In the latest round of "artistic director musical chairs," Royal New Zealand Ballet has announced major news: Patricia Barker has been named the company's new artistic director. Later this month, she'll replace Francesco Ventriglia. The company's first production under Barker, however, will be Ventriglia's brand-new Romeo and Juliet in August.


Barker, a former Pacific Northwest Ballet principal and current director of Grand Rapids Ballet, will bring star power and dedicated leadership experience to her new role. Still, there's a twist.

Patricia Barker. Photo Courtesy RNZB.

Frequent Pointe contributor Steve Sucato reported that Barker will do double duty. During the 2017–18 season, she will juggle dual titles as artistic director of both RNZB and Grand Rapids Ballet. If you're asking how that's even possible, you're not alone. Luckily, RNZB's programming was already set by Ventriglia for the coming season. The other saving grace is that the two companies are on different hemispheres: "It's nice because their [New Zealand's] summer is our winter and there will be opposite weeks of work," Barker told Sucato.

Barker's appointment isn't the first time RNZB has had an American star at the helm. Remember the Ethan Stiefel era from 2011 to 2014? Cheers to the latest chapter for this company down under.

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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