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Radford Bascome, Courtesy DM Archives

On January 17, 1920, one of American ballet's most celebrated dance actresses was born. Nora Kaye's father was an actor who'd worked under Konstantin Stanislavski; her earliest ballet teacher was Ballets Russes choreographer Michel Fokine. ("He was more interested in creating roles than in teaching class," she recalled in the February 1965 issue of Dance Magazine.)

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Ballet Stars
Calvin Royal III in George Balanchine's Apollo. Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy ABT.

In one sense, American Ballet Theatre soloist Calvin Royal III's company debut as the lead in George Balanchine's Apollo in October felt momentous: a black dancer, in a historically lily-white company, portraying a god. In another, it felt inevitable: Royal is regal as soon as he stands onstage, to the manner born. As Apollo, authority radiated even from his decisively placed fingers. That famous "stoplight" moment, in which the hands open and close in quick succession, like flashing traffic signals, registered with spine-tingling precision.

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Ballet Stars
Jayme Thornton

This is Pointe's Winter 2020 cover story. You can subscribe to the magazine here, or click here to purchase this issue.

"They're breaking all my theories about not pushing dancers too soon," Kevin McKenzie, the usually cautious artistic director of American Ballet Theatre, said recently in his office near Union Square. He was referring to recently promoted soloists Catherine Hurlin and Aran Bell, 24 and 21, respectively. And he's not kidding. Hurlin and Bell are on the fast track, with role after role coming their way.

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Ballet Stars

Yesterday, Dance Magazine released its much-awaited, annual "25 to Watch" list. With 2020 just around the corner, now's the perfect time to get to know these breakout dancers, choreographers and companies (see the full list here).

Spanning dance genres, the diverse list includes eight ballet dancers. And though we admit we're a bit biased, we think they're a pretty incredible bunch (you might even recognize two from our 2019 Stars of the Corps). These dancers are bringing a fresh take to classical works and providing inspiration for contemporary choreographers. They've stood out from the group, wowing audiences with their charisma, virtuosity and versatility. Read on to find out what makes them dancers to watch.

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News
Melanie Hamrick in Balanchine's Valse Fantaisie. Marty Sohl, Courtesy ABT.

Melanie Hamrick has been an undeniable force in American Ballet Theatre's corps de ballet for the past 15 years (16 if you count her time in the Studio Company, she points out). Her technical precision, combined with her luxurious quality of drawing each step out so that it melts into the next, has made her a standout whether she's dancing a featured role or in a corps of swans. On Saturday, she'll take her final bow with the company in Balanchine's Theme and Variations, with just a tiny bit of nerves. "I've always been a calm performer, but this fall season I've been quite nervous," she explained after rehearsal on Thursday. "I want to take in every moment and really enjoy it. I got quite emotional earlier this week because I'm going to miss my friends," she says, adding, "But I'm excited for the next chapter."

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News
Stella Abrera in Le Corsaire. Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy ABT.

American Ballet Theatre announced today that, after 24 years, beloved principal dancer Stella Abrera will retire from the stage this coming summer. Her farewell performance will be June 13, 2020, at the Metropolitan Opera House, dancing the title role in Giselle.

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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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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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