Help get these kids to their dream schools!

Hey guys! We are getting down to the wire! There are about six kids who have reached out to me who are trying to get to their dream schools.

You can donate individually via their go fund me or you can VENMO me at @davidjwking and the money will be split evenly.

Mia Patton – housing expenses at JKO year-round
Click the pic for her Go Fund Me
Joe Dufty – SFB year-round
Donate anonymously and equally via Venmo: davidjwking

So, you want all the insider information about YAGP Finals…

Tune in this Sunday, April 24, 2022 @ 10:00 AM on Instagram Live! You don’t want to miss out!

How does YAGP finals work? What are you doing wrong? What are you doing right? How do you make the most out of your time at finals? How do scholarships work? What are they looking for? Are they even looking?

(photo of Isabella Roman, courtesy of Star Action Shots, YAGP Senior Final Round 2022)

And the winners of YAGP 2022 are…

Over seven hundred soloists, and over 1,500 kids have come together one last time this season to celebrate the largest ballet scholarship competition in the world: the Youth America Grand Prix, founded by Larissa and Gennadi Saveliev. Many of the world’s leading professional dancers have come through the Youth America Grand Prix at some point in time, and this year, a new generation of winners, participants and outstanding dancers have been announced. As our industry is slowly recovering from the devastation and setbacks of the pandemic, the Youth America Grand Prix has pushed through and hosted their international finals in Tampa, Florida at the Straz Center for the Arts. 

(cover photo: by Star Action Shots)

Dancers ages nine to twenty-two, from 30 different countries, have come together and competed across the classical ballet variation category and the contemporary category, taken numerous classes with international directors and master teachers, reconnected with old friends and have made new friends that will become lifelong colleagues. 

The anticipation built as the Straz Center became packed with parents, teachers, and coaches. All the participants were lined up, wrapping around Patel Conservatory, and everyone was ready to find out who would be named the next Grand Prix winner and be alongside the history and talent of this organization.

Asuka Hara, age 10, Ballet Le Coeur, Japan wins the Hope Award. Photo courtesy of Star Action Shots.

Asuka Hara, YAGP ambassador and YAGP Japan standout has been making a splash all season. Her version of graduation ball (click here to watch her compete at the YAGP Japan Semi-Final) has been the talk of the competitive ballet season. The girl is a superstar in the making.

Alexei Orohovsky, age 14, from Elite Classical Coaching wins the Youth Grand Prix. Photo courtesy of Star Action Shots.

Alexei Orohovsky, from Elite Classical Coaching, won the Youth Grand Prix Award with his version of The Talisman. Dressed in all white, Alexei looks like a Russian prince and dances with ease. This American is also a Helsinki candidate, where he will compete the first week in June.

The other big prizes of the night included the Shelley King Award for Excellence. It was awarded to Minori De Silva, age 12, from Morning Star Dance Academy for her variation: La Esmeralda.

The Natalia Makarova Award for Artistry was given to Charlize Hardwick, age 14, from Bayer Ballet Academy for her Giselle Peasant Pas De Deux variation.

Outstanding Choreographer went to YAGP Gala Choreographer, and internationally recognized Maria Konrad.

This year, multiple prizes were not awarded, and they included: The Grand Prix Award (designated to seniors), Outstanding School, and Outstanding Teacher.

However, a new award was introduced: The YAGP Humanitarian Award, and this year it was given to Larissa Saveliev for her work for the Ukrainian dancers. YAGP has placed over 100 Ukranian dancers on full scholarships during this time.

But this year, the talent was killer and the winners list was long.

The Senior Women Winners:

1ST PLACEMaya Schonbrun (17)Master Ballet Academy, AZ, USA
2ND PLACENatalie Steele (15)Dmitri Kulev Classical Ballet Academy, CA, U
3RD PLACELexi Mccloud (17)Moga Conservatory of Dance, UT, USA

The Senior Men Winners:

1ST PLACEArthur Wille (20)ATM Centro Cultural de Dança, Brasil
2ND PLACEZander Magolnick (16)Elite Classical Coaching, TX, USA
3RD PLACEHoyeon Kim (15)Sunhwa Arts High School, South Korea

The Junior Women Winners:

1ST PLACE Nao Nakajima (14) Symphony Ballet Studio, Japan

2ND PLACE Yerin Ok (14) Yewon School, South Korea

3RD PLACE Crystal Huang (13) Nevada School of Dance, NV, USA

3RD PLACE Sophia Koo (14) Southland Ballet Academy, CA, USA

The Junior Men Winners:

1ST PLACE Denis Watanabe (14) Watanabe-Buber Ballet Academy, Japan

2ND PLACE João Pedro Dos Santos Silva (13) Balé do Teatro Escola Basileu França, Brasil

3RD PLACE Suhyeok Bang (14) Sunhwa Arts Middle School, South Korea

3RD PLACE Clovis Couillard (14) Ecole du Ballet de Paris Stanlowa, France

Pre Competitive- Women’s Classical

1ST PLACE Yuna Yamada (9) Kinue Kobayashi Ballet Studio, Japan

2ND PLACE Mikaela Cameron (11) A&A Ballet, KS, USA

3RD PLACE Maria Qixin Tian (11) MorningStar Dance Academy, GA, USA

3RD PLACE Shaqueena Yefta Hutasoit (11) Marlupi Dance Academy, Indonesia

Pre Competitive- Men’s Classical

1ST PLACE Ruan Santiago (11) Ballet Monica Luiza, Brasil

2ND PLACE Leon Yusei Sai (10) Southland Ballet Academy, CA, USA

3RD PLACE Michael Savio (10) Stars Dance Studio, FL, USA

Pre Competitive- Women’s Contemporary

1ST PLACE Kiera Sun (11) Dmitri Kulev Classical Ballet Academy, CA, USA

2ND PLACE Morgan Ligon (10) Elite Classical Coaching, TX, USA

3RD PLACE Phoebe Ingram (11) Indiana Ballet Conservatory, IN, USA

Pre Competitive– Men’s Category

1ST PLACE Michael Savio (10) Stars Dance Studio, FL, USA

2ND PLACE Ruan Santiago (11) Ballet Monica Luiza, Brasil

3RD PLACE Dylan Custodio (10) Fort Lauderdale Youth Ballet, FL, USA

Classical Pas De Deux Winners:

1ST PLACE Maya Schonbrun (17), Cruz Vining (17) Master Ballet Academy, AZ, USA for Swan Lake Black Swan Act III

2ND PLACE Kyra Orozco-Davey (14), Samuel Morris (17) City Ballet San Francisco, CA, USA for Grand Pas Classique

3RD PLACE Nina Miró Verger (11), Asier Bautista (13) Jove Ballet de Catalunya, Spain for Le Corsaire

Contemporary Pas De Deux Winners

1ST PLACE Nali Dobrin (13), Gramada Dragos (13) Choreography High School ”Floria Capsali” / Dance Planet, Romania for Spirits Talking

2ND PLACE Kailin Kratz (15), Kyawzwa Lwin (18) City Ballet – San Francisco, CA, USA for Prelude

3RD PLACE Michael Savio (10), Kya Massimino (11) Stars Dance Studio, FL, USA for Scherzo

Small Ensembles:

1ST PLACE Eureka! Mid-Atlantic Center for the Performing Arts, MD, USA

2ND PLACE Melliflous Ballet de Galicia, Diego Landín, Spain

3RD PLACE Raymonda Cavaliers UNCSA, NC, USA

Large Ensembles:

1ST PLACE Coppelia Friends Act 1 The Art of Classical Ballet, FL, USA

2ND PLACE Tang Dynasty OAEC, TX, USA

3RD PLACE Virus Ballet de Galicia, Diego Landín, Spain

YAGP FINALS 2022: Junior Final Round

In an industry where everything matters, thousands of dollars are spent monthly, and there is little to no payoff— last night was the first of two nights where all of the handwork and crazy pays off, sort of: The Youth America Grand Prix Junior Final Round. Last night’s dancing was wonderful and inspiring. Every year we in the ballet community are reminded that the next generation of talent is brighter, hungrier, and full of energy.

Setting the stage for the junior final round:

Truthfully, everyone was anxiously waiting around Tampa, checking their phones and refreshing the website waiting in anticipation for YAGP to publish the list of junior finalists. This was after four days of classes, numerous opportunities to be seen, and competing a classical variation and contemporary solo. And then the moment of truth happened. YAGP took the Instagram and published the numbers dotted in green.

However, once the list was published, social media took off. It normally takes off every year with either envy, gossip or just pure excitement— but this year the talk was about the “R” word. Out of the hundreds, and I mean hundreds of finalists, only one American and one Canadian BIPOC were selected. It seemed everyone on social media had something to say, and they aren’t wrong. While ballet has been predominately white, this year the competition has been dominated by Asian and Asian American dancers from every corner of the globe. And while, I myself am Asian, and I am happy to see the recognition and prominence of visibility coming for myself, I am still disheartened how there still isn’t very much color at YAGP. 

I am the first person to say, don’t give us something just because the color of our skin, but on the competitive circuit, that isn’t the only factor that determines your success on the competitive ballet circuit. You have to come from the right financial background to afford any— no half of this. Between tutus, private lessons, pointe shoes, travel expenses and more, the costs of attending YAGP finals is pretty high. Students from around the world: Bulgaria, Brazil, Spaind, France, Mexico, Lithuania, Korea, Mexico, Japan, Indonesia, and more all had to pay for flights, COVID tests and a hotel for eleven days during one of the most expensive seasons in Florida (spring break). But the problems only start there. Attending a school that has prominence, a Russian coach, or being a social media star also factors into the competition. YAPG finals is where the whose who of ballet coaches congregate, exchange war stories, and reminisce about performances past. Here, former colleagues from around the world congregate and create a dynamic that we are all too familiar with: high school. 

From the American candidates in the junior final round, Elite Classical Coaching dominated with four soloists out of the 65 invited to the final round. But there were all the normal power players invited to the final round: Master Ballet Academy. Ellison, Dmitri Kulev, Morningstar, Southalnd, Art of Classical, and City Dance. There were also the new schools who have risen to fame via social media and good training like WestMet and Ospiova, but the competition was dominated by the international students. 

Normally, the final round is combined both juniors and seniors, and the the competition is beyond ferocious as very view are invited to perform. Because YAGP was divided into two, more juniors were invited, and it really did show the difference in commitment, respect for the art, and how culturally ballet is accepted. 

The youngest competitor was Ava Ramirez (12) from Columbia City Ballet who brought harlequinade and ended this audience favorite with four pirouettes. Most of the girls on stage did a minimum of four pirouettes, but at twelve, she set the tone for the night. While the night continued on with semi-final hope award winners and grand prix winners, the next stand out was Crystal Huang who was in the final round last year as the youngest (she also brought Harlequinade in 2021). While there might be talk that she’s not on the ballet path, her technique is clean, she was born to perform and the girl can do it all. This year she brought the entrance variation from Esmeralda and did what she does best: dance. The leg was up on both sides, the turns were fierce and the jumps were crazy. 

Clara Riggs also came to dance last night. From Dmitri Kulev. The girl threw down with Graduation Ball. Again, the legs were high, the eyes were bright, the turns were fantastic, and the girl was just enjoyable to watch.

Girl after girl the body type was very clear, and the Americans did everything they could to combat it. This was the year of skirts, pants and fake arches. 

And then came Sophia Koo (Korean American), a spotlight finalist, and from Southland Ballet, came to serve us some Paquita. The leg was up, so up that people cheered. From a school that has long produced winners, social media stars, and SYTCD finalists. 

The competition heated up with the boys, and it was clear that the boy candidate didn’t come to bank on P points. Joao Pedro Dos Santos Silva (13) SLAYED La Fille Mal Gardee. Turns for days, jumps for days, flexible, and tall the boy put it out like it was going out of style. Then three in a row Suhyeok Bang (Korea), MinJun Sun (Korea), and Denis Wantanabe (Japan) slayed it out. And finally the night ended with Helsinki candidate from Elite Classical Coaching, Alexei Orohovsky who competed Talisman.

Predictions for Juniors?

If there is a Junior Grand Prix candidate this year I think it will either go to Minjun Suh (Korea) or Joao Pedro Dos Santos Silva. The tops spots for juniors, don’t be surprised to hear the names: Sophia Koo, Crystal Huang, Anya Donaghy, Elizabeth Feng, Clovis Couillard, Denis Wantanabe, Suhyeok Bang, Leonidas Adarmes, and Cesar Ortega Garcia, Gramada Dragos. 

Photos by Star Action Shots

The Chess Game of Ballet Strategy…

When it comes to ballet, parents can get a little a crazy, and truthfully, I don’t blame them. Between the hours of dedication, the thousands in tuition, pointe shoes, private lessons and costumes, you should have some sort of strategic plan, right? Parents start to strategize what YAGP they will go to, what the odds of finals invitations are, what weekend to audition, and what summer course is going to look best on the resumé. All of these things matter to some extent, but at the end of the day, unfortunately ballet is still only based on three things:

  1. Your body type, look, and facility. Lame, I know. Trust me, I know.
  2. Your level of technique. Manageable, always upsetting, and kind of a daunting task, but doable.
  3. How you move, or the quality of the dancing. This is what should matter, but is always overlooked and trumped by body type.

Unfortunately, there is no principal contract for effort, handwork, or perfect attendance, but then again, major league sports are the same way.

Parents will do anything for their kids, and will do anything to see the success of dreams. I have seen parents donate thousands of dollars to companies, hoping that they will offer child something. And unfortunately, sometimes it works. Regardless, parents go above and beyond to make ballet happen, and because of that, it makes them go a little crazy.

You know crazy ballet parents, the kind of parents that are super secretive about where their child is auditioning or attending, pretending they don’t know anything, plotting years in advance their child’s future, and chasing instagram followers. You know, the kind of parent that will spend hundreds of dollars for a workshop so that their child can get a photo with a famous ballet dancer. 

Recently, social media and “fast art” have come head to head with the very fundamentals of ballet. Producing content at a super high rate for the sake of staying on top of a trend, but at what cost? Most young dancers are barely training anymore, and they are focused on winning competitions and being photographed by the next insta-famous photographer. Older generations accuse social media of ruining ballet, while others are embracing the exposure and network social media has created. 

But, I will be honest with you. If you want to be successful in ballet that strategy is plain and simple: focus on the work, the art, and the technique and be patient. You can’t rush turnout, feet, or legs. It is a process. It is a painstaking process that most schools see as an eight to ten year process to even be considered a possibility as a professional ballet dancer. Because of this, instant gratification and instant results are usually not how it works. Just because you go to a school that is known for turns, doesn’t mean after a week of training there you will be able to turn.

When it comes to the competitive strategy, I think it is overthought way too much. Dance cleanly and lovely, and try your best. At the end of the day, ballet is still subjective, and preference, whatever preference it is based on, will win.

When it comes to technique, yes, you should have a plan. You should be at a school that believes in your child, and wants to help your child grow.

When it comes to your body type, I would embrace what the baby Jesus gave you. Because you can not change it, no matter how hard you pray or want longer legs or “better proportions.” If your technique is strong and clean, you will be noticed and given the recognition of technique. If you move beautifully, your artistry will be recognized. But, if you have a “difficult” body type, be the best and be undeniable in talent.

As we continue to pursue ballet at the ridiculous level that it has become, the crazy becomes that much more intense. And while I do believe social media has become an amazing tool for the arts, we have to remember that the foundations of ballet are rooted in constraint, composure, and the work ethic behind the art form. 

Sydney Upchurch, the Prix de Lausanne Candidate We Should All Be Watching


Prix de Lausanne, the equivalent of the Olympics for young dancers, is a prestigious ballet competition known for making future ballet superstar recently announced their list of 81 finalists. One of the finalists and the only African American selected to participate at the Prix de Lausanne, Sydney Upchurch (age 15), is a talented young dancer from Cary Ballet. Under the keen direction of Mariaelena Ruiz (YAGP Finals Outstanding Teacher), Sydney will be competing against some of the most gifted and ferocious young dancers of the ballet world. She will be going up against the crème de la crème representing 17 countries from around the world. This year Prix de Lausanne selected 49 girls and 32 boys to contest for the coveted top prizes over the first week of February 2022. 

Right before the selections were announced, Ashley Lorraine Baker was able to photograph Sydney in her hometown of Cary, North Carolina during rehearsal for  Balanchine’s Serenade, staged by the one and only Suzanne Farrell. 


Sydney and Nathan rehearsing Balanchine’s Serenade staged by Suzanne Farrell. Photo by Ashley Lorraine Baker

Here is a quick interview with the beautiful young American ballerina:

Click the photo below to help Sydney get to Prix!

Notes on La Vivandière

A lot of people asked me why I chose La Vivandière for my student this year. The ballet has practically died in America and frankly, it is almost impossible to do well with at a ballet competition. Part of me wanted to be like Cary Ballet’s Mariaelana Ruiz who brought Laurencia back to popularity in the United States Ballet competition scene in 2012 with Regina Montgomery who is now a demi-soloist at Tulsa Ballet. You know, bring something back, make it known again, be a part of something, all of that good stuff, but the reality, La Vivandière is one of my favorite variations for a female. I first saw the variation in 2003, when I saw The Company, you know, the variation in which the dancer snaps her Achilles. But even then it was mesmerizing. Seeing a variation for a female that commands so much airtime, and must have the most ferocious jump ever makes me love ballet even more.

Enter Evelyn Lyman. Evelyn has always been a good jumper. In fact, she is one of the best jumpers I have seen in a long time. I knew from the moment she joined my school that this was going to be her variation, and my chance to have someone compete with a variation from La Vivandière. I knew I had to be extra careful, so we never really did the variation full out while learning it, always in parts, and always made sure she was extra warm and had leg warmers on. 

As I started working on the variation with her, I knew that everything had to be perfect, but like a lot of coaches out there, I also wanted to make sure I put my take or my staging together. I actually needed a lot of help from Ashley Baker, making sure I was true to the choreography and keeping the steps intact. 

For Evelyn, it paid off. She made it YAGP final round, and even though she didn’t win, she walked away with numerous scholarships and most importantly, she walked away with job at 17 years old. 


So now, La Vivandière or Markitenka as it is called in Russia is a 1 Act ballet by Arthur Saint-Léon and Fanny Cerrito with music by Cesare Pugni and  Jean-Baptiste Nadaud. The ballet was first presented on May 23, 1844, by the Ballet of Her Majesty’s Theatre in London. The principal Dancers were Fanny Cerrito (as Kathi or the Vivandière, and Arthur Saint-Léon as Hans. If you didn’t know, at one time Saint-Léon and Cerritos were married for a time and we owe A LOT of ballet this glorious pair.

Petipa revived the ballet in 1881 at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre. 

La Vivandière Pas De Six has survived because of Saint-Léon’s La Stenographie notation. So, basically, the ballet as a whole was not so hot. But what did survive was the original pas de quatre that was very popular and often used in galas. But, when the production went to Paris, Saint-Leon expanded the foursome into a six and made it into a two-act ballet. Because of the success from the pas de six, Sain-Léon fully noted it and published it in his book La Stenographie. 

It then made its way into more current times through the reconstruction by dance notation expert Ann Hutchinson-Guest and Pierre Lacotte, ballet genius, and master of all, for the Joffrey Ballet in 1975. In 1978 Lacotte staged the piece for Mariinsky. Now the Pas De Six has been staged all over the world because of how danceable it is, and the fact you only need one male dancer. Even then, lack of men. Maybe not so much anymore, but you get the idea. You can read more about the ballet in Ann Hutchinson-Guest’s book available on Amazon.

Okay, onto the notes about this variation.

This variation is ferocious. It isn’t your typical 5 part variation female principal variation. In fact, this variation is 50 seconds of pure jumping. It is a mix of petit allegro, moderato, and grand allegro all finished with extremely fast pointe work. 

What is a Vivandière? She is a woman attached to military regiments as canteen keepers or selling wine. Not your typical ballet fairy-princess-sylph-waify role. 

I think the most important part of this variation is making sure that the dancer can jump, travel, and can move well. One of the biggest mistakes I think dancers or coaches make when it comes to this variation is to make it look Bournonville, and I get it. The dress, the jump, and all of that. But, does that always make for good dancing? Probably not. 

Ok. So the first part of this variation, traveling the opening Bournonville jeté is crucial as it sets up the rest of the variation. The assemblés should assemble quickly in the air to make for a clean fifth position. Something that my dear Evelyn had to be reminded of constantly. If she is reading this, she knows… And her defense, who likes doing things in écarté derriere. You know, it’s just not flattering…. ever.

Then comes the super long diagonal of sissone failles and assemblés. We chose to make the assemblés in effacé because I think it is more flattering for any dancer, but again preference. We also chose to cut the last sissone so she could have more character and artistry. Also, it’s a good chance to breathe before the feared part.

Okay, so the next part is the section of gargouillades, which is arguably one of the hardest steps in ballet. Arguably, Margaret Tracey has the best gargouillade ever. Watch it in Balanchine’s Nutcracker in Marzipan. Normally, you are supposed to do the gargouillade to attitude back and then emboîte, but that is one difficult, two ugly, and three it is ugly. For me, it was all about the accent of the second leg in the gargouillade and then a super clean transition with leg up, show off your flexibility. 

The ending diagonal is hard because it is all about turnout! Making sure you travel appropriately (meaning super far) and getting over your box quickly. When doing the precipités, make sure the second leg is turned out to the audience. Then it ends with super fast beats, make sure you don’t over cross, just a super clean position so it shows the control of the footwork and that you aren’t just flinging the foot around. Most people end the variation with a temps de flesh, buuuuut, it’s competition and I wanted to show that she could also turn, not just jump. Also, whatever you do…. DO NOT SLOW DOWN THE MUSIC.

Photo courtesy of Evelyn Lyman / Taken by StarActionShots at YAGP 2021 Final Round

I think one of the biggest things with this variation is bringing personality to the steps because the steps alone are just not good enough. Even if the steps are super difficult, it doesn’t make for good dancing. Good dancing has to come from the dancer, the connection to the role, the music, and the interpretation of the steps.


-When performing use extremely soft pointe shoes, break them, cut the shanks, do whatever you need to do to make the foot look as pointed as possible in the air.

-We opted not for the Frau low bun, nor the French twist but the milk braids.

-We opted to rhinestone, because we rhinestone everything, and who doesn’t love a little bling.

Here are some videos to watch:

For more information on La Vivandiere:ère/ère_or_Markitenka

The Tutu Dilemma: costs versus practicality

It is that time of the year where high-end tutu makers and costume makers are taking deposits for the next competitive season. If you are new to the ballet competitive circuit, brace yourself, because it’s about to get very tricky, sort of expensive, and somewhat intense. Looking at photos on Instagram will show you that when it comes to finals or a major international competition, the cost is the last thing people think of. But, how much is too much for a tutu? What are you paying for? And, is it even necessary?

As someone who formerly worked in fashion, I can tell you that a good tutu is definitely worth the price. But what makes a good tutu, and how does it change the price of a tutu? And, are you getting ripped off?

Construction – It isn’t a secret that the more intricate the pattern, or the number of pieces, whether the costume is a stretch bodice or a boned bodice, makes a huge difference when cutting and sewing these beautiful works of art. A stretch bodice might have 6 or 8 pieces to construct and finished with surging, where a boned bodice might have 12 pieces, plus the boning, lining, piping, and finishing. The tutu/skirt itself might have 8 layers of tulle or more and whether or not it is being tacked, and whether or not you need a hoop. All of this is time-consuming. You really need to know what you are looking for, especially when looking at the grain and quality of the materials.

Fit – One of the biggest things you are paying for is fit. When ordering a tutu that is mass-produced, adjustments usually have to be made. When you are ordering a custom tutu, a good tutu maker will send you the toile (prototype made in muslin) for fitting. This will make all the difference. If your tutu maker is local, you should have two fittings.

Materials – Materials can get tricky, especially if you really don’t know what you are looking at or what certain materials feel like. The difference between cheap synthetic materials or actual silks. It is the difference between cutting a skirt in georgette or chiffon. These things add to the cost because the quality fabric is not cheap, especially when so little fabric is actually used in bodices and skirts. It would be very different if you were mass-producing 30 skirts or 1,000 bodices, but when the average bodice is about 1/2 a yard of fabric, the lower the quantity of fabric, the more expensive it is. Not to mention the grade of tulle/netting you use, or if there will be a hoop or no hoop. The list goes on. Not to mention the embellishments of a tutu really make a difference.

Design– One of the biggest things when it comes to purchasing a costume from a professional costume maker and/or ordering a custom-made tutu is that you are really paying for the design. Each tutu is basically couture, and the average couture dress costs about 10k-20k, not to mention we aren’t even going into haute couture. Design is the element of dance we often forget. Costume designers literally go to school for this and are paid to create works of art that move. They understand or should understand how the body moves, what is needed from the costume, and how the costume tells the story.

Okay, so now that we understand factors that change the costs, let’s look at some of the pros and cons of different companies and tutu makers!

If you are new to ballet and are trying to save money, the first place everyone looks is Aliexpress, where you can find tutus that range from $20-$300. This isn’t actually a bad idea, especially if you are on a budget. On the downside, you will need to know how to sew or take it to a sewist or tailor if you need any alterations. And you should definitely bling it up. The downside, well, sort of downside, running into someone in the same costume as you. Awkward.

If you have some intermediate to the advanced skill level of sewing, I actually think Conservatory by Prima Donna is a good way to go. Order blank bodices and tutus, plates, and such, sew them yourself, and design and decorate your tutu how you see fit. This way, you have the most control of your tutu. At The Ballet Clinic, we use this a lot. Annabelle Gourley used this company for both her tutus, Italian lace, and then her mom went to rhinestone town.

Semi-custom stretch tutus from Empire Tiaras will run between $600-$1,000. They are all stretch tutus sewn onto white tutu blanks. We used Empire Tiaras for Paquita but used our own embellishments as I like the bling, and I “need” control of how it looks. The only downside was the platter was too small based on the blank platter.

Ashley Hod, New York City Ballet, in A Ballet Network’s Paquitaww

A custom tutu from a high-end designer and costume maker will cost you between $900-$2,500. High-end designers around the world are extremely sought after and require deposits now, with the hopes of getting your tutu by December. These designers usually have stand-out tutus and are usually more stunning than a lot of professional tutus. These designers will talk with you, design and sketch, send you the toile, and then create the final. Many of these tutu makers will also fly with the tutu for the final fitting and adjustments of the hooks and eyes.

In my opinion, a lot of the costumes you see at YAGP or Lausanne are actually better than most ballet companies. Best costumes, though usually go to the Australian Ballet, Paris Opera, and New York City Ballet.

The biggest problem? Spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on something you will wear for one season and on something that a dancer will perform in maybe twice and then have for photos. The reality is ballet costumes are a huge investment, for what may be little to no payout. Do costumes help on stage? They really only help the dancer feel more professional and feel more performance-ready. Most judges really only care about the technique, the body, the facility, and the potential of a dancer. Keeping reading!

So, how do you save money?
Borrow or rent costumes. ( offers rentals here)
Buy a used costume. (Costume groups on Facebook)

Or, you do what I do. At the YAGP semi-finals, very few of our students competed in costumes. In fact, most of them did not. Ava Maskin placed third in San Diego wearing a Grishko Leotard and rehearsal skirt I made. Leonidas and Nikolas Adarmes placed in Phoenix just wearing their ballet uniforms. Evelyn Lyman competed in a freed rehearsal skirt and leotard, and the list goes on. Now, did that start a tizzy for everyone when it came to finals, absolutely?

But, I am also going to tell you that another student wore a standard $70 leotard from So Danca and used a $99 rehearsal platter, sewed some embellishments on it, banged out about 6 gross in Swarowskis, ordered a $10 tiara from Amazon (other ballet websites will charge you about $80 for the same things, and if you are in LA, you can go to Downtown LA and get even more premium tiaras for like $15) and called it day. Yes, you heard that right. Not to mention, she also made the final round at YAGP.

Laina Mae Kirkeide, YAGP Final Round, photo by Star Action Shots

Finally, if you are skilled at sewing, and I recommend having a decent surging machine, I definitely say, go to Tutu School. Tegan Chou’s mom has made all of her costumes over the years, and they are killer.

Here is a list of tutu makers that can be trusted and worth the price:

DQ Tutus
Diane Quimby Schaubach is the owner and designer of DQ Designs & Boutique. Her mother, Adele, an art teacher, gave Diane her very first sewing lessons — sparking a love for art and design from a young age. When her own daughters started dancing, Diane volunteered to help out backstage with the other moms. She took an interest in the construction of professional ballet tutus and started designing from her home studio in Cary, North Carolina starting in 2011. (See her lookbook here)

Matryoshka Tutus by Pamela Martin
Custom classical ballet tutus. Handcrafted on the Westcoast of Canada. You can shop her patterns via etsy or order from her website. (See her work here)

Atelier Risa
Based in Japan
Tutu.Com was founded in 1994 in Charlotte, NC and is home to several divisions specializing in professional-quality tutus and ballet costume service and supplies.

Bella Dolce Tutus

Empire Tiaras

Encena Costumes –
Made in Brazil.

YAGP FINALS 2021: Female Junior Final Round.

The City of Tampa has been highlighted for its sports domination in recent years, the Tampa Bay Bucs are Super Bowl Champs, The Tampa Bay Lightning are Stanley Cup Champs, winning quarterback Tom Brady’s exodus from Boston to Tampa, but now the best and brightest youth of the ballet world are here. The Youth America Grand Prix Finals event, usually held in New York City in April, has relocated to The Lightning Capital for the 2021 Season, running May 9-16 at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts.

337 – Gwyneth Smith (14), Awakening of Flora, Nashville Ballet | Photos courtesy of YAGP | Photo by Star Action Shots

Early Thursday morning, the sparks were flying with the announcement of the selection of Final Round Competitors for the Junior (ages 12-14) Women. A total of 35 exceptionally talented young dancers from the US, Canada and Mexico were selected to compete in the first act of YAGP’s Junior Women’s Gala at The Straz later this evening.

Like always, there were the expected well-known names and schools, and the surprises, the little-known hidden gems who have been toiling through the rough pandemic ballet landscape to make it here. This exceptionally tacit group of young women have been patching together their preparations for this evening’s competition between the quarantine zoom training days of last spring, virtual summer intensives, and now COVID testing and protocols developed by YAGP to keep everyone safe and healthy.

Crystal Huang (12) The Rock Center for Dance, NV.
Samantha Striplin (12) Peninsula School of Performing Arts, CA
Aurora Kellogg (12) Southland Ballet Academy, CA
Sofia Angelov (12) Independent, CA
Kennedy Kahler (12) Nevada School of Dance & The Rock Center for Dance, NV
Adelina Belusko (12) Pennsylvania Ballet Conservatory, PA
Isabel Yoder (13) Next Generation Ballet at the Straz Center, FL
Bella Jones (13) Elite Classical Coaching, TX
Isabella Howard (13) Nevada School of Dance & The Rock Center for Dance, NV
Ayva Royster (13) The Dallas Conservatory, TX
Madison Bevilacqua (13) Timothy M Draper Center for Dance Education, NY
Sarah Savage(13) The Art of Classical Ballet, FL
Aubri Parker (13) Pavlova Professional Coaching, TX
Charlize Hardwick (13) Bayer Ballet Academy, CA
Anya Donaghy (13) Evolve Dance Company, CA
Laina Mae Kirkeide (13) The Ballet Clinic, AZ
Elizabeth Feung (13) Morningstar Dance Academy, GA
Taylor O’Meara (13) Master Ballet Academy, AZ —
Audrey Beukelman (13) Denver Academy of Ballet, CO
Nina Hohlt (13) Master Ballet Academy, AZ
Sienna Morris (13) Ballet Conservatory at Skyra, FL
Isobel Lehman (13) Master Ballet Academy, AZ
Isabella Meier (13) Elite Classical Coaching, TX
Isabella McCool (13) St. Lucie Ballet, FL
Natalie Steele (14) Dmitri Kulev Classical Ballet Academy, CA
Paris Vigos (14) Illinois Classical Ballet, IL
Maya McDaniels (14) Mid-Atlantic Center for the Performing Arts, MD
Juliana Wilder (14) The Art of Classical Ballet, FL
Yana Geneva (14)Ballet Conservatory at Skyra, FL
Aaliyahmarie Key (14) Maryland Youth Ballet, MD
Valeria Franco (14) Kirov Academy of Ballet of Washington, DC
Gwyneth Smith (14) Nashville Ballet, TN
Aurora Chinchilla (14) Independent, FL
Amira Hogan (14) Vitacca School of Dance, TX
Fiona Poth (14) Dimitri Kulev Classical Ballet Academy, CA

The entire ballet world is grateful to the City of Tampa, The Straz, and YAGP for collaborating to give us a shining beacon that ballet continues to thrive and grow in this new post-pandemic world. We can’t wait to see the energy that this group brings to the stage tonight.

Some of the standouts of the night:

208 – Crystal Huang (12) Harlequinade, Nevada School of Dance & The Rock Center for Dance. | Photo Courtesy of YAGP | Photo by Star Action Shots

Crystal Huang opened the evening with a killer version of Harlequinade in a bright red tut. Nailing her turns immaculately this little girl packed a punch. Elizabeth Feung from Morningstar gave one of the most technically clean performances of the night. Everything was extremely placed, aligned, and delicate. Another great surprise of the night was how many “commercial-competition-turned-ballerinas” made it to the final round; Dancers like Izzy Howard, Sienna Morris, Kennedy Kahler, and Crystal Huang. I think if we look at a lot of American professional dancers, we see those who started in comp dance have a fire and tenacity that a lot of European Dancers don’t have. And, not to mention the fact that ballet is moving very contemporary, I definitely think that there is an advantage to having that competitive background.

Both young ladies who competed with Talisman gave performances that would rival a lot of professionals.

301 – Natalie Steele (14) Talisman, Dmitri Kulev | Photo courtesy of YAGP | Photo by Star Action Shots.

Natalie Steele from Dmitri Kulev came out with legs for days, but what was crazier is when her shank gave out towards the opening and she just danced on it like it was nothing. Isabella McCool from St. Lucie Ballet gave a very different version of Talisman, a very spicy version in an ombre skirt. I don’t think there were many surprises on who was selected for the final round, as most of the kids come from heavy hitter YAGP schools. I think one of the most delightful surprises was Aaliyahmarie Key, who comes from Maryland Youth Ballet. MYB hasn’t really taken very many students to YAGP since YAGP’s First Position, but she was definitely an unknown. Her port de bras (arms) were classic and extremely clean, her pointe technique was also pretty killer, but no surprise as she was coached by Olivier Munoz, a former YAGP judge turned new director to MYB. Master Ballet Academy from Arizona and the Rock Center for Dance from Nevada, had the most students represented with three each.

241- Bella Jones, Elite Classical Coaching, Raymonda | Photo Courtesy of YAGP | Photo by Star Action Shots

This year the energy was very different, as each final round is separated by gender and age, so watching the Junior Females gave a very feminine feeling, and I thought was more fair to see girls separate from the boys. The evening definitely showcased the dancers and each school’s coaching. Elite Classical’s Bella Jones and Bella Meier gave stunning lines, clean port de bras, and showed very adage quality. Gwyneth Smith from Nashville Ballet and Audrey Beukelman from Denver Ballet Academy definitely gave very acting/expressive performances with extremely expressive port de bras and genuinely sublime acting capabilities. Fiona Poth, also from Dmitri Kulev, definitely delivered both the artistry and the technique in Awakening of Flora. This was the perfect way to end the Junior Female Final Round, something feminine, age-appropriate, and gave us both technique, line, musicality and artistry.

I think my only comment was that because the female variations are all on the more adage side of life, it was harder to sit through, especially when the music was slowed down too much. However, what was appreciated was how many smaller principal and soloist variations made it into the final round, and we didn’t have to sit through extremely long five-part variations, so it was nice only having three-part part variations to keep the evening moving. Sienna Miller took the 3rd act Lilac Fairy, Laina Kirkiede took the Diamond Fairy from Sleeping Beauty, Bella Meier took Paquita 4. But this was definitely the year of Coppélia, as it was appreciated, as I don’t think I could make it through another year of Esmerelda or Satanella.

Finally, I think the thing that I was most impressed with, was the ability to stay in shape during this pandemic and bring a level of dancing that rivals any other year at YAGP. These kids have killed themselves for this, and it shows. Everyone was excited to be there, be in a beautiful theater, and enjoy an evening of ballet, celebrating children, their dedication, and their passion for the art form we all love so much.

You can view the final round here, and decide who your favorites were and who you think is in the running for the coveted Youth America Grand Prix award, places 1-3, and top 12. Send in your predictions.

Photos taken by Star Action Shots.

Photos courtesy of Youth America Grand Prix


And the winners are…

“78 out of the 82 initially selected candidates have participated in the Video Edition and 20 of them reached the Finals that took place today, via video.

At the end of the Finals, the Jury, presided this year by the Director and Choreographer of the Basel Ballet Richard Wherlock, selected 6 Prize Winners. Thanks to their scholarships, these 6 promising dancers will have the opportunity to enter one of the prestigious partner schools and companies of the Prix de Lausanne.

The 6 Prix de Lausanne 2021 Scholarship Prize Winners are:

    218 – António CASALINHO – Portugal
    226 – Luca ABDEL-NOUR – Egypt
    118 – Andrey Jesus MACIANO – Brazil
    210 – Seojeong YUN – South Korea
    236 – FUCHIYAMA Shunhei – Japan
    231 – Ashley COUPAL – Canada

Other Awards:

Best Young Talent Award: 118 – Andrey Jesus MACIANO – Brazil

Contemporary Dance Award: 218 – António CASALINHO – Portugal & 241 – CRUZ Rui Cesar –Brazil

Best Swiss Candidate Award: 226 – Luca ABDEL-NOUR – Egypt

Audience Favourite Award: 226 – Luca ABDEL-NOUR – Egypt

Finalists Award: the Finalists who have not been awarded any scholarship will each receive CHF 1,000.-, offered by Bobst SA.

-Prix Website

This year has been beyond an exceptional year of talent at the Prix. And this year, the boys did not hold back in the Prix’s digital edition. A lot of people complained about the format this year, but I rather enjoyed it. It was nice to see each candidate individually, to see how impressive, how technically gifted, and how unique each candidate was. And while most of the world knew that Antonio was going to win, this year I was extremely impressed by the candidates from South Korea. Literally, mind-blowing.

Who were your favorite candidates at the Prix?

Benois de la Danse Awards (2019)

Benois de la Danse Awards (2019)

It is that time of year again, where the best of the best in the ballet industry gather to celebrate the 2018-2019 season and honor those who made an impact on audiences, critics and the jury.

On May 21, the best of the best will be honored in a showstopping performance in Russia. This night is the prestigious Benois de la Danse Awards. The jury who will decide the results include: Juri Grigorovich, Dirk Badenhorst, Ted Brandsen, Svetlana Zakharova, Ana Laguna, Angès Letestu, Vladimir Malakhov, and Rachel Moore. This year could be a big year for Septime Webre and Kansas City Ballet, as the production of The Wizard of Oz has been nominated numerous times.

(photo courtesy of Kansas City Ballet’s press release of their new Production)

The Lifetime Achievement Award will honor Jiri Kylian. The Russian-Italian Prize Benois-Massine Award will go to Anna Laudere.

Nominees for the best choreographer are:

Juanjo Arques, for Ignite, Kate Whitley. Birmingham Royal Ballet.
Septime Webre, for The Wizard of Oz, Matthew Pierce, Kansas City Ballet.
Manuel Legris, for Sylvia, Leo Delibers, for Vienna State Ballet.
Justin Peck for Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, music by M83 for the San Francisco Ballet.
Fredrik Benke Rydman for Duet with an Industrial Robot, muisic by Johan Lilje Dal, Karl Johan Rasmusson, for Stockholm City Theatre.
Christian Spuck, for Winterreise, music by Hans Zender and Franz Schubert for the Zurich Ballet.

Best Female Dance Performance Nominees Include:

Amandine Albisson, as Marguerite Gautier in La Dame Aux Camelias, music by Chopin and Choreography by Neumeier for the Paris Opera Ballet.
Ashley Bouder, as Swanhilda, in Coppelia, music by Delibes, Choreography by George Balanchine for the New York City Ballet.
Elisa Carrillo Cabrera, as Juliet, in Romeo and Juliet, music by Prokofiev, and choreography by Duato for the State Ballet of Berlin.
Maia Makhateli, for Marguerite Gautier, in La Dame aux Camelias, music by Chopin, Choreographed by Neumeier, for the Dutch National Ballet.
Yuan Yuan Tan, for duet Take a Deep Breath, Bound to, music by Henson, choreographed by Wheeldon for the San Francisco Ballet.
Kaho Yanagisawa, Solo Part in Artifact Suite, music by Crossman-Hecht and Bach, choreographed by Forsythe at the Royal Swedish Ballet.

Best Male Dance Performance Nominees are:

Audric Bezard, as Armand Duval in La Dame Aux Camelias, music by Chopin, choreography by Neumeier for the Paris Opera Ballet.
Daniel Camargo is nominated for both his performace as Armand Duval in Lady of the Camelias and as Basilio in Don Quixotte, music by Minkus, Choreography by A Ratmansky afer Petipa at the Dutch National Ballet.
Viacheslav Lopatin, in the Faun, music by Debussy, and Sawhney, choreography by Cherkaoui for Bolshoi Ballet.
Vadim Muntagirov for Prince Siegfried in the Swan Lake. Music by Tchaikovsky, choreography by Liam Scarlett for the Royal Ballet.
Andile Ndlovu for his role as Mercrutio in Romeo and Juliet at the Washington Ballet. Music by Prokofiev, choreography by John Cranko.
Abel Rojo for Carying with My Own Floor, music by E Satie. Choreography by A. Rojo for the Malpaso Company.
Daniil Simkin for his role as the Harlequin, in ABT’s new version of Harlequinade. Music by Drigo, choreography by Ratmansky after Petipa.

Composers Nominated for this year’s award are:
Matthew Pierce for the Wizard of Oz, choreography by Septime Weber (also nominated).
Kate Whitley for Ignite. Choreography by Juanjo Aques (also nominated) for the Birmingham Royal Ballet.

Designers Nominated for Costumes are:

Jerome Kaplan for Staats Berlin’s La Bayadere.
John Macfarlane for Royal Ballet’s Swan Lake.
Robert Perdziola for ABT’s Harlequinade.
Michael Raiford and Liz Vandal for the Wizard of Oz.

Below is the star studded performance schedule.

21 MAY 2019. P R O G R A M M E


M. Pierce – Benois-2019 nominee
Excerpt from THE WIZARD OF OZ
Choreography by S.WEBRE – Benois-2019 nominee
soloists of theKansas City Ballet
soloist of Colorado Ballet
soloist of Royal Winnipeg Ballet
Russian premiere

K.Whitley – Benois-2019 nominee.
Excerpt from IGNITE
Choreography by J.ARQUÉS–Benois-2019 nominee
soloists of Dutch National Ballet
Russian premiere

to the music by P.Tchaikovsky
Choreography by F.BENKE RYDMAN –Benois 2019 nominee
soloists of House of Shapes
World premiere

Excerpt from WINTERREISE
to the music by F.Schubert/H.Zender
Choreography by CH.SPUCK – Benois-2019 nominee
soloists of the Zurich Ballet
Moscow premiere

L.Delibes. Excerpts from SYLVIA
Choreography by M.LEGRIS – laureate of Benois de la Danse, nominee of 2019, after LUIS MÉRANTE
soloists of the Vienna State Ballet
DENIS CHEREVICHKO – nominee of Benois de la Danse

To the music by E.Satie
Choreography by A. ROJO
soloist of Malpaso Company
ABEL ROJO – Benois-2019 nominee
Russian premiere

Duet from the second act of LADY WITH THE CAMELLIAS
To the music by F.Chopin
Choreography by J.NEUMEIER– Benois de la Danse laureate
soloists of Dutch National Ballet 
MAIA MAKHATELI– Benois-2019 nominee

L.Delibes. Pas de deux from COPPÉLIA 
Choreography by G.BALANCHINE and A.DANILOVA after M.PETIPA
©The George Balanchine Trust
soloist of the New York City Ballet
soloist of the Passific North-West Ballet


S.Prokofiev.Duet from ROMEO AND JULIET
Choreography by N. DUATO – laureate of Benois de la Danse, 
soloist of State Ballet Berlin
ELISA CARRILLO CABRERA -Benois – 2019 nominee
soloist of Mikhailovsky Theatre Ballet

To the music by I.S.Bach
Choreography, costumes and light concept by W. FORSYTHE– laureate of Benois de la Danse, 
soloists of the Royal Swedish Ballet
KAHO YANAGISAWA – Benois-2019 nominee

I.Demutsky– laureate of Benois de la Danse
Choreography by Y.POSSOKHOV – laureate of Benois de la Danse
soloist of the Bolshoi Theatre of Russia
VIATCHESLAV LOPATIN – Benois-2019 nominee

H. Løvenskiold. Pas de deuxfrom LA SYLPHIDE
Choreography by A.BOURNONVILLE
soloists of The Washington Ballet
ANDILE NDLOVU – Benois-2019 nominee

Duet from the third act of LADY WITH THE CAMELLIAS
To the music by F.Chopin
Choreography by J.NEUMEIER – laureate of Benois de la Danse
soloists of the Paris Opera Ballet
AMANDINE ALBISSON – Benois-2019 nominee 
AUDRIC BEZARD – Benois-2019 nominee

To the music by L.van Beethoven 
Choreography by C.PITE – laureate of Benois de ls Danse
soloists of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
Russian premiere

Choreography, costumes, light concept by J.NEUMEIER – laureate of Benois de la Danse
soloists of the Hamburg Ballet
ANNA LAUDERE– laureate of Benois–Massine Prize

Choreography by CH.WHEELDON
soloists of San Francisco Ballet
YUAN YUAN TAN – Benois-2019 nominee
Moscow premiere

L.Minkus. Pas de deux from DON QUIXOTE
Choreography by A.GORSKY
soloist of the Stuttgart State Ball
DANIEL CAMARGO – Benois -2019 nominee

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The Sleeping Beauty Fairy Variations

The Sleeping Beauty Fairy Variations

Have you ever noticed that the first variations you usually learn are all from 1890 Petipa classic: The Sleeping Beauty? You might think they are lame or boring, but these six variations are the key to classical ballet. Sleeping Beauty is by definition the epitome and pinnacle of Classical Ballet. The ballet itself has no affectations and minimal stylistic points from the Romantic Ballet Era. These six variations showcase everything Classical Ballet represents: constraint, placement, beauty, proportion, turnout, legs, feet, musicality and artistry that evokes the essence of ballet.

As promised, I am going to help you find the right variation for you, but first…

Before you even start thinking about picking a variation to work on you should ask yourself, “Have I mastered these variations?” If the answer is no, don’t worry. These variations are going to get your technique stronger, your footwork cleaner, they allow you to find your musicality and phrasing, and have a better understanding of Classical Ballet. For the History of these variations, check out the digital: A Ballet Education’s Guide To Variations.

The first variation is all about the presentation of the foot and the control of turnout. Honestly, this shouldn’t be called candide or the Fairy of the Crystal Fountain. It should be called present your heel from your inner thigh. What is nice about this variation is that it teaches pique arabesque and attitude with both a pas de cheval and a brush, and it also teaches fouetté en dedans from arabesque to effacé and plié relevé arabesque.

Heloise Bourdon of the Paris Opera Ballet in Rudolph Nureyev’s Production of the Sleeping Beauty.


In the first diagonal moving downstage right, make sure you keep all of your croisé lines crossed and turned out. Sometimes we are so focused on the height of the leg, that the actual body line and position become a little sloppy. Keep the heel presented at all times. e.Remember: In croisé devant, you want to see that heel coming over the top of the line. Keep the port de bras moving and relaxed, let the arms float with the music, but make sure the end in a position on the count. Showing a clean line on the count is essential. End the pass with a juicy plié that resists the floor. Don’t just plop down.

In the second pass of the variation moving across the stage, make sure you get the heel as far forward as possible when presenting the foot from the inner thigh. Make sure to keep the thighs tightly crossed in bourrés with BOTH heels forward. Hold that rotation!

In the next phrase of variation, the focus is going en dedans but maintaining the turnout. As each staging is different, I am just going to reference the video above. Notice that from arabesque the heel has to come forward as the knee stays behind, the inner thigh rotates forward through passé into the next step. The port de bras are lovely, but the hand should not be stroking or brushing the arm. It should be extremely delicate with beautifully shaped fingers like you are petting a baby, or wearing expensive jewelry.

In the final pass of the variation, death comes at you with full force. Moving from effacé to effacé while rolling up and down on pointe and as the leg/hip rotation fouettés en dedans… girl bye. The hardest part about that step isn’t even the pointe work, well the pointe work is extremely hard but can be made easier by making sure the entire weight of the upper body is in front of the hips and leg so that the fouetté can come easily, and the femur head can relax into the hip socket. Note how forward the inner thigh has to wrap, and then wrap back even more as you tombé.

Finally, when ending, make sure the heels are completely forward showing the understanding of the footwork, understanding of the turnout, and understanding of the delicate musicality.

If the first variation taught us the quality of delicate, the second variation, the Carelessness Fairy, or the Fairy of Flowing Wheat. teaches us how to move with precision and vigor. It teach us us pique passé, a very large and powerful jeté, attitude front, how to move backwards and forwards, and the start of turns.

Yulia Kasenkova in Sergei Vikharev’s production of the Sleeping Beauty for Mariinsky.


Sometimes this variation has two women dancing (Paris Opera), but most of the time it is done as a solo variation. I think one of the hardest things in this variation is to maintain the turnout and rib placement while move this fast. I think because of the transitions and because of the bending of the upper body, most young dancers have a tendency to splay the ribs to get a better attitude devant line.

The opening jeté, the heels must stay forward. The supporting leg, or the leg that pushes off, has to be fully turned out. Make sure as you brush the working leg, the leg is slightly in front of your hips. Finally, you have to hold the second position in the air for a brief second. Travel big!

In the next pass of the variation make sure you accent the rond de jambe en l’air out, and keep the supporting leg as straight and scooped as possible. Next are the chassés back. Make sure the foot is still slightly shaped to be aesthetically more pleasing. Keep the weight forward and on more on the front foot so that the back foot can shape better.

In the final pass, you have to quickly do step-overs, or lame ducks. Luckily they are only half turns! The hard part is getting the turnout on both legs to fire quickly simultaneously. Remember, to keep pressing the turnout from the hips as your turn and step. Make sure each step the heel is beautifully presented.

Oh, the Fairy of Scattered Breadcrumbs or the Fairy of the Woodland Glades.. the list goes on and on for this one. This is a good one. This variation teaches us how to pas de couru and travel, how to softly move through the steps, how to developpé arabesque and how to be generous with our artistry.

Royal Ballet’s Fumi Kaneko


Like walking delicately on glass through attitude devant, the first pass in this variation gives us a since of strength in the legs. Doing a plié en pointe without rolling or sickling is crucial. The musicality is so precise, and the legwork reflects the music while the port de bras reflects the calm smooth melody. Turnout! Turnout! Turnout! Don’t sit in your hips as you plié. Don’t be afraid to bend a little further than you actually think you should.

The next pass involves hopping backwards onto pointe. Again, the legs are very reflective of the individual notes while the arms really are generous and light.

This sets us up for the next section or pass involving two hops on pointe in attitude front, followed by a third sustaining the balance on pointe while doing a developpé arabesque. It isn’t easy at all. The pointe work has to be very obvious in the difference of slightly ginched foot and a fully pointed foot on pointe when balanced. This is a mature and subtle difference in a dancer’s ability to articulate the foot on pointe in different positions.

After this painstakingly long process the most quick and fluttering pas de couru happen. Again the genius of Tchiakovsky and Petipa shine: as the feet move rapidly with the notes and the upper body stays calm and the articulation of the port de bras is effortless.Then guess what happens. You repeat the previous section to the other side! Again, turnout is everything, and as the variation comes to an end, you don’t want to show you are tired, or that your feet are cramping. There are different ways to end this variation, in the video above she ends in a very nicely crossed attitude front en face. Personally, I don’t think that is flattering for most dancers so I would go croisé slightly. Actually, when I stage this variation I have the dancer end in arabesque and try to balance for a good two counts after the music has ended.

Sometimes I feel like we overlook this variation. I actually think it is rather difficult as one must run and travel on pointe. Not to mention that the hand work is incredibly difficult. It is really easy to look like a crazy spazz of a mess while performing this variation. Angelica Generosa ferociously performed this variation this season for Pacific Northwest Ballet‘s production. And truthfully it is probably the best I have ever seen it done.


The fairy of song or voice, or whatever you want to call it. Mostly it is nicknamed Canary Fairy. I think this variation really tests your turnout and whether or not you have mastered it. First off running on pointe is never easy, yet alone to be turned out and to travel the entire stage. The posture of the run is really important, as you have to be extremely pulled up and slightly inclined. The hands and fingers move ridiculously fast as if you were playing an instrument and all of the notes are flooding from your hands.

When running on pointe in the first diagonal, a lot of young dancers forget to hold the turnout. Remember each run is either in effacé or croisé so the full presentation of the heel must happen. At the end of the running diagonal you have double rond de jambe, in which the accent is out. So if you are ferocious, you would stop and hold the accent out for a split count.

In the bourrées back make sure the foot is fully pointed and shaped in each coupé.The next step varies by staging, but in the version below her couru en avant travel turned out opposed to towards the end when going moving en arriere it is executed in sixth position on pointe.


If this first of the Fairy Variations taught us poise and speed, then Fairy 5, most commonly known as the Finger Fairy, teaches us style and power. This variation, because of the length and musicality has a very wide range of stagings. While some end the variation sauté basque, others will end the variation with step over turns, and others will add multiple pique turns. Some have a difficult jeté from a chaîné, while other variations have very fast pas de bourrée. Whatever staging you use, there are some signature style points to note below.

Sabrina Mellum of the Paris Opera in the very classical staging version of the variation.

Milena Sidorova from Dutch National (Het) in a more stylized version of the variation.


While the other variations enter with an ease and elegance, this variation opens with power and style. Whether you do the opening with runs or the most turned out emboîtés of your life, this variation must be executive with a ridiculous amount of energy. From the tension in the arms to the directness and literal energy to the end of the fingertips. The musicality is n the opening steps is very direct, there is not a lot of room for interpretation. It is what it is. It is precise, cutting and most of all exact. Crossing the attitude front is super important as it creates a better line on most dancers.

The next section you either run on pointe or pas de chat en pointe, either way, you need to get your butt into the air and travel like a crazy person. The sous-sus traveling back should equally scoop, and equally hold the turnout.The next section varies on staging, I personally like the turns into the grand jeté, most because I don’t like doing the turning hops en pointe. I personally think it looks clumsy, and less grand. This is the part in the variation most people start to die. The next section is a small developpé at 45°. Make sure that both heels are spiraling forward and presenting the most beautiful turnout.

Finally, in the last section each dancer or choreographer will choose between jumps or turns. Depending on what suits you best, I am indifferent to what a dancer might choose. Personally, I think the sauté basque is always stunning, as I think the step gets a reputation to be a masculine step. I also just think it is more impressive than a stepover, and I think the quick piqués look wild and crazy.

With the exception of Nureyev’s version, most every other version refers to this illustrious musical composition as the music for the Lilac Fairy. She is queen of the fairies and probably the most sought after role after Aurora. Usually assigned to a principal dancer, this variation sets up every ballerina to become a principal dancer.

Maria Iliushkina premiered as the LIlac Fairy this past season for Mariinsky. She is another up and coming star at the former Kirov.

Sanguen Leea principal at Dresden SemperOper in Aaron S. Watkin’s version of the sleeping beauty.


Here is why Lilac Fairy sets you up to become a dancer. The music is so dance able that the interpretation of the music and the steps is unique to each dancer. Additionally, this role demands a lot of acting is is seen in all three acts. From the way the dancer must walk onto the stage and even bow, you have to command a certain sense of presence and authority, while maintaining the ethereal qualities of a fairy.

In the opening of the variation, be generous with the head and preparation.  It is the only fairy that has that principal start. Most of the previous variations do not have preparation music, and if they do, they prepare towards and facing baby Aurora and not the audience. The first pass of the variation includes some crazy developpé and en dedan ronds. By now you should have mastered the turnout from back to front, especially if you drilled that first fairy variation. In the contretemps make sure your heels are forward and you are turned out from your thighs. Present the foot  with fully stretched leg and reach into a massively placed arabesque, don’t whack it.

In the second pass you have piques traveling back in attitude, arabesque and turning. The control of the turnout is crucial, the placement of the hips over the foot is crucial, and the upper body placed in an place that anticipates the actual position you are wanting is crucial. The fluidity comes from the strength behind a dancer’s technique. The grace comes from the musicality, and the comfort and control comes from the port de bras.

The next pass is quite short that involves musicality and port de bras traveling to stage left.

The next pass teaches us how to do sissone fermé with arms in first arabesque and allongé and pirouettes from fifth position. Don’t double prep your jump, keep the heels firmly pressed into the floor. This way as you come off the floor the heel is present fully in the air. Catch the landing and control the heels slowly to the floor. Don’t just plop down. Some dancers will make the jump massive, while others will make it small and quick depending on the tempo. Again, the phrasing of the music is really up to the director, or the dancer. Personally, as much as I care about the jump and the turn, I most care about the port de bras. The pirouette…. For all of you comp dancers out there: STOP WINDING UP YOUR PIROUETTE FROM FIFTH!!! I can not stress this enough. It drives me crazy in general. If you are doing pirouettes from fifth you don’t need to wind up, and frankly if you aren’t doing more than three pirouettes you don’t need to open the working side’s arm. Pirouettes shouldn’t look like effort. They should float on top of the supporting leg, and be so lifted that your upper body looks detached from your hips. They should be full of air and whimsy. They shouldn’t look like you are are winding up a pitch for the world series. Don’t turn in the supporting leg either. Actually… just look at my notes on pirouettes here.

 Finally the variation ends with the presentation of attitude front, usually an assemblé or jump of choice, and an arabesque.

Thanks again for reading! I hope this helps you!

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5 Variations To Stay Away from (2019)

5 Variations To Stay Away from (2019)

Thank the Baby Jesus that the ballet competition season is over. If the 2017-2018 season was the year of “Satanella,” then the 2018-2019 was the year of “Dulcinea.” While I have appreciated that people have listened to the first article, published back in 2015, about
5 Variations to Stay Away From, people have searched high and low for the replacements to these five- and they have found them.

While the original list consisted of:
Kitri ACT I
Sugar Plum Fairy
Grand Pas Classique
and White/Black Swan

People have found their counterparts… While there will always be the crowd favorites like Esmeralda, how many Esmeralda variations can we watch? Especially, since Madison Penney demolished that variation and turned it into a show-stopping, trick-filled, pirouette perfection. We also have the standards that will never go away: like Aurora Act III (which is probably the textbook perfect definition of classical of ballet), Coppélia, Paquita Etoile Variation, and Giselle ACT I. But somehow we have replaced Kitri ACT I with the Variation from Laurencia.

Don’t get me wrong; I staged this for ABE COVER GIRL from Master Ballet Academy Tegan Chou last season for her ADC IBC performance. But now it seems that every jazz comp dancer is taking this variation on. And I can see their reasoning, they get to wear a long skirt like Kitri ACT 1, and has the same jeté in attitude. Jazz comp girls think they can get away with their bent knees because of the long skirt, and they can whack everything. In reality, you just look crazy. This is one of the problems with competition and the mindset of, “Well she won with it, so I should do it.” A Ballet Variation is much harder than just the tricks within the variation, and it takes a lot of coaching.

Tegan Chou, age 11, of Master Ballet Academy, ADC IBC.

The very talented Regina Montgomery at her 2012 YAGP Semi-Final from the Rock School for Dance Education. Miss Montgomery is now a demi-soloist at Tulsa Ballet.

We still revisit Esmeralda because we think the tambourine is cool. And now that Masters has modified the variation, we all are modifying the variation and adding as many pirouettes as possible and as many crazy tricks as we can. At this pointe, the variation shouldn’t even have the diagonal of fondu developpés, and we should just do tilt turns on pointe. YAAAAAAAS!

We should take a moment relive Madison Penney’s Amazing win at the Youth American Grand Pri at age 12.

We should also look at Sumina Sasaki’s 2019 Prix win where the commentator rudely says, “Just get on with it.”

Sugar Plum Fairy has somehow been replaced with Dulcinea. While these two variations have the same delicate features, they are both built to be extremely delicate with a coda built into the variation. Mostly it is another ridiculously long variation, and somehow we have slowed down the music even more and made it more painstaking to watch. While I understand we are kids trying to do this variation, so the slower tempo is needed, dear god, it is so painful to sit through… Especially if you are too weak, or too athletic to do this variation. Now that Ava Arbuckle has placed with this variation… let it be.

Elite Classical Coaching’s Ava Arbuckle at her 2019 Semi-Final in Dallas.

San Francisco Ballet’s Natasha Sheehan, age 14, at YAGP Finals in 2014.

Grand Pas Classique has been replaced with Satanella. While we have seen less and less of Grand Pas, thank you. It has been replaced with the two-minute variation from Carnival of Venice- Satanella. While the variation is cute and flirty, it is long; like really, really long. Just like Grand Pas, and people do these variations because they think that the longer it is, the better. Fortunately, that is not true. By the midpoint of Satanella, everyone is ready to jab their eyes out. You would think that it should end before the menage of ballonés, but no, it keeps going… and going… and then just when you think it is done, it still isn’t done. And truth, after Elisabeth Beyer’s performance and Lincoln Center… Can you really follow that up?

We should tall take a moment to relive this magical moment. Elisabeth Beyer of Ellison Ballet at NYC Finals 2018.

Satanella Variation to tempo by Evgenia Obraztsova.

And White/Black Swan has been replaced with Raymonda Dream Variation/Harlequinade. While  White Swan is about style, Raymonda’s Dream Variation is about control and constraint. The quality is similar in both variations, but white swan has more stylistic features like exaggerated port de bras. But, they both have painstaking developpés, and truthfully, the extensions in Raymonda are harder as they are done en dedans and in the middle of the variation instead of the beginning. While the drama of the variation is nice, I am always confused when people do this variation as she is dreaming to “escape” a rape. Not the best variation to be teaching young girls, but then again, what ballet variation sets up a strong good role model for young girls? Anyways, this brings me to the painstakingly long variation of Harlequinade. Originally,  Whitney Jensen, former Principal of Boston Ballet and now Norwegian National Ballet, brought this variation back to popularity at Varna in 2008 where she brilliantly won the highest honor, the Special Distinction. If you don’t know what that is, it is an award that has been rarely given out. In the entire competition it has been given out a total of  6 times (2018 Antonio Casalinho, 2014 Soo Bin Lee, 2012 He Taiyu, 2002 Lu Meng, 1998 Rolando Sarabia and technically in 1964 Vladimir Vasiliev won the Grand Prix, the top prize the first year Varna was established). But, it seems that Remi Goins set the trend a few years ago by pulling off some ridiculously hard turns at a very young age and now, everyone is going for it: juniors, seniors, pre-comp, Everyone. Here is the problem is the variation from Harlequinade. While it is cute, and it seems relatable for young kids, if you want to show off turns why not do the Medora Variation or Odalisque Variation from Le Corsaire?

Remi Goins at YAGP 2017 at age 12 winning the Shelley King Award for Excellence.

Whitney Jensen doing it big at Varna in 2008.

Here are some other mistakes I have seen this season at the YAGP. I get that the YAGP has expanded and more and more kids are coming into the semi-finals… but if you are a jazz comp school… and you are entering your kids into the ballet category, do them a solid… Find them a better ballet teacher. And secondly, don’t buy a costume from Revolution for 15 dollars, attempt to alter it and add rhinestones and glitter. It doesn’t work. Go and find a seamstress and put the work in or optionally buy a blank performance tutu from Grishko for 400 dollars and spiff it up yourself. Or even better, there is a new costume company that is making blank tutus for reasonable pricing. Also, stop going to more than two semi-finals.

I know that a lot of you are going to as many as you can so the talented kids are weeded out, and you finally place and get an invite to NYC. After the second attempt at a semi-final… if you don’t place… you don’t place. There is no reason to go to a third, and fourth, and this year I saw it… a fifth… Just don’t go… This isn’t Nuvo or Break the Floor, and you are trying to prove you have improved, etc, etc, etc… this isn’t that, it isn’t a circuit, this is a ballet competition that is looking for the best of the best. The whole rule of not being able to place twice was put into place to discourage people from doing more than one. So, please… just stop.

Also, you don’t need to enter FOUR contemporary solos. We get it… you can do contemporary. On average most kids bring two classical variations and one contemporary. If you are an overachiever and your parents want to see you on stage more since they are paying the participation fee, then you might have two and two. But really? Do you need more than that… absolutely not.

This year, I am not going to preparing anyone for the YAGP or Lausanne (or at least not to my knowledge), so I am going to do all of you searching a solid and walk you through the variation-selection process. Subscribe and Stay Tuned to get all the competition info you need.

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David King

David King

David King is the founder of A Ballet Education

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YAGP COVER 11copy copy

Inside the world’s largest ballet competition. This year over 10,000 kids auditioned and competed at the Youth America Grand Prix and tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships were given out to promising young talent across the world. This issue is packed with the enormous talents emerging from the Youth America Grand Prix.

The Cover Features:
Brady Farrar, Misha Broderick, Joel Dichter, Madyson Grobe, Remie Madeline Goins, Jolie Rose Lombardo, Tia Wenkman, Kaeli Ware, Bel Pickering, Kali Kleiman, Lily Turner and Ava Arbuckle.

Reviews of Atlanta Ballet and Dance Theatre of Harlem & much more in the issue.

The issue comes out on FRIDAY!!! Until then…

Check out these young superstars on Instagram:

A Ballet Education Scholarship

A Ballet Education has committed/pledged to raise $27,000 dollars in scholarship funds for various organizations including the YAGP Korea, Burbank Dance Academy, the Cirio Collective & helping support kids with the financial aid to attend Summer Intensives and the YAGP. This crowdfunding initiative is to help support the art form that I love with all my heart. This year has been a devastating year for many, as ballet companies and schools are losing money and not giving out as many scholarships as usual. The costs of ballet are skyrocketing and the need to support the ballet is more important, now more than ever. 

For the 2018-2019 Season
YAGP KOREA through the Hee Seo Foundation $3,000
Burbank Dance Academy $1,000

How am I going to fundraise $27,000 for all these kids/dancers? Simple. All of the proceeds from my books, artwork, and magazine will now be going towards helping dancers across the world. I have been watching, listening, and hearing kids across the world struggle financially at their home studios and then when they are offered the chance to be seen, or have a career, or attend a summer intensive that could actually make their career… they can’t even afford the chance to go. It was hard to watch kids struggling this year at YAGP finals with the costs of everything. Numerous times, I had let kids hop into my UBER or LYFT because I knew it was going to cost them $15 dollars when we were all going to the same place… 

Why am I always helping YAGP KOREA? Because, for these young men, it is important to place at a ballet competition. If they don’t place, they will have to serve two years to the army at the age of 19. Their training will  stop completely, and the odds of them ever returning to ballet are slim. Read more here.

Why am I helping Burbank Dance Academy? Because I have seen, worked in, and observed the intensities of the Los Angeles Ballet Community, and I believe this school under Jason Coosner is creating a healthy and positive presence in the Los Angeles Ballet Community that is desperately needed. 

Think about it this way… 

If you buy 1 grande Starbucks espresso drink a day, that is $1,825 dollars a year- if you just cut back to 5 coffees a week, and donate the rest you would be donating $520 dollars a year. That is a plane ticket for a kid to attend finals, or attend a summer intensive on scholarship. It might be the last amount needed to attend for a student to attend a year round school. That’s 6 pairs of pointe shoes you could be helping a student receive. If you were to not go out and eat once a month, you would be able to donate $1,200. That is almost a full summer intensive fee. It is 12 pairs of pointe shoes. It is the cost of the hotel for YAGP finals. 

How can you help support? Subscribe to the magazine.
Or if you would like to donate, feel free to by clicking here.

Do you need a scholarship? Applications for scholarships will open in December 2018.

YAGP… the final round…

As the YAGP moves on, the list gets smaller and smaller as tonight is the last night of competition. These 55 females, and 40 males will compete for the two top prizes Youth Grand Prix and Senior Grand Prix awards. Additionally there are other awards, and many of these young men and women will walk away with a scholarship or offer to a major school or company. This list doesn’t include the hundreds of pre competitive dancers that competed this week as well.


Photo Courtesy of VAM PRODUCTIONS // GARY TRINDER, Tirector of the New Zealand School of Dance teaching during the YAGP


JUNIOR WOMEN: 31 Contestants 
1-Ella Kolpakov (12), USA
4-Poppy Trettel (12), USA
9-Emma Topalova (12), USA
14-Nina Gagnin (12), AUSTRIA
21-Margarita Fernandes (12), PORTUGAL
22-Nana Oda (12), JAPAN
26-Ava Arbuckle (13), USA
30-Kate Thomas (13), USA
31-Remie Madeleine Goins (13), USA
48-Yo Nakajima (13), JAPAN
52-Gia Polson (13), SOUTH AFRICA
54-Petra Johnson (13), USA
58-Sierra Glasheen (13), USA
61-Dominika Afanasenkov (13), USA
66-Mahalaya Tintiangco-Cubales (13), USA
67-Alexandra Manuel (13), USA
68-Keaton Gillespie (13), USA
76-Emma Spillane (14), USA
77-Aoi Sawano (14), JAPAN
78-Ruth Schultz (14), USA
80-Jessica Phan (14), USA
88-Rebecca Rudolf (14), PORTUGAL
89-Alexandra Hoffmann (14), USA
91-Olivia Tweedy (14), USA
96-Jolie Rose Lombardo (14), USA
101-Tia Wenman (14), USA
114-Lily Turner (14), USA
117-Alice Balboni (14), BRAZIL
118-Suyeon An (14), S KOREA
131-Estrella Birkinshaw (14), USA

JUNIOR MEN: 20 Contestants
151-Toya Hayashi (12), JAPAN
152-Filippo Mambelli (12), ITALY
153-Misha Broderick (12), USA
158-Brady Farrar (12), USA
160-Giuseppe Ventura (13), ITALY
161-Vitor Vaz (13), BRAZIL
164-Jackson Smith-Leishman (13), AUSTRALIA
167-Darrion Sellman (13), USA
170-Dorian Plasse (13), FRANCE
172-Arata Yamamoto (14), JAPAN
174-Soshi Suzuki (14) JAPAN
175-Parker Garrison (14), USA
176-Antonio Casalinho (14), PORTUGAL
177-Masaki Suetsugo (14), JAPAN
178-Francisco Gomes (14), PORTUGAL
179-Joao Vitor Da Silva (14), BRAZIL
180-Aydin Eyikan (14), USA
181-Joel Dichter (14), USA
182-Antonio Ferreira (14), PORTUGAL
186-Enrique Emmanuel Bejarano Vidal (14), Mexico

SENIOR WOMEN: 24 Contestants
205-Florence Joffre (15), FRANCE
213-Basia Rhoden (15), USA
214-Non Tachibana (15), JAPAN
223-Elisabeth Beyer (15), USA
225-Teresa D’Ortone (15), USA
232-Marlena Umland (15), USA
235-Quinn Starner (15), USA
237-Alina Taratorin (15), USA
238-Christiana De Blank (15), USA
241-Nicole Denney (15), USA
250-Bel Pickering (16), USA
251-Lee Mleton (16), USA
265-Guo Wen Jin (16), CHINA
267-Victoria Wardell (16), CANADA
277-Carolyne Freitas Galvao (17), BRAZIL
279-YoonJi Lee (17), S KOREA
282-Kaeli Ware (17), USA
283-Anaelle Mariat (17), FRANCE
290-Heidi Cecilie Christensen (18), NORWAY
293-Emma Guertin (18), USA
294-Seon Mee Park (18), S KOREA
296-Paloma Berjano (18), SPAIN
297-Miu Tanaka (19), JAPAN
301-Nadyne Bispo (19), BRAZIL

SENIOR MEN: 20 Contestants 
357-Clark Eselgroth (15), USA
358-Jonas Malinka-Thompson (15), USA
363-Yuma Matsurra (15), JAPAN
366-Takayuki Moriwaki (15), JAPAN
375-Keita Youssef Bellali (15), CANADA
383-Joseph Markey (16), USA
386-Robert Evin Hyland (17), AUSTRIA
388-Marcio Mota (17), PORTUGAL
390-Joshua Green (17), AUSTRALIA
398-Francesco Fasano (17), SWITZERLAND
399-Lorenzo Collatuzzo (17), ITALY
402-Thomas Rousse-Blatiere (17), FRANCE
403-Stephen Myers (17), USA
405-Edvinas Jakonis (17), LITHUANIA
406-SuNu Lim (18), S KOREA
408-Masanori Takiguchi (18), USA
409-Pau Pujol (18), SPAIN
412-Bela Erlandson (18), USA
421-Vsevolod Maievskyi (19), UKRAINE
422-SangMin Lee (19), S Korea

book cover 1

Time for YAGP FINALS!!!

In less than a week I will be off to the YOUTH AMERICA GRAND PRIX! What does that mean? It’s time to tune into my INSTAGRAM (@aballeteducation) and follow me around. This is an exciting year for the YAGP because it leads up to the Jackson Competition. So, what can we expect on my insta story and live casts? Probably me just being goofy like always. Just kidding… not really. I will be going around interviewing young kids and taking photos of the promising young talent of the Youth America Grand Prix.

What does this all mean… well actually, I will have a lot of down time at the YAGP because I don’t coach at finals. I will be getting everything ready and hopefully taking very epic photos of some of the most talented kids in the world. One will be the next cover of A Ballet Magazine.

a ballet education pictures

follow the hashtag: #ABEdoesYAGP

please don’t forget to help kids get to the YAGP finals by donating … It is so expensive to go each year, and TRUST me… I had to super budget for this year.



Notes on Cupid

Whether you are twelve or twenty, this variation is one of the most recognizable variations for those who have danced. For a lot, this variation was the first variation they learned in variations class (that or Florine from Sleeping Beauty). This is the variation known as Cupid from Don Quixote. This extremely fast petit allegro variation actually doesn’t have that many petit allegro steps, but the music is extremely fast. From this God awful blonde wig, to the flowy tunic, everything about this variation says, “Hello, I’m Cute.”

Notes on Cupid

Usually reserved for a short girl, this variation opens up with the a series of tombé relevés into attitude plié relevé effacé positions. You need to remember a couple things in this opening sequence:

  1. Turn out the supporting leg in the tombé.
  2. Don’t overshoot the corner, and stay square.
  3. Never whack your leg into the positions, place them nicely. If you are going to do a low effacé leg, lean over the leg to help the line. If you are going to do a high attitude back, don’t pinch your neck back to help make the line.
  4. Keep the arms exstremely soft, and keep the eyeline in all the positions.

Hold the attititude to be with the music, and change the head.

The next sequence of the variations requires a back diagonal of plié relevé pirouettes to the inside. When you are doing the chassé/tombé, TURNOUT… Hold the working knee back to give you the most turn out and longest line. Make sure you get that knee all the way straight.

The next sequence requires fast foot work, and involves you to be extremely turned out. Focus on hitting all of the positions before the music so you can hold the positions. This is important because you have to be MUSICAL.

Below is Evgenia Obraztsova doing cupid. Personally it is too slow for my taste… but the technique is spot on, and the performance is ideal. It is about being cheerful and constantly changing your facial expressions of happiness and excited. Her eyes play to the audience very well.

Mélanie Hurel of Paris Opera does another stunning version. The Nureyev version. It is more dainty, more french, faster, and done in a full tutu.

Below is Riverbank Dance Company’s young girl (2017) doing the variation on flat. While there are turn out issues, the technique is clean, and the young dancer is polished. She is probably 10? Notice in the upstage diagonal that she hits coup de pied, fifth and fourth.


Photos Courtesy of YAGP KOREA

When American Ballet Theatre Principal, Hee Seo calls, you answer…

It is that time of year again, dancers from around the world are getting ready for the internationally acclaimed Youth America Grand Prix. But, the YAGP Korea is funded by the Hee Seo Foundation. The Hee Seo foundation was established in 2015 to discover and trained talented dancers to increase exposure and participants of ballet through international exchanges, and to implement various culture and arts related projects. YAGP Korea is the first project by the Hee Seo Foundation, providing various opportunities to students. As we all know the YAGP brings prominent teachers from the best ballet schools together for a chance for young students to win scholarships to study abroad and deepen their dance education. Additionally, the Hee Seo Foundation also introduced the Hee Seo Foundation Ballet, a master class series for all age groups interested in ballet.  If you don’t remember, ballet in Korea is not easy, especially for young men. If they don’t finish first or second at an international competition, they are required to serve time to the army, basically derailing their ballet career. So, with a month or so to go, the foundation is short $8,000. If you are in a position to financially help the Hee Seo Foundation please do. You can donate via paypal by clicking here.

A Note From Hee Seo:

“Greetings. I am ballerina Seo Hee, President of the Hee Seo foundation. Establishing an incorporated association was an uneasy yet slow task for me as a professional dancer. However, the opportunity of a contribution was a noble privilege for me which enriched my life and made me even happier than before. I ask for your kind support in achieving the grand dream of one major foundation. Thank you very much.”

Follow their story on Instagram @YAGP_KOREA




The Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow:
Thursday, April 13, 2017 @ the David H. Koch Theater @ Lincoln Center

Any evening at Lincoln Center always promises to be a success and enjoyable for the mature ballet goer. But, tonight was different as hundreds of young ballet dancers flocked to the fountain with the anticipation of what was to come. Tonight, the Youth America Grand Prix hosted a beautiful gala honoring their lifetime achievement honoree Bruce Marks, the pure talent of top performers from the Prix, and professionals from all around the world. Dozens of professional dance icons glided across the marble floors at Lincoln Center to support their colleagues, young dancers, and the talented and forever a part of ballet history Bruce Marks. By the time the audience sat and the house lights dimmed, the sold-out house was ready for ballet.The energy was different from other nights at theater. It was young, it was hopeful, it was exciting. As the lights dimmed, dozens of screams from the third and fourth ring poured into Lincoln Center, the anticipation was bursting, and it led to a spectacular evening of ballet.


Brady Farrar_YAGP2017STMST_GALA_VAM Photo 1.jpg
Photo by VAM PRODUCTIONS, courtesy of the YAGP

It opened with a male pre-competitor, Brady Farrar doing the variation from Talisman that was pretty awesome. Followed by the pas de deux from Coppellia from Master’s Juniors featuring Avery Gay. Classical Dance Academy performed a competitive ensemble piece titled Existence that involved a glowing pink parachute. Junior division’s Takumi Miyaki performed the male variation from Swan Lake. This was followed by a contemporary solo from Jan Spunda titled “Swan” which was a male take on Dying Swan. A senior from Korea redid her variation from Raymonda. Tara from Portugal performed a contemporary solo in a skirt. Maddison Penny blew the audience away with her variation of Esmeralda and Taro Kurachi blew everyone over again with his Don Q variation. This was followed by the Grand Défilé with choreography by YAGP resident choreographer Carlos do Santos, Jr that included 300 YAGP participants from 30 countries. It rivaled many corps de ballets from major companies. It was just legs for days and clean technique. Arms that are too short for their bodies because of their ages, but beautifully proportioned bodies.
YAGP 2017 Gala Starts of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow

Photo by VAM PRODUCTIONS, courtesy of the YAGP

The night then honored Bruce Marks. The talented and beautiful Nina Ananiashvili presented the award. His acceptance speech was funny, heartfelt and inspiring. Then it just got long a political, but he is Bruce Marks and 80, so let the man do his thing.

YAGP 2017 Gala Starts of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow

Photo by VAM PRODUCTIONS, courtesy of the YAGP

ACT II brought the roaring applause. The second half of the program opened with Tiler Peck and Zachary Catazaro performing Wheeldon’s Pas De Deux from Carousel. It was a very cute pas de deux but completely out of text from the Carousel Suite… Without the entire ballet the pas de deux is kind of boring. They were not boring, as I adore Tiler Peck. He was nice, but

James Whiteside then performed in place of Xander Parish in a solo by Marcelo Gomes. James Whiteside is beyond beautiful, the problem with this solo was that it was not thought out well. It seemed very disjointed and lacked the interesting factor.

YAGP 2017 Gala Starts of Today Meet the Stars of TomorrowBrittany O’Connor and Paul Barris performed a very sexy ballroom number involving one pointe shoe and a backless sequin dress with a live music ensemble. She had legs and body for days… Like for days. So between ballroom steps and ballet steps, the sexy duo performed with intricate lifts and spiraling whip arounds. Photo courtesy of the YAGP by VAM.


Skyler Brandt and Gabe Stone Sayer performed the always crowd pleasing pas de deux from Spring Waters. Both are now at ABT and both former YAGP finalists. He was charismatic, and she as full of energy like always. Skyler Brandt is truly turning into ballet’s sweat heart, and there is a clear reason: she is adorable. Her big eyes, all American body type, a smile that’s worth a million dollars and she’s clean.

Svetlana Lukina and Evan McKie performed David Dawson’s new Swan Lake Pas De Deux. In this minimal costuming, and contemporary take, the White Swan has total control and is almost enticing. She is mesmerizing and this was probably the most interesting piece of the night. For the mature balletomane, this probably was the jewel of the evening, but for the kids and this young audience, it wasn’t enough… But what came at the end truly was what the audience craved…

Ian Spring performed the always popular David Parson’s Caught. If you haven’t seen it, it involves a very cool strobe hiding the in-between steps and only what Mr. Parson’s wants you to see. Like a series of photographs. I have now seen Angel Corella do it and it was awful but the audience liked him and Glen Simmons from Ailey which was spectacular. Ian Spring brought a very fun and very lively take to it which I enjoyed a lot. Plus, the kids were going crazy over it.

Lacarra_Dino_YAGP2017STMST_GALA_VAM Photo 3.jpg
Photo by VAM, courtesy of the YAGP




Goddess Lucia Lacarra and Marlon Dino performed Light Rain by Gerald Arpino. The choreography was dated, but it showcased Ms. Lacarra’s impeccable legs and feet and the fact that she has no hips. It was purely all about flexibility.

The night was then stolen by Tamara Rojo and Cesar Corrales (baby daddy status) from English National Ballet. They performed the pas de deux from Le Corsaire which ENB just did. It was so impressive. He was so impressive. From his ENB’s emerging artist performance to skyrocketing through the company, Cesar Corrales might just be ballet next Roberto Bolle. With the exception that he turns with his shoulders up. Tamara Rojo was beyond marvelous. Her technique was spotless and her triple fouettes were quite impressive as they came with ease. The audience adored them. Ovations galore, as they deserved it.

It was a great and exciting night as the young ballet bunheads of tomorrow screamed with admiration. It was a great, beautiful and crazy night. A night where young ballet hopefuls became even more inspired by ballet legends and royalty.


Thank you to all of my sponsors who helped me go cover the YAGP FINALS in NYC.