Ballet Stars
NYCB's Miriam Miller and Unity Phelan in Côté Cour. Photo by Erin Baiano.

How do you make a leotard line stand out when there are so many options? Erica Sabatini, a former soloist with Carolina Ballet, makes it look easy with her pairing of architectural designs and bright colors. Before officially launching Côté Cour in 2015, Sabatini's interest in fashion was sparked during her Balanchine-based training at the Miami City Ballet School.

Phelan in MIA Multi Turquoise. Photo by Erin Baiano.

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Audition Advice
Students taking class at the Miami City Ballet School. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Miami City Ballet.

Growing up in Michigan, Jessy Dick was used to her daily hour-long drives to the Grand Rapids Ballet School, where she trained. But when she started to think about summer intensives, a new problem emerged: Auditions for the schools she was interested in were even farther away, in Chicago or Detroit. "I learned early on that if I wanted to do any summer programs, I'd have to travel at least three hours in order to audition," says Dick, now a member of The Washington Ballet's Studio Company.

Making plans for your summer training is complicated enough, especially with the sheer number of programs to choose between. But students who live far from popular audition hubs face the additional hurdle of organizing, scheduling and budgeting for audition trips. Luckily, with strategic planning, what can feel overwhelming at first can become a rewarding experience.

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popular
Miami City Ballet prepares for Hurricane Irma. Photo via Twitter.

As Hurricane Irma made its way through the Caribbean last week, Sarasota Ballet principal Ellen Overstreet was closely following the news. Tracking its progress, she made plans with fellow company members Asia Bui and Madysen Felber: "Wednesday was the most stressful day. We went to five different grocery stores. There was no gas; there was no water. Our plan was to stock up one of our apartments and sleep over all together."

By Friday night, however, the storm had shifted west, its radius enveloping Sarasota and prompting many company members (those who hadn't already booked flights out) to evacuate. In a last-minute decision, Overstreet, Bui and Felber packed up a car and drove to Tampa, where they spent the night safely. Yet the storm progressed, and in another night flight they headed for Orlando to stay with Overstreet's friend's family. The central Floridian city saw flooding damage, downed awnings, and power outages like much of the state, but Overstreet says that she was in "a strong house and felt secure" while hunkering down to wait out the storm.

Few things are more terrifying than the prospect of 170+ mile per hour winds literally chasing you upstate. But the anticipation for Irma intensified sharply in Hurricane Harvey's aftermath. Last week, we reported that the Houston Ballet Center for Dance and its home theater sustained serious flooding damage. The company's first program has been postponed, to be performed at a later date in a back-up venue.

We checked in with some of Florida's ballet companies to see how they weathered this most recent storm.

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Ballet Training
Kleber Rebello in George Balanchine's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Photo by Daniel Azoulay, Courtesy Miami City Ballet.

It's a staple of grand allégro, but tour jeté—also called grand jeté entournant or entrelacé—is not easy. Miami City Ballet School's Geta Constantinescu shares how she helps her students fly higher.


Geta Constatinescu working with a Miami City Ballet School student. Photo by Pavel Antonov, Courtesy Miami City Ballet.

Prepare with care: "Let's say you piqué arabesque on the right leg," says Miami City Ballet School faculty member Geta Constantinescu. As you chassé sideways, "that right leg has to go in back, not in front of the left leg. Many don't even notice that little mistake!" The left foot is then available as you turn to step forward onto it, going into the tour jeté.


Plié both legs generously as you brush the leg through first position, so you don't jump from just one. "Use the floor to help elevate yourself."


Be direct: Instead of brushing to grand battement devant, Constantinescu often sees dancers go through a rond de jambe or "something not very clear," she says. "What is front, where is the toe going when you toss it in the air?" She suggests practicing the brush en avant in tendu and adagio combinations, to "imprint" that pathway.


Let the arms assist: Coordinate your port de bras with your grand battement. The arms go up through high fifth as you take off. They begin to open, Constantinescu says, "right at the top of the jump."


Practice your takeoff and landing at the barre with this combination: Grand battement devant on demi-point, turning towards the barre as you close fifth to finish on the other side with the opposite leg in arabesque plié.


Think "forward": As the legs switch, think of the arabesque in the air as a "demi-penché" to create space for a greater split. "Feel connected from the lower belly to the heart center as the leg goes back," says Constantinescu. "That lifting of the sternum supports the line of the demi-penché."


Imagine you're "kicking a ball" with the front leg as the back leg scissors into arabesque, like in a big sissone ouvert. "This will incorporate that quality of split in the air."

Ballet Careers
Andersen in Balanchine's "Valse-Fantaisie." Photo by Daniel Azoulay, Courtesy Miami City Ballet.

Alaina Andersen, as told to Suzannah Friscia

I got my corps contract on my 18th birthday. It was such a relief. I had convinced myself that I would be okay not dancing, but inside I just wanted to get a contract with Miami City Ballet.

I'd trained at Milwaukee Ballet School pretty much my whole life, and in 2014 I went to the MCB summer program and loved it. They invited me to stay for the year, and right when I got there, they offered me an apprenticeship. I spent the next two years as an apprentice. My second year I got to tour with the company and did Swan Lake, The Nutcracker and Bourrée Fantasque.

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Ballet Training
Francisco Estevez, Courtesy Colorado Ballet.

If you think a full-time pre-professional program might be right for you, it's never too early to start talking about the big transition. Deciding to forgo a "normal" high school experience for the chance to take your training to the next level is life-changing, and it's vital to have in-depth discussions with your family. Here's a checklist of topics to bring up—before the auditions begin.


1. What are my professional goals?

At the very least, you should feel sure that you want a professional dance career. But beyond tutus and dreams, it's important to understand what this means on a day-to-day level: the daily grind of technique classes and physical therapy, all-consuming workdays, and the endless pursuit of artistry and perfection. "I find a lot of students haven't done enough research on what a professional life is about—what it really means," says Denise Bolstad, managing director of Pacific Northwest Ballet School.

In addition, think about what kind of company you want to join and which schools can facilitate that. What's your favorite repertoire? Are you interested in a large company or a smaller one? For instance, Miami City Ballet corps member Ellen Grocki knew she loved Balanchine, so she researched schools where she'd gain extensive training in the style. She eventually left her home in Maryland at 16 to study at MCB School.


Summer intensive students at Pacific Northwest Ballet School. Photo by Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB.

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News

If you’ve been following season two of Teen Vogues reality web series “Strictly Ballet,” you know that the stakes are high for its anxious stars. The show, which follows six pre-professional dancers at the Miami City Ballet School, has been leading up to a major school performance—and MCB artistic director Lourdes Lopez is closely watching. For Carlos, Valeriia, Mayumi, Gustavo and Ella, their futures are on the line.

 

So, which two made it into the company—and where did the others end up? I won’t spoil it for you. Today, Teen Vogue released the last four episodes (the second of which provides fantastic advice for nailing your next audition). And on July 17, the show will release a bonus follow-up on one of its stars. Check out Episode 15 below, and be sure to catch up on the rest on Condé Nast Entertainment’s web channel, The Scene.

Teen Vogue’s “Strictly Ballet” is back. The popular web series, which took us inside the lives of School of American Ballet students last year, heads to Florida and into the halls of the Miami City Ballet School. The show, which premiered May 20, follows seven MCBS dancers between ages 14 and 21, and from countries ranging from Brazil to Russia. Each faces the agonizing question of whether they’ll be successful in their chosen profession. This week, three more episodes were released on Condé Nast Entertainment’s web channel, The Scene.

 

In episode 7, Valeriia, who trained at the Vaganova Academy before coming to MCBS, feels she has nothing to go back to in Russia. Unable to secure a contract there, she asserts that she simply has to get into a company in America—there’s no room for the contemplation of “or else.” However, she and her peers face one the harshest realities of a ballet dancer’s life: when you are on the cusp of your professional career, a single director’s whim may determine your whole future. In an audition with over one hundred people, how do you get one pair of eyes to notice you? In a studio video recording, how do you make your personality and the unique subtleties of your dancing come across on camera?

 

You can check out Valeriia’s story, as well as how she puts together her audition video, below. And make sure to check out The Scene to catch up on all other episodes of "Strictly Ballet." (Hint: episode 4 features Pointe’s April/May cover girl, Nathalia Arja.)

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