“You don’t know what you’re capable of as a dancer until you explore different styles.”Jeffrey Cirio

 

Boston Ballet principal Jeffrey Cirio got hooked on hip hop early. “I went to a Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet summer program when I was 11, and I thought the hip-hop classes were the coolest thing ever,” he says. “The teacher started working with me on the side, helping me with whatever I wanted to do. I was crazy about it.”


Today, Cirio stops at Steps on Broadway to take a hip-hop class whenever he’s in New York. But his most frequent teacher is actually his good friend James Whiteside, a former BB principal (and current American Ballet Theatre soloist) who’s also a hip-hop fiend. “James likes to get me and a few of the other Boston Ballet guys together and give us a sort of jazz fusion hip-hop class,” Cirio says. “We rock out.”


Thanks to his hip-hop expertise, Cirio has no problem navigating the quirky upper body isolations in BB resident choreographer Jorma Elo’s works. But Cirio also credits his early exposure to hip hop as a mind-opening experience that made him start thinking about who he was as a dancer. “I often help young kids prepare for competitions like Youth America Grand Prix, and I’m always telling them to try out different dance classes,” he says. “Ballet is very square and strict. Something like hip hop will give you the freedom to figure out what your body can do, and what your unique style is.”

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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