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First State Ballet Theatre's Rie Aoki in the studio at Steps on Broadway, NYC. Quinn Wharton.

First State Ballet Theatre company dancer Rie Aoki was documenting her fashion choices long before Instagram was around. "When I was 8, I used to dress up my little sister and take pictures of her outfits because I loved styling," she says. Aoki grew up in Japan, and started her own fashion blog in high school before coming to the U.S. to pursue a ballet career. After joining FSBT in 2013, Aoki's pictures of her outfits on Instagram (@rievictoriaaoki) took off. Now with a following of over 10 thousand, Aoki has also started a new style blog.

"I love warmer colors like reds, yellows, oranges and browns," Aoki says. "And I'm all about mixing patterns and textures—if you stick to the same tones, you can wear totally different patterns and it looks fashionable," she explains. "But I don't think there are really rules for fashion. It's 2019. You can wear what you like and try something funky or a little crazy."

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Eileen Frazer with Jonathan David Dummar in "The Nutcracker." Photo by Louis Tucker, Courtesy Ballet Memphis.

And 5,6,7,8... The countdown to the New Year is on!

Here's a peak at what five dancers from around the country are aiming for in 2018.


Eileen Frazer with Brandon Ramey in "Don Quixote". Photo by Louis Tucker, Courtesy Ballet Memphis.

Eileen Frazer, Ballet Memphis

Mindfulness: It's easy to get lost in perfectionism and the stress that comes with this career path. I want to remember to enjoy every performance and be fully present in experiences that come my way.

Be bold: I also want to dare to be bold, further develop the qualities that make me who I am as a dancer and find different ways to share my personality and experiences through the art form.

Family: Since I'm from Panama, I likewise want to keep nurturing my relationships with my family and friends.



Koki Yamaguchi. Photo by Colton West Photography, Courtesy Eugene Ballet.

Koki Yamaguchi, Eugene Ballet

Strength training: My dance resolution is to improve my technique with strength training and stretching.

(Physical) growth: As a short dancer I'm always trying to be larger in my movements.

Peer inspiration: I'd also like to learn new things by watching other company dancers such as Hirofumi Kitazume who performs dynamic jumps like the double revoltade and 540.

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Ballet Careers
BalletX's Caili Quan found value in her early years of career building. Photo by Alexander Izilaev, Courtesy BalletX.

After two years as a trainee and then one as a second company member at Orlando Ballet, 22-year-old Aurélio Guimarães wasn't able to audition much due to an injury. When The Washington Ballet offered him another traineeship, Guimarães debated what to do. He would ultimately be embarking on a fourth year of doing professional work without a livable salary or title. “It was absolutely a hard decision," Guimarães reflects. “But I also had to consider the work that I would be doing." Knowing his traineeship would entail close work with the artistic director, he essentially took a demotion, with the hope that starting over in Washington would yield a paid contract at the end of the year.

In the past, it was common for a year or two of apprenticeship to lead directly to a corps contract. But today's ballet world involves more no- to low-paying rungs at the bottom of the ladder. Many companies now have three gatekeepers: trainee programs that are often the top level of the school and involve corps work with the company; second companies that work independently as well as more intimately with the main company; and apprenticeships, the most entry-level rank inside the professional hierarchy.

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