Ballet Stars

Dutch National Ballet’s Sasha Mukhamedov, the Daughter of Irek and Masha Mukhamedov, Is Making Her Own Mark

Photo by Altin Kaftira, Courtesy Dutch National Ballet

To whom would you attribute your success?
My mom, because I trained privately with her. She pushed me to become what I am now, and she's one of the best teachers out there. She doesn't just go by her Bolshoi schooling: She's really good at finding what's right for you.

Was it a hindrance or a help to have famous parents in the ballet world?
It's 50/50. Sometimes it's great because they can pass on everything they know to me, but there are also moments when people recognize my name, and it's instant pressure. Some will look at me differently and wonder if I'm actually good enough. I had to prove myself through my work.

What's the least glamorous part of being a dancer?
Taking care of all your blisters and sore toenails. A Russian trick is to do a vodka compress overnight: You soak a bandage in vodka and wrap it around the toes that are hurting. You sleep with it, and it looks great in the morning, nice and wrinkly. It smells of vodka, but it really works!

Mukhamedov in Balanchine's Symphony in C (Photo by Angela Sterling).


Are you superstitious?
Unfortunately, yes. A common Russian superstition is the safety pin. You attach it somewhere or have it with you at all times to keep you safe. I always pin one on my costume.

Of which accomplishment are you the most proud?
Becoming a principal at 26. I've always wanted it, but I never really thought it would happen so soon. My director announced it onstage after my debut in his Coppélia, on Christmas Eve. It was a really special Christmas present.

Who is your toughest critic?
My mom! But in a good way. It's a big deal to me if she thinks something is good. I won't believe what people are saying until I hear from her.

What skill would you most like to have?
I don't have a driver's license. It would be handy. It's not really needed in Amsterdam, but I've always wanted to get a scooter.

How would you like to be remembered?
How my dad is remembered, perhaps: for my strong personality onstage.

If you weren't a dancer, what would you be?
Lately I've been really into interior design, because I'm renovating my apartment in Amsterdam. I really enjoy the process of picking what goes together, bathroom tiles, the kitchen...Maybe I'll flip apartments when I stop dancing!

Mukhamedov as Nikiya in La Bayadere

Ballet Careers
Gray Davis with wife, ABT soloist Cassandra Trenary, after his graduation from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. Courtesy Trenary.

When Gray Davis retired from American Ballet Theatre in July of 2018, he moved home to South Carolina, unsure of what would come next. Last month, just over a year later, Davis graduated from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. Today, he's working as a deputy for the Abbeville County Sheriff's Office.

Though Davis danced in ABT's corps for 11 years and is married to soloist Cassandra Trenary, to many he's best known for saving the life of a man who was pushed onto the subway tracks in New York City in 2017. The heroic effort earned him the New York State Liberty Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by a member of the New York State Senate. We caught up with Davis to hear about how the split second decision he made in the subway affected the course of his life, what it's been like starting a second career and what he sees as the similarities between ballet and law enforcement.

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Sponsored by BLOCH
Courtesy BLOCH

Today's ballet dancer needs a lot from a pointe shoe. "What I did 20 years ago is not what these dancers are doing now," says New York City Ballet shoe manager Linnette Roe. "They are expected to go harder, longer days. They are expected to go from sneakers, to pointe shoes, to character shoes, to barefoot and back to pointe shoes all in a day."

The team at BLOCH developed their line of Stretch Pointe shoes to address dancer's most common complaints about the fit and performance of their pointe shoes. "It's a scientific take on the pointe shoe," says Roe. Dancers are taking notice and Stretch Pointe shoes are now worn by stars like American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston, who stars in BLOCH's latest campaign for the shoes.

We dug into the details of Stretch Pointe's most game-changing features:

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Megan Amanda Ehrlich, Courtesy LEAP Program

Claire Sheridan wanted to change the status quo. Leading up to the 1990s, she recalls, "there was a 'shut up and dance' mind-set," and as the founder of the dance program at St. Mary's College of California and a longtime teacher in professional companies, she had seen too many dancers retire with no plan for a successful career transition. "At that time, if you thought about education and the future," she says, "you were not a committed dancer. I wanted to fight that."

With the support of St. Mary's, Sheridan developed the Liberal Education for Arts Professionals program, or LEAP, an innovative liberal-arts bachelor's degree program designed especially for professional dancers. She first presented her idea to executives at San Francisco Ballet. "Kudos to that company, because they said, 'This is great,'" she says. "Eleven of the first 18 dancers who started in August 1999 were from SFB."

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I'm a college freshman, and my dance program isn't challenging enough. We only have ballet three times a week and a few hours of modern, and my classmates aren't as dedicated as I am. There's a small dance company nearby, where I was hoping to take extra classes, but I don't have a car. I want to transfer, but I feel like I won't be in good enough shape for auditions. —Tara

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