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!

 

Vlogging about Boston Ballet… and other things

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Ballet Baby Daddy Alexandre Hamoundi (american ballet theater)
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Ashley Ellis being Boss and on her Hustle (Boston Ballet)
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Dreaming of being Maria Kowroski (New York City Ballet)
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Lia Cirio being fierce and apparently MIA from Boston’s Program of Onegin… (Boston Ballet)

 

22 minute vlog…. I really tired… And I promise I will make them shorter and better quality…

20 days till my day of birth celebration! which means I gotta get on my hustle to make my YAGP goal happen. You can donate via paypal to aballeteducation@gmail.com or click here.

 🙂 Thanks. 

If you are a professional dancer and want me to doodle you, email me some photos at aballeteducation@gmail.com.
If you are a corps de ballet dancer and are interested in being interviewed for the #corpsdeballetconfessional let me know via email as well!

Don’t forget to subscribe!! Interviews with dancers at Boston Ballet, English National Ballet, Ballet West and Royal Ballet are coming!!! 

The American Ballerina: the 21st century prima

The American Ballerina in the 21st century

What truly does it mean to be an American Ballerina? 
The idea of an American Ballerina isn’t far fetched at all, and actually since the cold war, America has become one of greatest manufacturers of ballet dancers.  While up until the Cold War, ballet was dominated by the Russians.  The history of ballet is funny, because as each generation of prima ballerinas comes to the forefront, they are influenced by culture, society, and what is “popular” in ballet. Today, we are blessed with the wonders of youtube and ballet in cinema, so we can see a variety of ballet dancers instantaneously. So, as a reflection of culture, we now have a true generation of American Ballerinas.

So, we have to kind of set up some conditions that define an American Ballerina:

1. Born in the United States.
2. Trained in the United States.
3. Dances with an American Company.
4. Has achieved the rank of principal dancer.
5. Has contributed to the next generation of dancers.

As we are at a time in ballet that celebrates the most innovate choreography, the most brilliant music, and the most technical phase of ballet, there are two extraordinary women that come to mind:

Tiler Peck and Lia Cirio
Ironically, neither dancer has the typical ballet body type. When we say typical we mean Russian girl body type, or Paris Opera Body type.  Additionally, the two women are completely different.  These two women though have created a new space and new ideal for dance.  Tiler Peck has created a generation of a more jazz meets Balanchine dancer making it possible for competitive studio trained dancers transition into ballet companies and schools. While, Lia Cirio has created an athletic provocative archetype of a prima ballerina. The only two things these women really have in common is really good teeth and a really great smile

The Run Down on these women:

Tiler Peck: sporadic training in the greater Los Angeles area, transitioning to School of American Ballet, joined NYCB in 2004, became a principal in 2009. Gorgeous turns, and fills the stage. First was really seen in the welcome to SAB DVD. Balanchine trained. Subtle sensitivity and sweetness in her approach to roles.
lia cirio american ballerina

Lia Cirio: random school, transitioning to CPYB, joined Boston Ballet in 2004, became a soloist in 2007, joined the Trey McIntyre project, came back to BB in 2010 to become promoted to principal. Banging hyperextension, ferocious arabesque. First major appearance in ballet: YAGP 2003. Classically trained. A body articulate conscious approach to a role.

So what makes these two women stand out compared to say… Hee Seo or Maria Kotchekova? Well, besides the fact that both of these women aren’t born and raised in the US, they are both ridiculously Russian trained, which is gorgeous, I’m not saying that they are awful. I am saying that they fit previous archetype of what a prima ballerina is. While Hee Seo was groomed to take Julie Kent’s place, Maria Kotchekova became the standard of SFB’s short girl. While Misty Copeland has made the compelling presence and awareness of race in ballet, I don’t think her actual dancing is ground breaking. (sorry, I know I am going to hear shit for that) Then we have other leading women in the US: Carrie Imler at PNB creating the athletic look at PNB, Isabella Boylston at ABT has reinvented the Paloma Herrera, but with better arms. Maria Kowroski is like the Balanchine version of Sylvie. Wendy Whelan created the skinny fit athletic body archetype.

As these two women expand their repertory, who knows what they will create for the ballet world? It’s exciting.

In other ballet news: ABT: Paloma Herrera is getting a weird farewell with a matinee performance of Giselle, followed by Xiomara Reyes’s farewell at 7:30.  Totally getting gipped, but maybe her name just doesn’t sell seats? ABT’s PBS special AMERICAN MASTER Series was beyond gorgeous.
NYCB & SFB: have a ridiculously amount of talented people in the ranks of soloists and corps but won’t be promoted until others retire. *cough cough* hang up the pointe shoes *cough cough*
Paris Opera: Natalie Portman’s Baby Daddy is making amazing moves and changes at POB.
PNB: Please promote Leta already.
Atlanta Ballet: Had the most beautiful end to their season.
Milwaukee Ballet: Their version of Cinderella was an okay finish for the season.

Little Jessy is prepping for LA BALLET. Her go fund me is still up, any donations will go towards pointe shoes, leotards etc. http://www.gofundme.com/jessylaballet

Don’t forget to use the code SCIE15 for 15% off Eros Sportswear for Men.

The Guide to FiercenessMy guide to fierceness is almost done. Holla for a dolla!

The Boston Ballerinas

Boston Ballet sometimes gets overlooked when it comes to referencing iconic Bostonian things… What this historic New England town boasts in historic landmarks, American history, the ICA, Harvard Yard, their baseball team, and the home of the current season of Top Chef. What people forget about is their ballet company. While, New Yorkers and Bostonians have a long time rivalry, and with Boston Ballet recently making their appearance at Lincoln Center… Boston Ballet proves once again to be a standing rival against the New York Ballerinas. Not to mention ABT’s studly James Whiteside was a former principal with Boston Ballet. Now what people tend to forget is that currently, Boston Ballet boasts a roster of principals to die for. Of these principals, 9 of them I have seen dance live, and they are all mind blowing. While their men are fantastic, dynamic and to say the least were all prodigies… Their women might just be the most dynamic primas in the US.

Don’t get me wrong, there are stunning women in every company. And if this was the oscars and we were nominating for the best prima in the US, many women would dazzle us in the category. But, after a lot of thought and many hours on youtube, the women of Boston Ballet have won me over. Specifically, Kathleen Breen Combes, Lia Cirio, Ashley Ellis, Whitney Jensen and Misa Kuranaga and here is why.

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Ironically dancing the tall girl role in Rubies, she is only 5’4″ #legsfordays

Kathleen Breen Combes, she is has to be the epitome of a ballerina. Everything about her says BALLET. With legs for days, and pale skin, glowing eyes, makes her mesmorizing. She was already hailed as one of the great American Ballerinas, and I couldn’t give her enough praise. From soft romantic roles, to full length classics, to her technical rigor in Balanchine ballets. She possesses something charming that I think would inspire most young girls. As her ballet career has been followed closely from her 2003 win of The Lefkowitz Award for Special Achievement, which she won after being eliminated from the competition, to her time at Washington Ballet, to her contract with Boston Ballet and skyrocketing through the ranks, to her injury, she is everything. Standing at 5’4″ but looking 5’10” on stage, she is everything you think of a classical ballet dancer. 

Lia Cirio in Jose Martinez’s Resonance.
Lia Cirio in Jose Martinez’s Resonance.

Then there is Lia Cirio, who I think is the epitome of what a modern day ballerina is. With her fierce intensity, and ferocious attack, she gives me life. Her attention to detail, her performance quality and her well… those hyper extended legs make everything. With an arabesque for days, and her athletic physique it makes for a combination of modernity and classic ballet. While her acting skills are praised highly, her technical ability is flawless which makes for the perfect combination on stage. Her jump is for days, but matched with passion. Another ballerina with a high profiled career, Lia Cirio is definitely one who will not be forgotten. As she continually grows as an artist, pushing herself, it makes me excited for BB’s Swan Lake Reviews.

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Ken Browar & Deborah Ory for NYC Dance Project.

Ashley Ellis. Mmmm, my first memory of her was in Southern California, and I was training at South Bay Ballet. She had come to take class while still at American Ballet Theatre. Having watched videos of her, her reputation preceded her having won the Spotlight Awards. (Side note, Lia Cirio’s reputation was echoed everywhere at CPYB, but never saw her there but once, and not in class.) So, in class her beautiful legs extended into the air and I died a little. So, after stalking her while at American Ballet Theatre, I often wondered why she was never promoted… Then, she moved to Angel Corella’s company and was a soloist, but I feel like that wasn’t a fit for her. Then she came back to the states and flourished at Boston Ballet. I think everything about her dancing changed, and this new and different maturity came out in her dancing, and I fell in love all over again. She has this simple sincerity to her dancing that is ever so enchanting.

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Whitney Jensen… So young, so talented… We know her from well, everywhere. From her win of the hope award at the YAGP at 11, to her win at Varna… she was definitely one to watch and well… it paid off. From a very young age she showed control and constraint, as some young dancers get into the moment and whack everything… But she has always been in control. Known for her technical ability to turn… and turn, she is beyond exotic in the face but has come into her own. As she has grown at Boston Ballet her unique charisma has grown to be intoxicating, always leaving you wanting more.

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So, a while ago… a friend of mine was going to Harvard and said he had just saw the sleeping beauty and one of the faeries stole the spotlight. I assumed it was going to be Lilac, but when he said canary… I asked how could a 30 second variation steal prologue? He said her name is Something Kamamasdfadf something. Now, everyone knows her name. Finding the perfect partner in Jeffrey Cirio, Misa Kuranaga has grown to flourish in everything. From her graduation performance at School of American Ballet, to growing with Boston Ballet, she has become everything. With her luscious turn out, gracious technical ability, ridiculously precise musicality, and her understanding of character roles, she becomes a different dancer in every role all while giving us arabesque.

So, that sums up these dynamic women who I can’t give enough praise to. Merde as they take on Swan Lake!!