Sofiane and Savannah

My favorite kind of ballerina is the kind that is not known for one particular quality.  I love watching someone whose dancing is multifaceted and can adapt to any kind of choreography, music or mood.  I think it's a sign of artistic maturity and a true understanding of all the possibilities of expression that ballet can present.  I was lucky enough to see two such dancers yesterday, Sofiane Sylve (a principal at SFB) and Savannah Lowery (a soloist at NYCB).  I was invited to watch a rehearsal they had with Avi Scher, and since I'm a huge fan of Sofiane's, and also now of Savannah's, I jumped at the chance. 

 

The piece they were rehearsing is a duet, and they were well matched.  What really drew me in, though, was the ability of both ballerinas to be both lyrical and wild, often changing their quality from one phrase to the next.  Sofiane, a powerful, seasoned ballerina, has really mastered this ability to vary her movement style, and she has one of the most beautifully expressive upper bodies and port de bras that I have ever seen.  At the beginning of her solo in this piece, she starts by slowly undulating her torso, then her arms and head join in, and the fluidity of it all is amazing.  Her lines are beautifully detailed; when she moves, she knows just when to flex a wrist, a finger, or tilt her chin.  Watching her dance a fast passage was wonderful--in contrast to her solo, she was a wild thing, spinning and jumping with abandon, but never seeming blurry or out of control.  I don't think I'll ever get tired of watching her.

 

My fellow tall girl Savannah had a similar quality, but her dancing was a little "greener" than Sofiane's, in that it had more of a coltish bouyancy to it, and less studied variance.  Technically confident, she seemed to revel in the movement and in the opportunities to stretch her long lines in every direction, giving herself to the music.  Hers was total dedication to the experience of dancing, and it was refreshing to watch her having so much fun.  I particularly enjoyed the sections in which she was dancing in unison with Sofiane, as I could see the kind of authoritative and nuanced ballerina she could become.  I'm going to be looking out for her in City Ballet's upcoming season, and I suggest you all do too!  Her radiance will make you leave the theatre with a lighter heart, and a renewed love of ballet.

 

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

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.

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Sponsored by Ballet Arizona
Tzu Chia Huang, Courtesy Ballet Arizona

These days, ballet dancers are asked to do more than they ever have—whether that's tackling versatile rep, taking on intense cross-training regimens or managing everything from their Instagram pages to their summer layoff gigs.

Without proper training, these demands can take a toll on both the mind and the body. But students can start preparing for them early—with the right summer intensive program.

The School of Ballet Arizona's summer intensive takes a well-rounded approach to training—not just focusing on technique and facility but nurturing overall dancer growth. "You cannot make a dancer just by screaming at them like they used to," says master ballet teacher Roberto Muñoz, who guests at the program every summer. "You have to take care of the person as well."

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News
Nicolas Pelletier in Carmina Burana. Francisco Estevez, Courtesy Colorado Ballet.

Last week, Colorado Ballet interrupted Nutcracker rehearsals for an exciting announcement: Four dancers were being promoted. Though all made the jump from the company's corps de ballet, Nicolas Pelletier ascended directly to the rank of soloist, while Sean Omandam, Emily Speed and Melissa Zoebisch were promoted to demi-soloist. This news comes hot on the heels of last August's promotion of Francisco Estevez to principal.

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Courtesy School of Pennsylvania Ballet

While many of us are deep in Nutcracker duties, The School of Pennsylvania Ballet director James Payne has been looking further ahead, finalizing preparations for the school's summer intensive programs. In January, he and his staff will embark on a 24-city audition tour to scour the country for the best young dancers, deciding whether or not to offer them a spot—maybe even a scholarship—in the school's rigorous 5-week intensive focused on high-caliber ballet instruction. Though he'll be evaluating aspirants, he urges that as a student, you should be equally selective in choosing programs that could galvanize your training—and possibly even your career.

We got Payne's advice on strategizing your summer intensive plan before the audition cycle kicks in:

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