Ballet Stars

2019 Stars of the Corps: Staatsballett Berlin's Yuria Isaka

Yan Revazov, Courtesy Staatsballett Berlin

When Yuria Isaka danced the grand pas de deux in Staatsballett Berlin's The Nutcracker alongside Daniil Simkin last winter, you never would have known it was her first season as a professional; a graduate of the Princess Grace Academy in Monaco, the fledgling corps member dances with a refined maturity and pristine clarity, exuding a particularly honest and infectious joy. "It's only now starting to sink in that I got to dance Clara," admits Isaka, a native of Japan. "Daniil is so imaginative and kind, and really took time to work with me on the role. It was amazing to dance with him!"


Isaka in La Bayadère. Markus Rack, Courtesy Staatsballett Berlin.

Along with dancing her dream role, Isaka shined this season as a demi-soloist Bayadère in Alexei Ratmansky's reconstruction of La Bayadère, in the pas de trois of Patrice Bart's Swan Lake and as a carnival jester in John Cranko's Romeo and Juliet. Though she's the smallest dancer in the company, her height doesn't limit her aspirations. "I try to concentrate on myself every day, and working toward more principal roles," she says. "It helps to focus on what's in front of you."

Francisco Estevez, Courtesy Colorado Ballet Academy

When you're looking for a ballet program to take you to the next level, there are a lot of factors to consider. While it's tempting to look for the biggest name that will accept you, the savvy dancer knows that successful training has more to do with the attention and opportunities you'll get.

We put together a few of the most important things for dancers to look for in a summer or year-round training program, with the help of the experts at Colorado Ballet Academy:

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Everything Nutcracker
Pennsylvania Ballet demi-soloist Thays Golz as the Sugar Plum Fairy during a stage rehearsal for George Balanchine's Nutcracker. All photography by Arian Molina Soca.

For many professional ballet dancers, Nutcracker means weeks of performances. That usually translates to multiple casts—and important breakout opportunities for those in the junior ranks. On the afternoon of December 13, Pennsylvania Ballet demi-soloist Thays Golz made her debut as the Sugar Plum Fairy along with her Cavalier, corps member Austin Eylar. For the Brazilian-born dancer, who joined PAB in 2018 after two seasons at Houston Ballet, Sugar Plum marks one of her first principal roles.

"I'm really excited," says Golz. PAB artistic director Angel Corella appointed 12 casts of Sugar Plum Fairies over the run's 29 performances. "When I first found out, I was like, 'Pinch me!' I still can't believe it."

We caught up with Golz just before her debut to see how she prepared for her big break.

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Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy US Prix de Ballet

The US Prix de Ballet is taking an unconventional approach to the ballet competition—by putting the competitors' health first. After a successful first year in 2018, the Prix is returning to San Diego, CA this February with an even more comprehensive lineup of wellness workshops and master classes, in addition, of course, to the high-level competition.

Though the talent is top-notch, the environment is friendly, says HARID Conservatory faculty member Victoria Schneider, who serves on US Prix de Ballet's elite panel of judges. "The wellbeing of the dancer is the main focus," says Schneider, who awarded three scholarships to HARID at last year's competition.

US Prix de Ballet was born after its founders traveled to the Japan Grand Prix International Ballet Competition in 2016. "The company ran every aspect of the competition with professionalism, dignity, honor and precision," says founder Neisha Hernandez. "We knew we wanted this level of experience for America."

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