Ballet Training
Students from Walnut Hill School for the Arts perform Gerald Arpino's Birthday Variations during the school's anniversary gala at The Joyce Theater. Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Walnut Hill School for the Arts.

If you could ask a professional dancer's advice for starting a ballet career, what would you want to know?

Earlier this month, Walnut Hill School for the Arts celebrated its 125th anniversary with a gala performance of students and alumni at New York City's Joyce Theater. And with graduation on the horizon, we thought it would be fun to arrange a Q&A session between upper level ballet students and the visiting graduates of Walnut Hill School for the Arts, among them San Francisco Ballet principal Joseph Walsh '06, Houston Ballet soloist Harper Watters '10, Ballet Arizona dancer Alison Remmers '12 and former Sacramento Ballet/Twyla Tharp dancer Charlie Hodges '98.

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Viral Videos
Natalie Varnum, in red, with Houston Ballet dancers in front of the Dubai Opera House. Photo Courtesy Varnum.

Last week, Houston Ballet toured artistic director Stanton Welch's Swan Lake to Dubai, making it the first American company to ever dance at the Dubai Opera House. Demi soloist Natalie Varnum covered this historic tour for Pointe through a series of vlogs, taking us from the long plane ride to harrowing camel rides to backstage shenanigans to opening night. Settle in and enjoy!

Part 1: Houston Ballet's Tour to Dubai with Natalie Varnum www.youtube.com

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Patricia Delgado and Justin Peck in Vail, Colorado. Photo by Erin Baiano, Courtesy Patricia Delgado.

With the surplus of ballet festivals happening around the world these past few months, it's obvious that there's really no such thing as summer break for the pros. But between the red-eye flights and onstage performances, our favorite stars still found time to soak up the sun and enjoy some seriously stunning views (even if they were from rehearsal). From Verona, Italy to Vail, Colorado, click through to see the highlights from the 2018 summer tours.

PNB Goes To Paris

While on their first tour in Paris, Pacific Northwest Ballet's Elle Macy and company made sure to squeeze in some sightseeing—naturally visiting Paris Opéra Ballet's home theater, Palais Garnier, was top on the list.

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Connor Walsh and Harper Watters after Houston Ballet's opening night performance. Photo via YouTube.

All week, Houston Ballet soloist Harper Watters has been giving us the inside scoop on the company's tour to Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival. In this last installment, we'll see how the dancers prep for opening night (hint: it involves a good nap and plenty of coffee). Plus, we'll catch glimpses of the show.

Ballet Stars
iHouston Ballet soloist Harper Watters and principal Chun Wae Chan, via YouTube

Houston Ballet has been taking Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival by storm this week, and soloist Harper Watters has been filling us in on how it's going. In yesterday's vlog he took us around the historic festival's scenic grounds and barn-like theater. Today, he and principal dancer Chun Wai Chan give us the inside scoop on HB's dress rehearsal (and take us into the wings to watch some beautiful dancing). Stay tuned for more from Watters later this week!

Ballet Stars
Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet

Houston Ballet soloist Harper Watters has a good thing going on. Not only is he one of the company's rising young dancers, but he's also a ballet celebrity on social media, where he charts his life on Instagram and on his hugely popular YouTube series, "The Pre Show" (which he describes as "tons of ballet, banter, boys and lots of backstage shenanigans").

The Dover, New Hampshire, native, who seems just as comfortable in a pair of pink heels as he does onstage, trained at Walnut Hill School for the Arts and Portsmouth School of Ballet. While a member of Houston Ballet II, he landed an apprenticeship with the company after winning the Contemporary Dance Prize at the 2011 Prix de Lausanne. He joined the main company that same year and was promoted to soloist in December 2017. Known for his big personality, elegantly long lines and sensual flow in contemporary work, Watters, 26, is ready to take on the next phase of his career. He recently spoke with Pointe about his new rank and his mission to help others feel proud of who they are.

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Ballet Training
Ballet student Ashton Bradley in a scene from "Danseur." Photo courtesy NuArts Foundation.

Updated on 04/12/19

"I never wanted to stop dancing, I just wanted the bullying to stop," says American Ballet Theatre corps member Patrick Frenette in the trailer for Danseur, a new feature-length documentary about the social stigmatization young men face in ballet. His words shed light not only on the prevalence of harassment boys endure from peers outside the studio, but also their passion and determination to keep dancing in spite of it. The film, produced by NuArts Foundation, features interviews with ballet students, teachers and directors, as well as professional dancers like James Whiteside, John Lam, Derek Dunn and Harper Watters. And while screening dates are yet to be determined, Danseur has already generated a lot of social media buzz.


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Ballet Stars
Photo Courtesy Cloud & Victory.

Dancewear brand Cloud & Victory is so much more than just clever t-shirts; founder Min is set on finding all kinds of ways to connect to the greater community. Earlier this fall she organized a master class led by American Ballet Theatre stars Gillian Murphy and Isabella Boylston, and now she's organizing a fundraiser to fight against child slavery called Pointes Against Child Slavery.

Signed pointe shoes donated by ballet dancers from some of the world's best companies will be sold online from November 8-19. The proceeds will be donated to two non-governmental organizations committed to fighting against child slavery, sexual abuse and exploitation for the empowerment and welfare of underprivileged children. The first is Destiny Rescue, a U.S.-based organization that since 2011 has rescued 2,000 children enslaved in Thailand, Cambodia, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines and India. The second organization is The Promiseland Project in Nepal. The Singapore-based Promiseland Project is working to build a school and orphanage in Dhamphus, Nepal to "shelter, raise and nurture the poor, needy and orphaned children of Nepal and equip them with an education and skill sets to make a better life for themselves." The earthquakes that devastated Nepal two years ago have set the project back, and they're looking for funds to finish construction.

Pointe shoes worn by Marianela Núñez during the Royal Ballet's Fall/Winter season. Photo via Cloud & Victory.

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Ballet Stars
Harper Watters with Houston Ballet in Stanton Welch's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra. Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy HB.

Deciding to pursue a career in dance is huge. But even with your eyes firmly on your goal, figuring out the best track to get you there can be confusing and stressful. What school to go to, which teacher to follow, and when or whether to leave home are questions all ambitious dancers face, and there's no right answer for everyone. Behind every successful dancer lies a path riddled with difficult decisions and moments of doubt. Often, coming to a fork in the road means making a realistic assessment of what your needs truly are. These three dancers faced tough choices at crucial moments in their training years, but pushed outside their comfort zones and took risks that ultimately paid off.

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