25 Asian American & Pacfic Islander Dancers To Follow

25 ASIAN AMERICAN & PACIFIC ISLANDER
DANCERS TO FOLLOW

It's May! This month is Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month. So, lets take some time and hit up the Insta and follow these 25 Talented Dancers reshaping the conversation about Asian Dancers in Ballet.

So, here is the problem. I was going to make this great post about 25 Asian American and Pacific Islander Dancers to follow… The problem? When it comes to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Ballet… there aren’t very many. While we have many amazing Asian ballet dancers from their respective countries, I realized that there aren’t very many Asian American Ballet Dancers who have risen through the ranks. This once again serves the purpose of talking about the representation of Asian Dancers in Ballet.

By definition, an Asian American is an individual who is American of Asian descent.

There is a lot to be said about Asian, Asian American, Pacific Islanders in Ballet. There are both the positive and negative arguments regarding being of Asian descent in pop culture, in medicine and in the arts. Last year, New York City Ballet’s Georgina Pazcoguin (soloist at NYCB,  Broadway Artist,  TV star, and activist) and Phil Chan really started the change by advocating the end of Yellowface in ballet productions, specifically, the Nutcracker. While this has started arguments on both sides of ballet, many directors have stepped up and pledged to end yellowface. You can read more about their new initiative here. A former grad school professor from the University of Minnesota recently was quoted for the organization and I thought to myself, “Why I haven’t I signed?” I thought, ” I am already a huge advocate of Asians in the Arts, so that is good enough. I don’t think we should have special treatment for being Asian. I definitely believe that talent matters and that this whole affirmative action in ballet is diluting the talent pool.” I then thought, “But, I don’t want ballets that portray Asian stories to go away. I don’t mind watching the Ballet version of Madame Butterfly danced by a white woman. Is it that offensive that she drew her eyeliner on heavy and powdered her face?”

My personal experience with being Asian in Ballet mirrors the story of most Asians in ballet: The Nutcracker. My first soloist role was Chinese in the Nutcracker, no surprise. I was young, but I thought, who cares? I am dancing alongside Darci Kistler. I was excited. I was then put in Chinese in every production of Nutcracker I have ever done, with the exception of CPYB, where I asked not to be cast. My time in ballet as an Asian man was jaded. I remember my time at CPYB where I was called oriental and living in Carlisle and not seeing anyone like me. It bothered me so much that I enrolled at 16 at Dickinson College just to be around diversity. There I started to question my racial identity. As someone who grew up in Southern California, and specifically the Inland Emprie, race was never a pressing issue. My neighbors to the right were a biracial family (Black and Japanese) and my neighbors on the left were Latino. The schools I grew up in were filled with every ethnicity, religion and socioeconomic status. I went to summer programs in major cities so I never really had this experience before. After I ended my career at Minnesota Dance Theatre, where I was the only Asian, and one of two people of color I decided to go get MFA. It has always been a struggle being a Korean Adoptee. Even though I am Asian, I didn’t grow up in Asian Culture. I grew up with white parents, have a white name, but white pirvelage and white racial identity doesn’t apply to me. I wanted answers so I thought I would focus on cultural studies in the arts. It started off as a great experience, but when I had to take dance classes I was bored and irritated at the lack of talent. It wasn’t helpful when the University of Minnesota’s Dance Department went through an intense racial divide. My issue then became  that those who were complaining about casting were blaming it on race and not realizing that it was about talent.

Anyways, my mind is wondering.

I then had to stop myself and remember that regardless of my own personal thoughts, I am coaching an entire generation of Asian American Ballet Dancers. No really… I am. 60% of the kids that I coach are Asian American. And what kind of mentor am I if I am just chillin behind my blog. So, I signed it. As we are faced with changes in ballet, we look to the brilliant artists who are leading the way. Click the Photo to follow the dancer and celebrate their stories and achievements as Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in ballet.

Georgina Pazcoguin, NYCB

New York City Ballet’s first Asian American, let alone Filipina American woman, ever to be promoted to an upper tier. The only other Asians who have been promoted at New York City Ballet was the 19080  Prix De Lausanne Winner Gen Horiuchi from Japan. He also danced Tea in the 1993 mainstream movie of the Nutcracker. The other was Edwaard Liang who was promoted to soloist in 1998. Georgina Pazcoguin has also been on Broadway in On The Town and Cats where she played Victoria the White Cat. She is also now on FX’s Fosse/Verdon.

Lia Cirio, Boston Ballet

Boston Ballet is known for their Asian dancers, but when it comes to Asian American ones, Lia Cirio Cirio is queen. Technically ferocious, Lia Cirio and her brother started the Cirio Collective in 2015. They are celebrating their fifth season. Additionally Lia is now choreographing throughout the US, making her one of the only Asian American Female Choreographers out there.

Candy Tong, Complexions

Candy Tong (ballerina and model) was born in San Francisco, California and graduated from the school at English National Ballet. After dancing professionally in Europe she went back to school to get her BFA from UC Irvine. She is one of Instagram’s trending dancers and currently dances for Complexions Contemporary Ballet.

Stella Abrera, American Ballet Theatre

ABT’s Stella Abrera is from Pasadena, California and is of Filipino descent. Abrera joined American Ballet Theatre as a member of the corps de ballet in 1996 and was appointed a Soloist in 2001. Abrera was appointed a Principal Dancer in August 2015.

Jeffrey Cirio, English National Ballet

Jeffrey Cirio is one bad ass ballet boy. He became a principal at Boston Ballet, then a principal at ABT, and now is at English National. He is only man of Asian descent to become a principal at American Ballet Theatre.

William Lin Yee, Pacific Northwest Ballet

William Lin Yee of PNB is from San Francisco, California. He trained at the Contra Costa Ballet Centre, San Francisco Ballet School, and the School of American Ballet. In 2004, he joined New York City Ballet as an apprentice and also was a Mae. L. Wien Award recipient. Mr. Lin-Yee joined Pacific Northwest Ballet as a member of the corps de ballet in 2008 and was promoted to soloist in 2014 and principal in 2016.

Noelani Pantastico, PNB

Noelani Pantastico is from Oahu, Hawaii. She trained at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet and attended summer courses at Pacific Northwest Ballet School from 1994 to 1996. She joined Pacific Northwest Ballet as an apprentice in 1997. She was promoted to corps de ballet in 1998, soloist in 2001, and principal in 2004. In 2008, she left PNB to join Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo as a soloist and was promoted to first soloist in 2009. In 2015, Ms. Pantastico returned to PNB as a principal dancer.

John Lam, Boston Ballet

John Lam is from Marin County, CA. He joined the Boston Ballet 2003 and was promoted to Principal in 2014.

Jim Nowakowski, Ballet Met

Noted for his time on So You Think You Can Dance, Jim is now at Ballet Met after previously being with Houston Ballet. Ballet Met has an Asian American Director, Edwaard Liang.

Jeraldine Mendoza, Joffrey Ballet

Ms. Mendoza was born in San Francisco, California and trained at the City Ballet School of San Francisco since the age of five, mainly under the artistic direction of Galina Alexandrova. At age 17, Ms. Mendoza was invited to train in the Russian course at the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow, and she graduated with honors. She later won first place at the YAGP San Francisco Regional Semi-Finals in 2011.

Shimon Ito, Miami City Ballet

Shimon Ito is from New York City. Ito joined Miami City Ballet in 2011 as a corps de ballet member and was promoted to soloist in 2016.

Lily Saito, Nashville Ballet

Lily Saito, NYC, began her training at School of American Ballet where she had the privilege of performing at Lincoln Center for three years as a child in George Balanchine’s Nutcracker. She then trained at Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School and Ellison Ballet before joining Washington Ballet as a full scholarship trainee.

Chisako Oga

Chisako Oga became an Apprentice at SFB in 2015, and then joined Cincinnati Ballet. Oga was promoted to Soloist in September 2016 and Principal for the 2017-2018 Season. Chisako Oga trained at San Francisco Ballet School on a full scholarship received at Prix de Lausanne International Ballet Competition.She is from Carlsbad, CA. This season was her last season at Cincinnati Ballet

Margaret Severin-Hansen, Carolina Ballet

A founding member of Carolina Ballet in 1998, she was promoted to principal in 2002. Hansen is from Long Island.

Mimi Tompkins, Ballet Arizona

ABE Education Cover Girl Mimi Tompkins has ferociously taken on almost every leading role in the Ballet Arizona Repertory. Mimi was born in Washington D.C and joined the company in 2014.

Regina Montgomery, Tulsa Ballet

From Los Angeles, Regina began studying ballet under former Mariinsky Principal, Marat Daukayev. She attended the Rock School for Dance in Philadelphia and received 1st Place at the Youth America Grand Prix. Regina joined TBII in 2013, the main company in 2014, and was promoted to Demi-Soloist in 2018.

Jessica He, Atlanta Ballet

From Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. She received her early ballet training at Inland Pacific Ballet Academy. Jessica moved to Philadelphia in 2012, at age 14, to enter the pre-professional training program at The Rock School for Dance Education on full scholarship. While there, she received multiple awards and merit scholarships at competitions such as the Youth America Grand Prix and World Ballet Competition. She joined Atlanta Ballet in the 2017-2018 Season.

Angelica Generosa, PNB

Angelica Generosa is from South River, New Jersey. She studied on scholarship at the School of American Ballet. Ms. Generosa joined Pacific Northwest Ballet as an apprentice. She was promoted to corps de ballet in 2012 and soloist in 2016. She also was the recipient of the School of American Ballet Mae Wien Award for Outstanding Promise.

Courtney Schenberger, Carolina Ballet

Courtney Schenberger is from Hawaii. She competed at Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) San Francisco and won 3rd  place bronze in the Junior Women Classical category. She also competed at the World Ballet Competition where she achieved the 3rd highest score in the Pre-Professional category as well as receiving the Jury’s Award. She joined Carolina Ballet in 2015, and was promoted in 2017.

Steven Morse, San Francisco Ballet

Steven Morse was born in Harbor City, California. He joined SFB in 2009 and was promoted to soloist in 2017.

UP & COMING ASIAN AMERICAN DANCERS

It is a pleasure and honor to say I coach some of the best dancers in the us. it is a bigger honor to say that the majority of dancers that i do coach are asian american. so here are some of the amazing asian american ballet students i get to train and have worked with throughout the years.

Tegan Chou

Petra Johnson

Devin Mar

Chloe Han

Marcus Ian Taylor

Amandine Isidro

Leonidas Adarmes

Margaret Mothersbaugh

Esmé Chou

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Happy Siblings Day!!

If you didn’t know, today is National Siblings Day! Today is a day to celebrate your brothers and sisters. Because ballet is genetically inclined, it won’t surprise you that there numerous amazing ballet siblings out there.

There are the amazing Cirios, the founders of the Cirio Collective. Lia Cirio is a Principal Dancer at Boston Ballet and her brother, Jeffrey Cirio was a Principal at Boston, then ABT, and now English National Ballet.

 

Of course New York City Ballet has a history of having siblings in the company.

There are the Fairchilds. Robbie Fairchild left City Ballet for Broadway but his sister Megan, a new mom, is still there!

Then there were the Staffords, both principals as well. Abi is sitll dancing while her brother is now Associate Director of New York City Ballet. And then there is also the Angle brothers Jared and Tyler.

 

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https://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/27/arts/dance/jonathan-stafford-bids-farewell-to-city-ballet.html / New York City Ballet Jonathan Stafford partnering his sister Abi Stafford in a pas de deux from “Emeralds,” one of Balanchine’s “Jewels” ballets, at the Koch Theater on Sunday.CreditJulieta Cervantes for The New York Times

 

There are the super famous brothers of Daniel and Roland Sarabia who defected from Cuba to become international superstars.

Patricia and Jeanette Delgado both are superstars at Miami City Ballet.

Then we also had Lorna and Lorena Feijoo who took the ballet world by storm when they arrived.

So much talent out there! So celebrate your siblings today!

 

NOMINEES OF BENOIS DE LA DANSE 2017

NOMINEES OF BENOIS DE LA DANSE-2017 // If you aren’t familiar with the Benois de la Danse, they awards for dancers and choreographer who have made a significant cultural contribution over the past season. The money from the gala and fundraisers goes to ballet veterans to help support them financially. The winners are selected by a jury. The 2017 nominees are:

 

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Photo Courtesy of Bolshoi Theater

CHOREOGRAPHERS 
SIDI LARBI CHERKAOUI – Exhibition, Modest Mussorgsky/ Maurice Ravel, Royal Ballet of Flanders.
EDWARD CLUG –Handman, Milko Lazar, NederlandsDans Theater.
HYO-HYUNG KANG – Into the Pulse, Puri, Korean National Ballet.
AKRAM KHAN – Giselle, Vincenzo Lamagna after Adolphe Adam, English National Ballet.
CRYSTAL PITE – The Seasons’ Canon, Antonio Vivaldi, Max Richter, Paris Opera Ballet
ALEXEY RATMANSKY – Serenade after Plato’s Symposium, Leonard Bernstein, American Ballet Theatre.
DEMIS VOLPI – Salomé, different composers, Stuttgart State Ballet.

BALLERINAS 
STELLA ABRERA – Princesse Aurora, The Sleeping Beauty, P.Tchaikovsky/M.Petipa, A.Ratmansky’s version, American Ballet Theater.
NINA KAPTSOVA — Short Time Together, M.Richter, L.Bethoven/P.Lightfoot, S.Leon, Bolshoi Theatre of Russia.
MISA KURANAGA – Tatiana, Onegin, P.Tchaikovsky/J.Cranko; Medora, Le Corsaire, A.Adam/M.Petipa, I.Liška’s version, Boston Ballet.
LUDMILA PAGLIERO – Other Dances, F.Chopen/J.Robbins, Paris Opera Ballet.
SEUL-KI PARK – Aegina, Spartacus, A.Khachaturian/Y.Grigorovich, Korean National Ballet.
MARIA RICCETTO – Tatiana, Onegin, P.Tchaikovsky/J.Cranko, National Ballet of Uruguay.

DANCERS 
GUSTAVO CARVALHO – Don Jose, Carmen, G.Bizet/M.Haydée, National Ballet of Uruguay.
DAVIDE DATO – Abderakhman, Raymonde, A.Glazunov/M.Petipa, R. Noureyev’s version, Vienna State Ballet.
JAE-WOO LEE – Karabosse, The Sleeping Beauty, P.Tchaikovsky/M.Petipa, M.Haydée’s version, Korean National Ballet.
BROOKLYN MACK – Leading part, Theme and Variations,P.Tchaikovsky/G.BalanchineTheWashington Ballet.
HUGO MARCHAND – Title role, Romeo and Juliet, S.Prokofiev/R.Noureyev, Paris Opera Ballet.
DENIS RODKIN – Solor, La Bayadère, L.Minkus/M. Petipa, Y.Grigorovich’s version, Bolshoi Theatre of Russia.
JEFFREY CIRIO – Colas, La Fille Mal Gardée, F.Herold/F.Ashton; Title role, Prodigal Son, S.Prokofiev/G.Balanchine, American Ballet Theatre.

 

The members of the Jubilee Jury, under the presidency of Yuri Grigorovich, are all Benois laureates:

Julio Bocca — Artistic Director of the National Ballet of Uruguy;
Jorma Elo — Choreographer;
Sue Jin Kang — Artistic Director of the Korean National Ballet;
Julie Kent — Artistic Director of the Washington Ballet;
Manuel Legris — Artistic Director of the Vienna State Ballet;
Brigitte Lefevre — Ex-Director of the Paris Opera Ballet, Director of Danse Biennale in Cannes;
Svetlana Zakharova — Prima ballerina of the Bolshoi Theater of Russia.

PURCHASE TICKETS!

Center BENOIS: 8-916-106-04-14 (only cash; no online option).
Bolshoi box-office: 8-915-453-31-50 (no online option)
Box-offices around Moscow:
www.ticketland.ru +7-495-937-77-37
www.parter.ru +7-495-258-00-00
Russian Youth Theater +7-495-692-00-69 (no online option)

This week in Ballet News…

This week was a super exciting week in ballet world…
Boston Ballet opened Onegin.
NYCB closed their season with killer black and white ballets.
PNB and Houston Ballet took on NYC with killer reviews.
Dutch national Ballet premiered their killer campaign for Best of Balanchine.
San Francisco closed their Swan Lake.
Los Angeles Ballet sold out their Don Q.
Royal Ballet’s Iana Salenko made her debut in Giselle.
Atlanta Ballet named their new artistic director coming from San Fran Ballet: Gennadi Nedvigin
Ballet West had their YAGP Gala
THE YAGP regionals are happening
Corella School of Ballet in Spain’s new PR photos look like they are out of Vogue.
And a bunch more…. but what is more important… Whitney Jensen left Boston Ballet last July, and it was kind of a shocker. 2 weeks ago she announced she was joining Norwegian National Ballet in Oslo, and she departed to take her contract there this week. So here is to you Ms. Jensen and best of luck!
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Follow her endeavors on Insta: @whitneybugs

Secondly…. Has Boston Ballet become a stepping stone for dancers now? In 2004, Sarah Lamb left her principal position to Royal. In 2012 James Whiteside left his principal position for ABT. Last year Boston lost Whitney Jensen  (to Norwegian National Ballet) and Jeffrey Cirio (American Ballet Theatre). So, here are my speculations:

  1. Boston Ballet AD is either an amazing coach and director, and have nurtured his dancers into bigger things or his dancers are extremely talented and they are outgrowing him or he is pushing them to reach out and explore.
  2. Boston Ballet’s repertory and performance schedule isn’t enough for it’s high caliber of dancers.
  3. Boston Ballet’s politics are too intense and no one wants to put up with them.
  4. The Boston audience is as responsive to the company’s performances, thus limiting the budget for dancers and the costs of living are too high.
  5. Boston Ballet has recruited such talent over the past ten years, cultivated it to a point no one saw coming… and the dancers have gone on their own to find ways to push themselves to their limits and find new opportunities to grow.

IF YOU ARE A CORPS DANCER AND ARE WILLING TO TALK TO ME VIA EMAIL OR SKYPE TO BE INTERVIEWED FOR THE CORPS DE BALLET CONFESSIONAL… EMAIL ME PLEASE! ABALLETEDUCATION@GMAIL.COM

 

THE FUTURE OF BALLET: The Cirio Collective

The Cirio Collective if the first of five start ups I am going to endorse/plug/support throughout the year. To donate click here.

While it is important to be educated in ballet, it is more important to understand that ballet/dance is a living and breathing art form constantly evolving. It is hard to be progressive in today’s industry because genres are becoming more and more blended. That is the thing about ballet, the evolution and expansion is happening at a rate no one ever could have predicted. When ballet dancers would wait for new choreography, it was one thing. Now, ballet dancers are have become impatient with artistic staff (it is super costly to have a choreographer come in and set a new work, and super risky for a payoff) they are exploring their own forms of movement.

While dancers all across the world have been starting small groups/labs/experiments, none have matched the quality and finesse needed to turn into something major. The last of which were Complexions and Cedar Lake. The Trey McIntyre Project lasted, but since evolved. Now, why am I so hopeful for a company/project/collective that hasn’t even debuted?

Jeffrey Cirio is a ballet prodigy. Awesome.

He has good taste in photography and editing. InstaAwesome.

His sister is the epitome and ideal new ballerina. Flippin Awesome.

He has access to good dancers during the off season. Bostonian Awesome + Ballet celeb awesome.

He is smart. Generally awesome. He has really, carefully thought this through… from the aesthetic of his site, to his PR campaigns, to the overall mood of it all.

So, why am I writing all of this out? Here it is…. Ballet has to have good PR. PR encompasses this field of development, fundraising, and the efforts to keep ballet alive. While the Cirio collective will bring in a younger crowd than the typical ballet audience, this crowd is the crowd we have to please. This will be the crowd that supports ballet for the next 40 years, and this new crowd of ballet/dance go-ers is not patient. Between IG, SYTYCD, and blogs like mine, everyone can be a critic, a judge, or even an editor… With that all being said, I also think it can be used for good…

Here is what I am asking… Support the Cirio Collective. Go online, like their page, share their page, share this page, exposure is always a good thing… buuuut you have to donate. I can not stress that enough… YOU MUST DONATE. For all of you moms and dads out there saving for summer programs… How will your kid dance if there is no place for them?

Bonus, they already have their 501c3 which means tax deductible and exempt… I know that this doesn’t help you this tax season… but hey… it will help you next season!

Facebook: Circio Collective

IG/Twitter @ciriocollective

http://ciriocollective.com

So, here we go… Go make this into a reality… Thanks.

It”s a New Year…

Hello readers! Wishing you the best this new year! 

For those of you who are students, best of luck with your summer program auditions. And for those of you who are dancers, merde for the spring season. And, for those of you who simply enjoy ballet and this blog, I hope this year brings everything you have wanted.

Where to begin… where to begin… Let’s see… Today is the one year anniversary of my dad’s passing, so I have had a lot of time to reflect. The kind of reflection that should happen more often, but life sometimes gets in the way. Recently, I was looking at my itinerary for the upcoming fashion calendar and I realized that I don’t want to be in fashion much longer. Don’t get me wrong… The perks are great, the traveling is amazing, and you are surrounded by the most beautiful of things… But, as I was sitting there reading, I realized that I would rather be working in ballet. So, this is the year I am dedicating to transition out of fashion and back into ballet, specifically public relations, marketing, communication and sales… I have put out a few resumés, so we shall see.

So, enough about me… There are some exciting things going on in the dance world right now. The first is that two principal male prodigies have started to steer the course of ballet into a new direction. The first is Daniil Simkin, the Vienna prodigy at American Ballet Theatre with his project: Intensio. This project combines high caliber ballet dancers, with headlining reputations and innovative digital media. (click here to read more) The second of the men is Jeffrey Cirio, a principal dancer with Boston Ballet. The Cirio Collective is spearheaded by this young prodigy, and basically is creating space for dancers to take movement into their own hands. Their first season premier this summer. Dancers really don’t get to explore much on their own as they have the Artistic Director’s vision to carry out… This new collective I hope will eventually grow, and will become an innovative contemporary company based out of Boston. (Click here, and like their page on Facebook).

Principal dancers around the world though seem to be creating their own spaces. They are creating their own galas, realizing that their social media presence, and name alone can sell out a theatre. Roberto Bolle, Diana Vishneva are prime examples… I wouldn’t be surprised if Maria Kotchekova soon heads her own project. Former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan has joined Dance Spirit Magazine as a featured writer/editor. Her youtube and wordpress basically exploded last year, and has landed her a spot in publishing. (I am actually surprised this didn’t happen sooner.) Dance Magazine named their 25 to watch… If you didn’t know what this list was… It basically selects dancers and choreographers from around the world, and basically dubs careers to fame… Hee Seo, Leta Biasucci and others have graced the list.

Other fun new things this year? Paris Opera Ballet under Benjamin Millepied basically has given us access to behind the scenes of Paris Opera Ballet like never before… Thank you social media.

On the downside, this year is going to be echoed with retirements… But as we are saddened to see such artists take leave, don’t fret because a new generation of ballet dancers are coming into their own and they soon will be the names everyone is talking about, if people aren’t already talking about it… So here are some predictions for 2015… Hope they come true *fingers crossed*

Misty Copeland gets promoted to Principal at American Ballet Theatre.. Seriously, I think everyone is done waiting.

NYCB’s: Lauren Lovette and Savannah Lowery make exceptional debuts and are brought to rank of principal. (I don’t know who they will knock out of the principal role, but with Wendy retired… money has to be available right?)

Justin Peck makes an even larger contribution to the world of ballet… Seriously… He is probably the one we are all watching the closest right now, especially after he premiers in the documentary about his work…

oh, and David King, takes on the world of ballet in a greater capacity than this blog. Haha.