Lenai Alexis Wilkerson. Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Michelle Tabnick Public Relations.

How Ballet Hispánico's Lenai Alexis Wilkerson Leapt from a BFA to Company Life

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.


Creating connections: Wilkerson's professors pushed her to look for opportunities outside of dance. "They encouraged us to collaborate often with other USC schools, to pursue other degrees and minors, and to let that knowledge feed the dancer and the artist that we are."

Making movie magic: Wilkerson and her fellow dancers often collaborated with students in USC's cinematic arts program, starring in dance concept videos, working on short films, developing video ideas and learning about the process of making music videos. "With that came a lot of appreciation for each other's work and craft," she says.

Beyond ballet: USC Kaufman prides itself on being a diverse program, expecting its dancers to immerse themselves in everything from classical ballet to hip hop, which Wilkerson particularly enjoyed. "I have become so much more knowledgeable mentally and physically in hip-hop vernacular dance practices," she says. "I am very interested to work on a hybrid form in the future, doing a house and ballet fusion."

Favorite part of college: The people. "I think I learned equally as much from my peers as I did from the faculty."

Advice for bunheads considering college: "See it through the application process. You never know what amazing experience you'll get from the program."

Related Articles Around the Web

Latest Posts


Yan Revazov, Courtesy Staatsballett Berlin

How Staatsballett Berlin Pulled Off "Giselle" in the Age of Coronavirus

It's 8:24 am on a Tuesday. Even though morning class isn't for another hour and a half, Daniil Simkin is already at Staatsballett Berlin's studios; tests for the coronavirus, a biweekly requirement to dance with his partner, Iana Salenko, need to be submitted before 8:30 am—an inconvenient time, if you ask him. "It's annoying, but I'm just really grateful to be performing again," he says. "You do what you have to do."

Staatsballett Berlin has been back onstage since August. Return has been slow and steady, with dancers first performing solos or pas de deux (composed of people who already live together) in galas. From October 28–30, the company presented an adapted version of Patrice Bart's Giselle, its first full-length production since March. (Due to a surge of coronavirus cases in Germany, November performances have been cancelled.) Pointe took a virtual behind-the-scenes tour to learn what goes into mounting a ballet during a pandemic, including safety precautions, adjustments to choreography, and what it feels like to be back onstage.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Karolina Kuras, Courtesy English National Ballet (2)

English National Ballet Preps Future Dance Leaders With Its New Mentorship Program

English National Ballet first soloist James Streeter has practically grown up with the company. Since completing his training at the English National Ballet School, he went on to join the main company in 2004, rising up the ranks to first soloist in 2018. He's danced his favorite roles, including Tybalt in Romeo & Juliet and Albrecht in Akram Khan's Giselle. He even met his wife while dancing with the company, ENB lead principal Erina Takahashi. What's left to do when you've accomplished so much as an artist? For Streeter, it meant learning more about the business side of the company. In November 2019, Streeter was named the first mentee of ENB's Dance Leaders of the Future mentorship program. The program offers ENB's dancers the opportunity to develop leadership skills and gain a greater understanding of the running of an arts organization.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Argenis Apolinario, Courtesy Black Iris Project

The Black Iris Project's Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign Celebrates Strength, Beauty and Community

When the coronavirus pandemic forced choreographer Jeremy McQueen to cancel performances of his summer collaborative, The Black Iris Project, he took time to regroup—and then brainstormed on how he could continue to create and use his voice. Dedicated to sharing stories of the Black experience, he turned his attention toward an issue dear to his heart: breast cancer awareness.

According to the American Cancer Society, Black women have the highest mortality rate of breast cancer cases in the U.S. "There are a number of factors that go with that, but one of the things that concerns me, especially now that we are in a pandemic, is that a lot of people have lost their jobs or are without health care," says McQueen. He contacted friend and photographer Argenis Apolinario to arrange an outdoor shoot with 16 dancers. For the entire month of October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness month, The Black Iris Project's Concrete Roses campaign on Instagram has featured both photos and tributes that not only draw attention to early-prevention measures, but foster community and celebrate the beauty of the Black female body.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks