Catherine Conley. Photo by Alex Garcia.

When I was 4 or 5, I told my mom, "I want to go to a real dance school with barres and a mirror." My preschool recommended Chicago's Ruth Page Center for the Arts. That's where I trained until I left for Cuba a year ago. I went to regular school during the day, and then had ballet class for four or more hours per day during the evenings and weekends. Nobody in my family has a dance background, but they've been supportive through all of it.

My school in Chicago teaches a technique that draws on Vaganova, Cecchetti and Bournonville. I went to very different summer intensives, as well: American Ballet Theatre, the Royal Ballet School in London and Boston Ballet. Then, two summers ago, Ruth Page School of Dance director Victor Alexander, who is Cuban, arranged an exchange with the Cuban National Ballet School. A group of eight Cubans came to Ruth Page's summer intensive. I had to learn an entire pas de deux as well as a contemporary ballet piece in 10 days, and then perform them. I'd never had to do anything that quickly; it was hard work but exciting. I then realized that if I could dance professionally, I wanted to.


Conley in class at the Cuban National Ballet School. Photo by Alex Garcia.

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Ballet Stars
Kayoko Everhart in Forsythe's The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude. Photo by Jesús Vallinas, Courtesy CND.

Kayoko Everhart's life and career have been marked by two spectacular journeys. The first is one of geographic movement: Born in Tokyo, Japan, to a Japanese mother and an African-American father, she moved to Tacoma, Washington, at the age of 7. Then as a teenager she went to California to study with the San Francisco Ballet School, later heading to Oklahoma to join the corps at Tulsa Ballet. She ultimately settled in Madrid, Spain, where she is currently a principal dancer at the Compañía Nacional de Danza. Her second journey began once in Spain, where she decided to take off her pointe shoes to dance contemporary ballet under previous CND artistic director Nacho Duato. But the 2010 arrival of current director José Carlos Martínez gave her the opportunity to get back on pointe. We spoke with Everhart about her career in Spain, dancing for different directors and more.

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Ballet Stars
Nathan Sayers for Pointe

Russia is often perceived as a closed book from abroad, and ballet is no exception. Though David Hallberg joined the Bolshoi Ballet in 2011, the country's top companies have been slow to open their ranks to non-Russians. Under acting director Yuri Fateyev, however, the venerable Mariinsky Ballet has welcomed a handful of dancers trained abroad. South Korea's Kimin Kim and Great Britain's Xander Parish initially struggled to fit in with the culture, but both have found their niche in St. Petersburg, and are thriving today among Russian colleagues.

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