"Doing commercial jobs feels like recess." —Ebony Williams

Ballet fans know Ebony Williams as one of Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet’s most striking dancers, with beautiful feet and legs that add ballerina polish to the company’s diverse repertoire. But to the rest of the world, Williams is best known as one of the backup dancers who helped make Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” music video a sensation. In fact, Williams has become a go-to girl on the commercial scene: She recently appeared in Beyoncé’s “Countdown” video, and has also worked with Jennifer Hudson, Rihanna and Fergie.

Though Williams has bona fide ballet credentials—she trained at Boston Ballet School and The Boston Conservatory—she sees her commercial gigs as a return to her roots. “When I was a kid, I started out learning all the street styles with my friends, and that was how people first noticed that I should probably be in dance school,” she says. “While I was training in ballet I had to put all that on the back burner for a while so that I could become a technician. Now that I have the technique, it’s fun to come back to the type of dance I started out doing.”

Williams sees her forays into commercial work as opportunities to grow. “Every dancer should try to experience dance in every way they can,” she says. “Frankly, I get itchy and antsy if I’m not doing something on the side! There’s always more to learn.”

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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