Elisabeth Beyer and Daniel Sarabia rehearse "Grand Pas Classique" in New York City before heading to Havana. Photo by Kevin Hesse, courtesy Ellison Ballet.
Elisabeth Beyer may only be 16, but she is already cultivating an international following. A Professional Training Program student at Ellison Ballet in New York City, this year she won first place in the senior women's finals at the Youth America Grand Prix in New York and the junior gold medal at the USA International Ballet Competition. In late October, she had the opportunity to perform Grand Pas Classique at the 26th Havana International Ballet Festival in a gala alongside stars from The Royal Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, La Scala and, of course, Cuban National Ballet. Her partner was Cuban-born international guest artist Daniel Sarabia, and the two only had a short time to prepare. We caught up with her to talk about what the whirlwind experience was like.
Remie Goins, a student at International City School of Ballet in Atlanta, performs at the YAGP finals. Photo by VAM, Courtesy YAGP.
You've watched First Position, the 2011 documentary about dancers at Youth America Grand Prix. You've studied videos of past ballet competition winners online. Now, you're interested in joining those elite ranks by entering a competition yourself. But what if your school doesn't have a program set up to guide you through the process? Pointe asked four experts to break down what ballet competition newbies need to know.
In 2004, as dancers waited in the hallway for their usual morning class at Steps on Broadway in New York City, they could catch a glimpse of teacher Edward Ellison privately coaching individuals in a small studio near the reception desk. From that handful of students, the former San Francisco Ballet soloist formed Ellison Ballet in 2005, a small, selective pre-professional school that in 10 short years has grown into a full-time program complete with year-round housing and three summer intensives—and an impressive list of alumni.
Ellison’s students have joined the rosters of the Paris Opera Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and Staatsballett Berlin, among others, and are frequent finalists and winners of international ballet competitions. “He really helps with all the details, especially how to connect to your partner,” says current student Juliette Bosco, who recently won first place in the Junior Division and the Pas de Deux Award at the 2015 Youth America Grand Prix finals in NYC.
No one is more surprised at how quickly the program took off than Ellison. “In this information age, word travels so fast with a click of a mouse,” he says. “I think it also became very attractive because people understood that not everyone could get in—which in a way, attracted more talent at auditions.” He also credits the curriculum’s commitment to the Vaganova method. “I believe in it wholeheartedly as a very logical and strong foundation for a dancer to spring from,” he says. “The dancers are able to become versatile because they have such a strong base.”
Current students and alumni are gathering together for Ellison Ballet’s 10th Anniversary Celebration May 15 and 16 at Symphony Space in NYC. The program includes a one-act Carmen, as well as excerpts from ballets such as Flames of Paris, Grand Pas Classique and Esmeralda.
Ellison Ballet student Juliette Bosco, photo by Rachel Neville Photography