Ballet Stars
Photo by Nathan Sayers for Pointe.

This is Pointe's August/September 2017 Cover Story. You can subscribe to the magazine here, or click here to purchase this issue.

With her sunny spirit and unaffected charm, Joffrey Ballet dancer Amanda Assucena is often cast as innocent characters like Marie or the Sugar Plum Fairy from The Nutcracker. But in Yuri Possokhov's The Miraculous Mandarin, a tabloid-like tale of corruption and cruelty, she played a chillingly manipulative seductress who lures men into the clutches of three street thugs. Dressed in leather shorts, a bra and corset, she was largely without mercy. And from the moment she emerged from the glass box that was her prison-like home—moving with angular, acrobatic choreography that seemed to turn her legs into daggers—it was clear she had nailed this enigmatic siren, even suggesting a hint of vulnerability and loneliness.

The 40-minute marathon of a work not only served as a showcase for Assucena's superb technique, but also revealed her impressive dramatic skills. "Amanda has a natural instinct for music and theater, and a dramatic sense that can convey any story," says Joffrey's artistic director Ashley Wheater. "She has shown herself to be remarkably mature as a person and an artist, and she's fearless in taking on demanding roles and technical challenges."

Add to this the fact that Assucena has a beautifully proportioned body and an innate musicality and it's easy to understand why the 23-year-old has enjoyed such a rapid-fire rise at the Joffrey.

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The HARID Conservatory in Boca Raton, Florida, has been awarded a $250,000 grant from The Rudolph Nureyev Dance Foundation. The highly selective boarding school (alumni include American Ballet Theatre’s Marcelo Gomes and Boston Ballet’s Kathleen Breen Combes) is unique in that it provides tuition-free pre-professional training, thanks to its generous founding benefactor, the late Fred Lieberman. The new grant will be used to create The Rudolf Nureyev Endowed Fund, which will provide need-based awards to HARID students indefinitely. “HARID has always been tuition free, but there are room and board fees, too” says director Gordon Wright. “And we’ve found that there are many whose families aren’t able to afford them.” The fund would guarantee that one or more students without financial means for living expenses would be provided for.

 

In addition, the Nureyev Foundation has challenged HARID to raise its own funds to augment the grant by September 10, a commitment Wright says the school is taking very seriously. “The bigger the principal, the better chance that funds can be generated,” says Wright. For donation information, click here.

Grace Haskins in a PNB School performance of Balanchine's Serenade

At a certain point, you need to take your training to the next level. But with so many options available, how do you know what type of pre-professional program is right for you? For instance, would you rather receive detailed, one-on-one instruction from a private coach or work at the school affiliated with your favorite ballet company? Ramping up your training often requires moving far away from family, or tough financial sacrifices from your parents. Plus, there's that little thing called high school to worry about.

Keep in mind that each option comes with pluses and minuses. For instance, a boarding school may provide supervised housing but lack company exposure. Meanwhile, a company program may offer exciting performance opportunities, but no academic or housing component. To give you an insider's perspective, Pointe took a look at three students enrolled in three different, but fairly typical, training programs. We then broke down their dance schedule, academic life, costs and living situation into chart form to let you see what each approach entails.

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