"Mariaelena Ruiz was not only one of the best teachers I ever had but also a great mentor. She helped me excel in life, not only in ballet. She made me realize my potential and did not let me rely on what I had but made me work on what I didn’t. I will forever be grateful to Mariaelena and everything she has done for me."
Beckanne Sisk
Principal Dancer with Ballet West
(photos courtesy Brooke Meyer Photography)

Derek Dunn, Beckanne Sisk, Michaela DePrince, Taylor Ciampi. Rachel Richardson. Gabe Stone Shayer. These are just some of the names that are associated with the Youth America Grand Prix’s Outstanding Teacher Award— Mariaelena Ruiz. This amazingly talented coach is now a part of Cary Ballet Conservatory and has built a program to rival most professional schools in a matter of five years. This amazing teacher also had an amazing career. At fourteen she joined Ballet Nacional de Caracas, the ballet company in Venezuela. She also placed 3rd in the Junior Division at the USAIBC Jackson competition where she won her scholarship to the School of American Ballet. She also won best pas de deux, and 3rd place senior division at Varna and then won at the Prix Volinine. And that is just her background in dance. In 2000 she started teaching at the Rock School for Dance Education where she coached and mentored now some of the world’s top dancers. In 2015 she left the Rock School and started her own program at Cary. 

A Ballet Education had a chance to catch up with this in demand teacher and get some insight into her mind. 

What makes a good ballet student?
There are many aspects that create a good ballet student. The most important to me are hard work, discipline, willingness to change, and the ability to listen to the corrections and advice of teachers/coaches

What are some of the qualities you look for In potential students?
I look at physical ability and talent, of course, but I always look at dancers’ eyes and see whats there; how much do they want it.

As a teacher, what inspires you?
Music inspires me. Also, seeing a student have an “ah-ha” moment and finally get something that we had been working on for a long time is wonderful.

What is your favorite thing to teach? 
My students will laugh when they read this 🙂 I love chasse preparation into double en dedan pirouettes, also en dedan en dehors pirouettes without coming down. But, mostly I love breaking down a variation or a combination technically and coaching it, working every single step from its preparation all the way to the end.

What are your pet peeves when it comes to “classical” ballet technique
Sickled feet are an issue for me because it’s usually a result of and underlying problem and it translates or comes from bad alignment as you are leaving the floor. Also, I like versatile students that can move from style to style so I am not fond of schools that teach the dancers that there’s only one way.

What are 3 variations you disapprove of seeing at Yagp? 
I think it is important to give the dancers challenging variations that can help them improve but also that are appropriate for their age and where they are in their development.  There are exceptions to the rule but I usually disagree with Odette, Odile, and Gamzatti Red ( Makarova version). Those 3 have to be done so well and require certain maturity and experience that I am hesitant to see a student do them.

What is the future at Cary Ballet Conservatory and what do you want to see as the Professional Training Program director and co-owner of the school?
Everyone keeps asking about this being such big bold move on my part. 

Co-owning a school, creating and directing a Professional Program from scratch specially one of this magnitude and caliber that has placed these many dancers in professional companies and has gotten this much attention and results in record time, has not been easy. I would like to see my vision for this program continue to be fulfilled. I want every program and aspect of the Conservatory to be successful and have cohesive training, leadership and great results. I want everyone to understand that no matter if you are going to be a recreational dancer, a professional dancer or the next big exec at a fortune 500 company, the discipline and commitment taught in this art form will give you an edge over everyone else. I would like to continue to inspire people through great training in the art of classical ballet. 


Mariaelena Ruiz

Professional Training Program Director
Cary Ballet Conservatory
Artistic Director Cary Ballet Company