In Boston Ballet's production of La Sylphide last spring, María Álvarez just about stole the show as Madge. With a conniving gleam in her eye and a grim, angular hitch in her step, she exuded a dramatic, malevolent energy and taut physicality that made the role totally her own. She credits renowned Royal Danish Ballet character artist Sorella Englund's coaching with helping her find the witch's inner torment. "She built the character in me, then gave me the freedom to make Madge alive," says Álvarez.
The Royal Danish Ballet's Ballet Festival in Copenhagen this June could have doubled as a showcase for corps dancer Liam Redhead, 23. On opening night, Redhead demonstrated his Bournonville mettle with a floating ballon and effortless charisma in Napoli's Act I ballabile. Then he delivered dazzling jumps as the Jester in artistic director Nikolaj Hübbe's Swan Lake, and later unleashed visceral power in Akram Khan's Vertical Road.
When you watch Sydney Dolan dance, it's no surprise she's having one of those storied ballet-world ascents. She eats up the stage with the sort of intention rarely seen in 17-year-olds; every move is lush, technically sound and refreshingly honest. By the time she wrapped up her apprenticeship with Pennsylvania Ballet this spring, she'd already performed two coveted principal roles—Dewdrop in Balanchine's Nutcracker and Lilac Fairy in Angel Corella's The Sleeping Beauty—bringing to them a sense of awe and humility that you just can't fake.
With the magical allure of a firefly against the night sky, Nashville Ballet's Imani Sailers displayed flashes of brilliance in Heather Britt's bendy, breezy contemporary pas de deux Claudette. It's fitting that this breakout moment for Sailers came during last season's Emergence series: Her performance proved why she is a true up-and-comer in the company.
It's hard not to notice Houston Ballet's Andrew Vecseri. With his strapping good looks, athletic build and confidence, Vecseri has a way of standing out in ensemble work without stealing the show. Whether he's dancing in Sir Kenneth MacMillan's Mayerling or juggling multiple ballets in mixed rep evenings, he comes across as a natural leader onstage. And while he's only in his second full season in the company, he has already started to step out of the corps, taking on a lead divertissement in The Nutcracker.
Lydia Wellington practically grew up at New York City Ballet. Her mom, a children's book author and illustrator and ballet enthusiast, used to take her to shows up in the fifth ring when she was a toddler—"it was cheaper than babysitting," says Wellington. So at age 7 it was almost natural for her to enter the School of American Ballet, where she spent the next 11 years, eventually graduating into the company.
Lilliana Hagerman stepped into the spotlight in 2016, dancing the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in Kansas City Ballet's Nutcracker during her first season as a full company member. But it's her chameleon-like ability to shift between classical and contemporary roles—such as her featured performances in Matthew Neenan's The Uneven and Stanton Welch's Play last season—which make this dancer so special.
Anyone who watched American Ballet Theatre corps member Breanne Granlund during her years in the ABT Studio Company could have guessed that one day she'd be a standout in the main company. What they may not have predicted? That her breakout role would be in Praedicere, a pièce d'occasion by tap artist Michelle Dorrance, who had dancers sliding and stomping across the stage and well outside their comfort zones. In a work populated with many principals and soloists, Granlund was both the most striking and the most natural performer, tackling Dorrance's genre-bending movement with abandon and style.
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Intensity is Samantha Griffin's modus operandi, whether she's self-reflecting on an unhappy, gilded existence in Garrett Smith's Facades or violently whipping a metal chair into the wings in artistic director Victoria Morgan's Black Coffee. The 23-year-old Griffin puts all of her flexible 5' 8" frame to use in contemporary movement, which she prefers. "It fits my body well," she says. Yet she's also given dazzling performances in more neoclassical roles, including the Tall Girl soloist in Balanchine's "Rubies" and the Dark Angel in his Serenade.
Siphesihle November scarcely touched the ground as he launched into The Sleeping Beauty's grueling Bluebird variation last March, dancing the avian steps with meticulous clarity and keen alertness to Tchaikovsky's music. Nothing was forced or showy; it looked disarmingly natural.
National Ballet of Canada artistic director Karen Kain hired November into the corps a year ago, right after he graduated from Canada's National Ballet School. The transition—no apprentice year—was daunting. "It's all fantasy until you get there," says November. "Then it hits you. This is really it!"
Every spring, Pointe writers and editors pull out stacks of programs saved over the past season and flip to the casting pages, looking for those telltale circled names: corps members who have caught our eye. Though we don’t claim clairvoyance, many Stars of the Corps we have singled out over the years have moved up the ranks in their respective companies. Take a look at where some of our past Stars of the Corps are now.
Mayara Magri (2013)
Brazilian dancer Mayara Magri’s success on the competition circuit, including the Grand Prix prize at Youth American Grand Prix and a scholarship from Prix de Lausanne, made her an early one to watch. Four years after joining The Royal Ballet, Magri will start off next season as a newly minted soloist.
Brendan Saye (2013)
Three years ago, then National Ballet of Canada corps member Brendan Saye was catching eyes in lead roles like the title in Alexei Ratmansky’s Romeo and Juliet and Wayne McGregor’s Chroma. His promotion to second soloist in 2013, just after we picked him out as a Star of the Corps, came as little surprise.
Nicole Padilla (2014)
Sarasota Ballet’s Nicole Padilla was already a consummate interpreter of Sir Frederick Ashton repertory when we highlighted her in 2014, and since then she’s consistently impressed in ballets by Ashton, Balanchine, Nureyev and more. She was promoted to first soloist this year.
Kathryn Hosier (2014)
In her corps de ballets years at The National Ballet of Canada, American-born Kathryn Hosier had the opportunity to dance a number of featured roles, like the female lead in Spectre de la Rose. Though she anticipated paying her dues in the corps, Hosier didn’t have long to wait. In 2015, she added new roles to her repertoire, like the female lead in Guillaume Côté’s Being and Nothingness, and a new title to her resume: second soloist.
Julia Rowe (2014)
After training at the San Francisco Ballet School for one year, Julia Rowe spent five seasons at Oregon Ballet Theatre, climbing to the soloist rank, before returning to SFB as a corps member. Not for long, we knew! Rowe’s well-deserved promotion was announced this year.
Emily Bowen (2014)
In 2014, Houston Ballet dancer Emily Bowen had already danced roles like Lise in La Fille mal gardée and one of the fiery women in William Forsythe’s Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude. The Pennsylvania native received her demi-soloist contract that very season.
Irlan Silva (2014)
Irlan Silva is one of those lucky dancers born with legs, extensions and jumping power to spare. But luck has little to do with his steady rise at Boston Ballet, where his hard work earned him a promotion to soloist this year.
Fanny Gorse (2015)
In 2015, then 27-year-old coryphée Fanny Gorse was receiving new recognition under former Paris Opéra Ballet artistic director Benjamin Millepied. Last season, she danced featured roles in La Bayadère and Giselle, and Millepied promoted her to sujet (demi soloist).
If Joffrey Ballet had ranks, we’re guessing that 2014 Star of the Corps Amanda Assucena would have jumped a few. In the past two years, she’s danced coveted roles like Sugar Plum Fairy and, most recently, the title role in Sir Frederick Ashton's Cinderella. And while some past Stars of the Corps have added roles and moved up ranks, others have changed companies. Former Boston Ballet dancer Brittany Stone (2014) is embarking on her first season at The Washington Ballet under new artistic director Julie Kent. After two years at Complexions Contemporary Ballet, 2014 standout Samantha Figgins joined Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Former Mariinsky Ballet artist Keenan Kampa has also made some major career moves—back to America and, most recently, onto the big screen in dance movie High Strung.
Though many of our most recent Stars of the Corps have barely gotten their feet wet in their professional careers, they’re already making waves. Like our past nominees, we bet they have big things in store. Happy #MotivationMonday!
Every corps de ballet has a few bright standouts. Here are 10 young dancers on the rise.
Norika Matsuyama in "Don Quixote." Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB.
San Francisco Ballet
Norika Matsuyama recently finished her second year in San Francisco Ballet's corps, but her repertoire already looks like a veteran soloist's: Cupid in Don Quixote, a solo Wili and Shade, Balanchine's Theme and Variations and Forsythe's Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude. She capped off the 2016 season with her debut as Olga in John Cranko's Onegin, one of her dream roles.
For someone so accomplished, the 22-year-old is exceptionally humble. “I never expected I would get to do these roles," she says. “When I saw my name on the rehearsal schedule for Olga, I was so excited. I'm super-grateful."