Ballet Careers
Sisters Isabella Shaker and Alexandra Pullen. Photo Courtesy Alexandra Pullen.

This is the second in a series of articles this month about ballet siblings.

My mom was in the corps de ballet at American Ballet Theatre. A generation later, so was I. As if that's not enough for one family, my younger sister Isabella Shaker dreams of following in our dancing footsteps. Her endeavor, and her status as somewhat of a child prodigy, stirs feelings of pride and apprehension within me, since I have lived through the ups and downs of this intense yet rewarding career.

Ballet will always be my first love and the thing that brings me the most joy, and my dance career has opened endless opportunities for me. However, it's a difficult career path that requires a lifelong dedication. It's super competitive and can lead to body image issues, physical injury and stress. Most dancers will face some of these problems; I definitely dealt with all three.

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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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News
Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy ABT

In September 2004, a pair of siblings graced the Dance Magazine cover. Inside, the accompanying story wrote, "When the Cornejos dance, it's never merely a variation—it's a complete performance."

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Ballet Training

Argentinian ballerina Paloma Herrera, who is now the artistic director of Ballet Estable del Teatro Colón in her home country, joined American Ballet Theatre at just 16 years old and was promoted to principal at 19. Over the course of her 24-year career with ABT, she became known for her maturity and range as an artist. Still, ingenue roles remained one of her hallmarks due to her ability to portray youth with honesty. She even danced Giselle for her ABT retirement performance. In this clip highlighting the first act variation in Giselle, she conveys the character's innocence with unaffected sincerity.

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Ballet Stars
Getty Images

The end of summer can only mean one thing in ballet world: Nutcracker audition season. It's the time of year when everyone at your studio is on edge with excitement, nerves and dreams. It's when you rewatch your DVD of last year's performance, practice choreography in your kitchen and make a list of roles you hope to get.

Nutcracker might be your only performance opportunity of the year, or the most significant one, so stakes are high. It's understandable if you feel anxious. We spoke with American Ballet Theatre principal Stella Abrera and Joffrey Ballet dancer Lucia Connolly, who have been in your ballet shoes, as well as Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet school principal Alecia Good-Boresow for their advice on approaching this year's Nutcracker auditions.

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Site Network
Collier (right) with Natalia Romanova, one of her teachers from the Russian Ballet International program at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. Courtesy Collier

Working in corporate America can be a grind, so, for many, vacation is a welcome opportunity to relax and unwind. But for Jane Collier, it's a chance to ramp up her ballet training.

Though she's based in Chicago, where she works in global sourcing for Walgreens Boots Alliance, over the last several years she's attended summer intensives at American Ballet Theatre in New York City, the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow and, most recently, the Royal Danish Ballet in Copenhagen.

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Site Network
Jin Zhang, Erica Lall and Betsy McBride in Swan Lake. Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy American Ballet Theatre

Erica Lall, a member of American Ballet Theatre's corps de ballet, accomplished an impressive feat this spring: she danced in every single one of ABT's spring Metropolitan Opera House season performances. That's 64 shows—actually, as Lall notes, "it would technically be 69 shows at the Met," since she performed in all of the ABTKids performances as well.

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News
American Ballet Theatre corps member José Sebastian (center) is launching the Hamptons Dance Project with a cast of fellow ABT dancers this August. Rochelle Brodin, Courtesy Hamptons Dance Project.

From coast to coast, and on the shores of Lake Michigan in-between, professional dancers and choreographers are going one step beyond putting together a summer pickup company. Some are now curating multi-evening festivals in their hometowns and beloved vacation areas, and featuring an impressive range of companies, dancers and dance styles. So get ready to plan your next trip—here are three dance fests in beautiful resort areas to keep on your radar.

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Trending
From left: ABT's Alexandra Basmagy, Lauren Post and Gillian Murphy. Photo by April Giangeruso, courtesy ABT.

On the last day of America Ballet Theatre's 2018 tour of The Nutcracker in Costa Mesa, California, corps member Alexandra Basmagy couldn't hold it in any longer. She broke the news to fellow corps members Gemma Bond and Lauren Post that she and her husband are expecting a little boy in August.

Basmagy was not the first ABT dancer to announce her pregnancy this season—principal Gillian Murphy revealed in December that she and her husband Ethan Stiefel were expecting a boy—nor would she be the last. Post's own announcement soon followed! Artistic director Kevin McKenzie burst out laughing when she told him the news, Post says. "He was like, 'It always happens in threes. Since Gillian told me and then Alex, I've been waiting for the last shoe to drop.'"

There is a veritable baby boom at ABT—Gemma Bond, corps member Alexei Agoudine, soloist Luciana Paris and soloist Thomas Forster are all new parents, and Murphy gave birth to her son, Ax Nathaniel, last month. Basmagy and Post are both in their third trimesters, with due dates on August 5th and August 19, respectively. Pointe interviewed these two moms-to-be, and then caught up with Forster and Paris, to learn how they navigate pregnancy and parenthood alongside a ballet career.

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News
Aran Bell in Swan Lake. Photo by Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT.

Most years, American Ballet Theatre closes its spring Met season with a sweet surprise: company promotions. Artistic director Kevin McKenzie just announced that two members of the corps de ballet—Aran Bell and Joo Won Ahn—are being promoted to soloist, effective September 1.

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News
Gemma Bond in the studio with ABT's Cassandra Trenary. Jim Lafferty.

If, like us, you're already mourning the end of American Ballet Theatre's marathon Met season, don't fear. The company just announced the lineup for its fall season, and there's a lot to look forward to.

Running October 16-27 at Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater, ABT's fall lineup includes world premieres by choreographers Twyla Tharp and Gemma Bond. While Tharp has been creating for ABT since 1976 (the company's Met season included a trio of her works), corps dancer Gemma Bond will be making her choreographic debut for ABT's main company. The season also shines a spotlight on principal Herman Cornejo, who will be celebrating his 20th anniversary with the company.

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Irina Kolpakova in the studio with Katherine Williams. Photo by Quinn Wharton for Pointe.

Being coached by a treasure like former Kirov prima Irina Kolpakova is an experience most dancers only dream of. But company members at American Ballet Theatre have been the lucky beneficiaries of her wisdom since 1990. Thanks to Instagram, where pros like Gillian Murphy and James Whiteside share snippets of their sessions with Kolpakova, any ballet lover can be a fly on the wall during rehearsals with the famed ballet mistress.

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