's Community Division and performing with <a href="https://www.thedancerproject.com/" target="_blank">The Dancer Project</a> a central part of her life. </p>
A new training program at Festival Ballet Providence called Leap Year is welcoming pre-professional and professional dancers who don't have a studio or company to dance for this season.
The endeavor is the brainchild of Kathleen Breen Combes, FBP's executive and artistic director. "I kept getting these emails of dancers saying they just need a place to train this year," says Combes. "I thought, What if we could provide a space for dancers to get stronger, experiment and try new things in a nonjudgmental and no-pressure environment?"
Yury Yanowsky (left), shown here teaching class at Festival Ballet Providence, will head FBP's new Leap Year Program.
Dylan Giles, Courtesy Festival Ballet Providence<p>What makes Leap Year different from typical trainee programs is the schedule. "We'll come in for three hours in the morning, five days per week [plus an hour and a half on Saturday], and work super hard, but then the rest of the day will be free," says Combes. The goal is to accommodate those who need to work or do other things in the afternoon and evenings.</p><p>The program, which is tuition-based and open to dancers ages 18 to 24, will run in three 10-week sessions, beginning in October. Dancers have the flexibility to attend one or multiple sessions depending on their schedules, budgets and goals. Registration is rolling, and interested dancers can apply by sending in a video reel, headshot and resumé.</p>