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The Darlings of Arizona

A look at how Arizona has quickly become one of the US Hotspots in Dance featuring: Amber Skaggs (Master Ballet Academy), McKenna Johnson, and Evelyn Lyman (The Ballet Clinic).

It’s no secret that summers in Arizona are hot, but this summer, Arizona is smoking hot. Over the years, Arizona enjoyed a history and pedigree of dance that has been long forgotten. At one time, The School of Ballet Arizona was directed by internationally acclaimed and award-winning teacher Han Kee Juan, famously noted for training young David Hallberg (formerly and Principal dancer at Bolshoi and American Ballet Theatre, and now artistic director of The Australian Ballet). Arizona produced dancers like Holly Cruikshank (Hubbard Street/Broadway), Anthony Spaulding (formerly The San Francisco Ballet), and Joseph Gordon (New York City Ballet), Satchel Tanner (Stuttgart Ballet), and Giselle Bethea (formerly American Ballet Theater). In recent years, however, Arizona has skyrocketed with talent, and we aren’t just saying that because A Ballet Education is based in Arizona. In the commercial world, schools like Club Dance established themselves by winning The Dance Awards in 2017, and Master Ballet Academy has produced dancers like Maddison Penney (The Royal Ballet School Upper School) and William “Jack” Beckham (Tulsa Ballet).

While the focus in Arizona has moved from Arizona’s resident company’s school to smaller schools scattered throughout the state, it doesn’t take away from the talent pool that is being homegrown,drawn-to, and cultivated in the Copper State. 

In Arizona this year, three local young women have proven themselves as powerhouses in the ballet world and have rightfully gained international acclaim. These beauties, both inside and out, exemplify the quality of training Arizona has to offer and are about to launch and take on the ballet world on their own: Amber Skaggs (Master Ballet Academy); McKenna Johnson and Evelyn Lyman (The Ballet Clinic).

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One of the most admirable qualities about these three women, and a huge testament to their excellence in training, is their array of different body types that embody athleticism and power. Amber Skaggs is an out-of-this-world technician that will serve you lines for days with a sweet demeanor. McKenna Johnson embodies sublime elegant sophistication in her dancing, matched by strong technique and humility. Evelyn Lyman dances full of wanderlust, with an effortless ballon (air time, most articulate epaulement, yet with a jump that rivals most men. 

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Amber Skaggs, trained under Slawomir and Irena Wozniak from Master Ballet Academy, was a 2021 Prix de Lausanne candidate, a consistent YAGP Finalist, and longtime A Ballet Education model. Amber heads out into the world of ballet this year with a number of impressive offers. No stranger to the limelight, she has an impressive 69.2K followers on Instagram and has earned a list of laudable accolades, including winning The Hope Award not once, but twice, and first place in the Senior Classical category this year at YAGP Finals in Tampa. Amber has attended prestigious summer courses including The School of American Ballet, Ellison Ballet, The Paris Opera Ballet School, San Francisco Ballet, and this summer, Amber will be attending American Ballet Theater. 

McKenna Johnson, an Arizona native, was a YAGP semi-final winner and YAGP Finalist this year and will be attending The European School of Ballet (Amsterdam) on a full-scholarship in the Fall. McKenna has also attended prestigious summer courses, including The School of American Ballet, Ballet West, Indiana Ballet Conservatory, and will be attending Boston Ballet this year. She has completed short-term stays at  The Royal Ballet Upper School, Ballet West, and received a short-term scholarship to Dutch National Ballet. 

Evelyn Lyman, trained under David King and Ashley Baker from The Ballet Clinic, was a YAGP Finalist and, at the age of 17, was offered a position with Orlando Ballet II at YAGP Finals in Tampa. Evelyn Lyman also received numerous scholarships and offers from prestigious schools like Miami City Ballet School, English National Ballet School Trainee, National Ballet of Canada, The Joffrey Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, and more. Evelyn’s summer course resumé includes The Chautauqua Institute, Colorado Ballet, Ballet West, and San Francisco Ballet. Evelyn has also received scholarships to Pacific Northwest Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet Academy Summer Intensive, Alberta Ballet, and The Royal Winnipeg Ballet. This fall, Evelyn will be moving to Florida to join Orlando Ballet II. Check out Evelyn’s Youtube.

But it wasn’t just these three women alone who are putting Arizona on the worldwide ballet map. At YAGP Finals, the list of accolades for Arizona dancers was long and distinguished. Master Ballet Academy brought a total of ten dancers and had numerous wins and The Ballet Clinic brought eight. At YAGP finals, here are some of the scholarships that Arizonians raked up: 

Ballet West Short Term Scholarship
Elizabeth Anderson, Master Ballet Academy

Bolshoi Ballet Academy Summer Intensive
Nikolas Adarmes, The Ballet Clinic

Colorado Ballet Academy Full Scholarship for the year
Brooklyn Brizendine, The Ballet Clinic

Houston Ballet Academy Short Term Scholarship
Taylor O’Meara, Master Ballet Academy 
Leonidas Adarmes, The Ballet Clinic

Joffrey Academy of Dance Full Year Admission
Elizabeth Anderson, Master Ballet Academy 
Amber Skaggs, Master Ballet Academy
Evelyn Lyman, The Ballet Clinic

San Francisco Ballet School Full Year Scholarship
Leonidas Adarmes, The Ballet Clinic 

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Trainee to Sarasota Ballet
Annabelle Gourley, The Ballet Clinic
Chase Vining, Master Ballet Academy

Sarasota Ballet Summer Intensive Scholarship
CJ Robinson, Arizona School of Classical Ballet

Alberta Ballet Trainee
Annabelle Gourley, The Ballet Clinic 

Alberta Ballet Short Term Scholarship
Noah Lehman, Master Ballet Academy 
Sabrina Dorsey, Master Ballet Academy 

Basel Ballet Theater School in Basel, Switzerland Full Scholarship 
Laina Mae Kirkeide, The Ballet Clinic

Basel Ballet Theater School in Basel, Short Term Scholarship
Noah Lehman, Master Ballet Academy
Sabrina Dorsey, Master Ballet Academy 

Dutch National Ballet Short Term Scholarship 
Channing Dennis, Master Ballet Academy 

English National Ballet School Full Year Admission
Brooklyn Brizendine, The Ballet Clinic
Elizabeth Anderson, Master Ballet Academy

Princess Grace Academy Monaco, Full Scholarship 
Nina Hohlt, Master Ballet Academy 

The Royal Ballet School of Antwerp, Belgium Full-year Admission
Maya Schonbrun, Master Ballet Academy 


Help Marcus Ian Taylor attend the Princess Grace Academy in Monaco by supporting his Go Fund Me.


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Styling by David King
Dresses by Mia Bella Couture
Tiaras by David King

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