Ballet Careers
Milwaukee Ballet dancers (and twins) Marie Harrison-Collins and Elizabeth Harrison. Tom Davenport, Courtesy Milwaukee Ballet.

This is the third in a series of articles this month about ballet siblings.


Ballet is already a competitive world, but how do you dance alongside someone who looks exactly like you? How do you deal when you're constantly getting mixed up in the studio, or when one gets an opportunity and the other doesn't? For twins, no two approaches are quite the same. Though twin sisters Elizabeth Harrison and Marie Harrison-Collins initially chose to part ways after their training years, they're now in their third season dancing together at Milwaukee Ballet. Meanwhile, twin brothers Shaakir and Naazir Muhammad always intended to stick together, but ultimately found that more opportunities were available to them if they split up and joined different companies. Both pairs told Pointe about their experiences training together, the challenges they've faced and how they support each other.

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Trending
Jolie Rose Lombardo performing at ADC | IBC prior to her diagnosis. Richard Finkelstein, Courtesy Stephanie Lombardo

It was mid-January when 15-year-old Jolie Rose Lombardo first noticed the leg pain. A scholarship student at the John Cranko Schule in Stuttgart, Germany, the Florida native felt fine dancing through full days of classes and completing her regular school schedule. It was only at night that what appeared to be sciatic pain would shoot down her right leg when she tried to lie down, making resting difficult. After a few sleepless nights, spent mostly standing up, she went to the doctor for an X-ray, followed by an MRI.

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News
New Miami City Ballet corps member Itzkan Barbosa and her mother Miriam Barbosa pose atop a mountain of Itzkan's pointe shoes. Alexander Iziliaev, courtesy Miriam Barbosa.

On the morning of May 1, Miriam Barbosa posted a photo of her daughter, Itzkan, on Facebook. The image itself is striking—Itzkan stands smiling on pointe in front of Miami City Ballet, where she has spent the last year as a pre-professional student, perched atop a mountain of old pointe shoes of all different sizes. But it's the story behind the picture that's inspired so many people to comment their congratulations and appreciation. The photo contains every single one of Itzkan's pointe shoes, from her very first pair up until the moment she got her first professional contract as a corps member with MCB last month. The image not only calls attention to the hard work and dedication necessary for young dancers to achieve their dreams, but to the sacrifices parents make to help them get there.

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News
Orlando Ballet dancers Kate-Lynn Robichaux and Arcadian Broad. Photo by Michael Cairns, courtesy Orlando Ballet.

It's been nearly a year and a half since Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico, but that doesn't mean the effects of the storm aren't still being widely felt. Thousands of Puerto Ricans relocated to Florida after the storm hit (the exact number is unknown), and many are still settled in Orlando.

This weekend, Orlando Ballet brings its Bailamos! program to audiences in Central Florida, and the company is offering 1,000 free tickets to Puerto Ricans in the area who were displaced by the hurricane. The ticket donation was organized in partnership with Orlando's Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, who helped spread the word about how individuals and families could claim their tickets to the February 16 matinee. Some of the marketing for the performance was entirely in Spanish, and the program will also include an insert for Spanish-speaking audiences. "We're not just a professional ballet company; we are Orlando Ballet and we have a role to play in this community," says executive director Shane Jewell. "We have a social responsibility, I believe, as an arts organization, to do whatever we can to enrich the quality of life for everyone who's here."

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News
Colorado Ballet's Dana Benton as Dorothy. Kate Rolston, Courtesy Colorado Ballet.

Picture The Wizard of Oz, and your head probably fills with yellow brick roads, flying monkeys, emerald cities and ruby slippers. Now imagine what it takes to translate that magic to the stage—and what it would look like in pointe shoes.

On Friday, Colorado Ballet will present the company premiere of Septime Webre's The Wizard of Oz, a ballet they produced jointly with Kansas City Ballet and Royal Winnipeg Ballet (KCB presented the world premiere back in October, and RWB will have their turn this May). The three companies split the costs of creating the full-length story ballet, which includes an original score by Matthew Pierce; 120 colorful costumes (plus 112 hats!) designed by Liz Vandal; projection technology and flying effects; and puppetry (including a puppet Toto) by Nicholas Mahon, who recently worked on the opening ceremony for the 2018 Winter Olympics. The result is a major new production none of the companies likely would have been able to pull off on their own.

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Ballet Stars
Catherine Conley is now a member of the National Ballet of Cuba. Photo courtesy Riley Robinson

This time last year, Catherine Conley was already living a ballet dancer's dream. After an exchange between her home ballet school in Chicago and the Cuban National Ballet School in Havana, she'd been invited to train in Cuba full-time. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, and one that was nearly unheard of for an American dancer. Now, though, Conley has even more exciting news: She's a full-fledged member of the National Ballet of Cuba's corps de ballet.

Photo courtesy Miguel Gutierrez

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Vanessa Woods in Saint Louis Ballet's Swan Lake. Pratt + Kreidich Photography, Courtesy Woods.

During her second season at Saint Louis Ballet in 2012, Vanessa Woods' search for a fulfilling side job led her to start her own. With a reputation of being "the business ballerina" (she earned her degree in marketing from Washington University in St. Louis' night program while dancing with SLB), Woods began brainstorming ideas with her mom.

After realizing seniors were overlooked in the dance world, Woods decided to create Vitality Ballet, a program for senior citizens. "I think as dancers we're used to being told what to do," she says. "At times it's hard to figure out what to do next, and how do you properly launch a website, and figure out pricing, and hire teachers?"

Woods teaching Vitality Ballet. Pratt + Kreidich Photography, Courtesy Woods.

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Ballet Stars
Photo by Quinn Wharton

Fabrice Calmels has his studio look down to a science: a warm vest, traditional ballet tights, his favorite Lululemon yoga pants and—most importantly—the piece he calls his "accent T-shirt," which acts as the focal point. "I don't like anything too flashy," the Joffrey Ballet dancer says, "but I will always have an accent T-shirt, and it's always a cartoon character that is really well known." His collection of shirts features Pokémon, Transformers and Lilo & Stitch, among others.

Accents play a role in his streetwear, too. "It depends where the accent color is," he says. "If I pick whiter shoes, then I try to keep my jeans and my upper body a little bit darker, plain. If it's my shirt, then my shoes are going to be much more simple." Calmels gets some of his ideas about fashion from friends he's made in the modeling world. After participating in a Versace campaign in Chicago, he signed with IMG Models. He favors an urban vibe—well-cut leather jackets, classic T-shirts, jeans and sneakers. But even with staple pieces, he has an eye for quality and detail. "I'm looking for cool, slightly different, but still simple," he says. "Not just a plain T-shirt you can find anywhere."

Photo by Quinn Wharton

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