The Top Ten Ballet Companies (2017 Edition)

Top 10 Ballet companies 2017

Ballet is progressing at such a fast rate that it seems impossible to keep up with all of the changes. This year, the idea of ballet has shifted even more. From spectacular premiers and wondrous PR Campaigns, ballet truly has a lot to honor this year. Every ballet company has something to offer the world, and nowadays, prestige or reputation isn’t enough. So, without further adieu, a Ballet Education’s TOP TEN BALLET COMPANIES 2017 EDITION.

1.The first company this year is English National Ballet for their premiere of Giselle. Sculpted by female artistic director Tamara Rojo, English National Ballet premiered their work of Akram Kahn’s Giselle. This has probably been the most innovative work the ballet world as seen in a long time. From primal movements to a new score, this new ballet captures the fundamentals of raw human emotions.


More info on Akram Khan’s Giselle: http://giselle.ballet.org.uk/

2 + 3 Royal Ballet & San Francisco Ballet // Liam Scarlett’s Frankenstein
http://www.roh.org.uk/about/the-royal-ballet
http://sfballet.org

4. New York City Ballet // Justin Peck’s The Times are Racing

http://nycballet.com

5. Het National Ballet // Night Fall

6. Staatsballett (Berlin)

7. Bolshoi Ballet

8. American Ballet Theatre

9. Paris Opera Ballet

10+11. The Australian Ballet, National Ballet of Canada

You can read more about these companies in the magazine by clicking here.
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THE TOP TEN BALLET SCHOOLS (2016)

top ten ballet schools 2016
It is an Olympic year, and like all major competitions, there are favorites going in. Favorites that are based on long-standing wins, countries that have dominated certain sports, and underdogs that have risen to the make the Olympic team… But these are not the Olympics… This is ballet.

Ready, set, go… Like any race or any competition, there is anticipation, adrenaline, and favorites. It is the mindset of the competitive human nature, survival of the fittest, or whatever you want to call it that causes ballet to evolve. No one will ever admit it, but it is true… Every school, every ballet company, everyone in ballet is always trying to show one up. Without this unspoken competition, ballet would not evolve… It even happens in the classroom, one person does 3 pirouettes, and another will attempt 4 to get approval, to get a nod, or get a correction… “Anything you can do, I can do better…” It is that mindset that ferociously drives ballet competitions, and how a dancer performs in the classroom. Most dancers claim to only compete with themselves, but that is a lie… They are also competing against the hundreds of other ballet dancers out there, hoping to get a job, or a spot at a top school… It is just like applying for colleges.

Every June, shortly after all of the schools have their year end performances, and after major companies announced their new rosters, I sit with a large cup of coffee and write. Before I go into the lists, which if you are that anxious for you can scroll down and skip this. There has to be some clarification about these lists… They are solely based on my opinions and statistics that I gather. And, yes I am extremely biased, but I am extremely honest… But there is something greater than just ballet schools and the alumni they produce… This year and the next few will prove, that the power of the ballet competition is becoming a stronger power player, now more than ever. Additionally, the power of social media is influencing the tides of the ballet world and you must wonder, how this is going to affect ballet as a whole. In fact, it has already started…

But this year was a spectacular year in the world of Ballet Schools and Ballet Competitions… and as a result the list it has shifted the list from last year…

1. Royal Ballet, London, ENGLAND (ballet school/ finishing school)… This year Royal Ballet’s graduating class kicked ass… No one could touch their graduating class, even if they combined with ABTII, Royal Ballet’s graduating class was close to flawless. With their students joining top companies around the world, I believe every one of their graduates landed a decent contract… Not to mention one of their students won the YAGP. But this is no surprise as Royal Ballet Upper School is filled with competition winners, their upper levels are always made up of international competitors. This school, even though the lower school is amazing, the reality is, that the upper school is a finishing school for exceptional technicians. (click here for the school) (Last year’s graduating class contracts…)

2. Vaganova Ballet Academy, Saint Petersburg, RUSSIA (ballet school/finishing school) has had a bangin’ year for their graduates. Their lower classes have a stunning group which is actually kind of diverse in ethnicity… More now compared to before. Social media superstars attending the academy from Japan, Italy, the US and more… This is probably credited to their principal/director Nikolai Tsiskaridze and his recruiting and social media exposure of the technique. (Website, but kind of sparse)

3. Escuela Nacional de ballet de Cuba, Havana, CUBA(ballet school/finishing school): This school has always been known for making powerhouse dancers, especially men. And for some reason their men are some of the best turners in the world. It is insane. (website)

4. John Cranko School, Stuttgart, GERMANY (ballet school/ finishing school) Pretty much hardcore Vaganova ballet training except it is supplemented with amazing modern and contemporary technique… Making it one of the best schools in the world, and a reason why prize winners from competitions choose that school. (website)

5. Bolshoi Ballet Academy, Moscow, RUSSIA (ballet school/ finishing school)- It is motherland Russia… do I have to say more? Bolshoi Ballet Academy is actually the Moscow State Academy of Choreography and is the affiliate school of Bolshoi. They are also partnered with the US to host summer programs here, and is affiliated with other schools around the world, including Brasil. (US Website)

6. Small schools all over Japan (ballet School) These schools are killing it at competitions and making a mark in the Asian market of ballet training.

7. Houston Ballet Academy, Houston, Texas USA (finishing school): Houston Ballet Academy has grown over the past two years… I mean they have always been known to recruit incredible leapers and turners… but over the past two years Houston Ballet has been cranking out American dancers left and right with impeccable Americanized Russian technique… Truthfully, again I have never been to the school, or observed the full school… but it is on my list of things to do this year. Houston Ballet seems to be the only American school at the moment who is infiltrating the European market and European Competitions. (website)

8. Ellison Ballet School, NYC, New York, USA (ballet school) is definitely making waves in the ballet world, and they are producing a ridiculous sum of professional and pre-professional dancers. It seems everyone wants to go to this school now, and has definitely come a long way since my post two years ago. It is turning into one of the top schools in NYC and in the world. (website)

9. School of American Ballet, NYC, New York, USA (finishing school): Despite everyone always being so upset that SAB is always placed extremely high on the list… This year, wasn’t that impressive… But I will defend that their technique may not be classical ballet, but it is ballet and curriculum creates musical, precise and interesting dancers. (website)

10. Scuola di Ballo del Teatro alla Scala, Milan, ITALY (ballet school): Argued as the second oldest ballet school in the world, the students from La Scala are much like the students of POB. They only want to dance for their home country, but this year’s graduates seem to be spreading their wings and heading all over.(website)

Other schools that were considered:

National Ballet School, Canada
Australian Ballet School, Australia
Royal Danish School, Denmark
Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, USA
Ballet Academy East, USA
Sunhwa Arts Academy, South Korea
Real Conservatorio Profesional de Danza Mariemma, Spain
JKO School, USA
The Rock School,USA
Vienna State Opera Ballet School, Vienna
Paris Opera Ballet School, France
San Francisco Ballet School, USA
Princess Grace of Monaco Academy, Monte Carlo
Master Ballet Academy, Arizona, USA
and others…

top ten us ballet schools

And finally, here is the list of the TOP TEN schools in the US for 2016. (In no particular order)

  1. School of American Ballet (SAB)
  2. Houston Ballet Academy (HBA)
  3. San Francisco Ballet School (SFB)
  4. Ellison Ballet School*
  5. Boston Ballet School (BB)
  6. Pacific Northwest Ballet School (PNB)
  7. Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet*(CPYB)
  8. Master Ballet Academy*
  9. Jacquelyn Kennedy Onassis School (JKO)
  10. Ballet Academy East* (BAE)

*not affiliated with a major company

 

Now, by nature, and by history the following schools have regarded as the best schools in the world. They are the big hitters, those who have contributed to ballet history, and those who have contributed the greatest ballet stars. And for those who wondered what these schools are they are, in no particular order:

TOP 10 BALLET SCHOOLS IN THE WORLD BY HISTORY

  1. Paris Opera Ballet School
  2. Royal Ballet School
  3. Vaganova Ballet Academy
  4. Bolshoi Ballet Academy
  5. John Cranko School
  6. The School at National Ballet of Cuba
  7. School of American Ballet
  8. Scoula di Ballo del Teatro la Scala
  9. The School at Royal Danish Ballet
  10. National Ballet School, Canada

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The Best of the Best… Ballet Company Awards 2014 (2013-2014 Season)

If Ballet Companies had an awards ceremony to go to, it would be the Golden Globes. It wouldn’t be the Oscars, even if it is the most glamorous event. This is because the Oscars are voted on by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science, we basically have that from the Princess Grace Awards and the Prixs for that.  If dancers were to vote on other dancers and companies, then it would be the SAGs.  The Golden Globes are voted on by the Hollywood Foreign Press, and I feel like that in itself says it all. The power of press and publicity goes a long way, not to mention that the opinions of editors dictate the content featured. But, that isn’t what makes the Golden Globes so special, it is the fact that the mission of the Hollywood Foreign Press is to make films accessible to the general public by unbiased information and reviews. So, as I compiled a list of companies worth noting this year, the list grew rather large, so I decided to make categories, just like any awards ceremony. Because ballet is constantly changing, I needed to create categories that would allow flexibility, change and innovation. So, here are the categories that I felt represented the art form as a whole, and as a reflection of a company:

So without further ado… The Envelopes Please…

Best Premiere of a new work

The New York City Ballet, in PAZ de LA JOLLA, by choreographer Justin Peck. 

(Nominees: Daphnis and Chloe, Paris Opera, Choreographed by Millpied. Lest We Forget Program from English National Ballet)

 

Best Repertory for the season.

Headed by Benjamin Millpied and Bridgette Lefevre, Paris Opera Ballet once again had a ridiculous season including: La Dame Aux Camelias/Neumeier, Dances at a Gathering/Robins, Psyche/Ramatsky, Le Park/Prelojac, Notre-Dame De Paris/Petit, the Sleeping Beauty/Nureyev, Doux Mensonges/ Kylian, Daphnis and Chloe/Millpied,Orpheus and Eurydice/ Bausch just to name a few. During the season during Onegin, Amandine Albisson received her place as an etoiles for her role in Tatiana.

(Nominees: San Francisco Ballet, the New York City Ballet, National Ballet of Canada)

 

Best reprisal of a classic work.

This award goes to the Bolshoi Ballet in their rendition of Balanchine’s Jewels. With sets designed by Alyona Pikalova, Costumes by Elena Zaitseva and lighting by Maxim Fomchenkov, this production hands down belongs to them. Their rendition of Jewels is probably the best I have ever seen. This also won Olga Smirnova Prix Benois de la danse.

(Nominees: Houston Ballet’s Modern Masters, Queensland Ballet’s MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet, Teatro La Scala for Serata Petit)

 

Technical Excellence from a company.

Amidst the craziness of the circus, Hamburg Ballet featuring Alina Cojocaru, the Hamburg Ballet’s strength shown through. Lilliom was performed in Orange County this February making their North American premiere, the world premiere was in 2011. John Neumeier’s choreography was not only innovating but showcased a ballet revolving around a man without having a million show off pirouettes. Not only was the work modern and innovative, but the entire companies’ classical background showed through and through, all seven scenes and a prologue.

(Nominees: National Ballet of Cuba, Vienna State Ballet, Dresdon Semproper Ballet)

 

Best Costuming for a performance 

This award goes to The Australian Ballet’s new production of Cinderella. The costumes and sets were designed by Jérôme Kaplan. The new production was choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky to the original Prokofiev Score.

 

Best Collaboration

Dutch National Ballet stole fashion week during the SS2014 Paris shows with their collaboration with Viktor & Rolf in Haute Couture. In addition, Dutch National Ballet has comprised numerous collaborations through out the 2013-2014 season like their premiere of the Tempest that included amazing collaborators, and their new moves program, and Dutch Doubles. Four choreographers were paired with four world-famous Dutch artists: fashion designers, photographers and musicians.

(Damian Woetzel, Artistic Director of the Vail International Dance Festival, Julia Adam’s for the Boathouse Project, )

 

Most Innovative Company.

San Francisco Ballet’s season took it home. While contemporary companies create new works constantly, innovation has to be supported with stability and diversity. San Francisco Ballet definitely hit it out of the park with Giselle, Wheeldon’s Cinderella, Ratmansky’s Trilogy, Borderlands by McGregor, Wheeldon’s Ghosts, and the premiere of a Liam Scarlett ballet, and a premiere from and Possokhov. Not to mention they threw in Balanchine, Robins for giggles. San Francisco Ballet also has continued their relationship Hamburg Ballet by hosting them as a part of their season.

(Tu Dance, Hamburg Ballet, Complexions, Eifman Ballet, Scottish Ballet, Prelojac)

 

Most Inspiring Company.

English National Ballet, headed by Tamara Rojo might just be the most inspiring ballet company in the world right now. With their previous innovations, despite their financial downfalls, the English National Ballet had an amazing season. Most noted I think was their performance at Glastonbury, which was breathtaking. It was a piece from their Lest We Forget program. You can actually watch the video online. Then they stunned audiences again at their Emerging Artists Competition with contemporary solos to die for. Raging reviews for not only the winners, but all of the competitors this past season.

(Miami City Ballet under Lourdes Lopez, Royal Ballet of Flanders )

 

Company Contribution to the World of Arts.

In the province of Dresdon it seems a lot is happening in dance, but this award goes to the Forsythe Company. Founded in 2005, after Ballett Frankfurt closed, this company has create new works that hope to survive for the next generation of artists. In addition, William Forsythe will be joining the faculty at University of Southern California in the fall of 2015. He is not the artistic director of the Forsythe Company. But, this international group of dancers has created and performed tremendously. As in the middle, somewhat elevated has survived hopefully this next crop of choreographers will be nurtured accordingly to contribute to ballet’s repertory.

(Ballet Black, the New York City Ballet because of Justin Peck)

 

New or Returning Presence to the International Ballet Community, 

The Korean National Ballet might just be joining the rest of the newer asian companies on the rise. Like National Ballet of China, Ballet Philippines and Hong Kong Ballet, Asian companies are on the rise. The Korean National Ballet is headed by former Stuttgart Principal Kang Sue Jin, and she is leading them artistic merits. With the way education is structured in Korea, it is surprising to find out that everyone in their company is a college graduate and didn’t join the company until their early 20’s, versus say other companies that hire 16-18 year olds. Their rosters are filled with tons of international dance winners, in fact 9-10 company members have medaled at an international dance competition.

Joburg Ballet (South Arica), Dance Theatre of Harlem, Pacific Northwest Ballet



 

Creating ten categories that reflect the nature of ballet companies, not individuals, was rather difficult.  The size of the company, the theatre residency, and location would not effect the final outcomes. Here is information on how I graded companies: I only looked at the 2013-2014 performance season, individual dancers within the company, and artistic achievement based on reviews and press releases. Social media did not influence the choices. It seriously has taken a month to compile information, read reviews, and watch as much as I could. So, without categories my list would be: The New York City Ballet, Paris Opera, Bolshoi, Hamburg, the Australian Ballet, Dutch National Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, English National Ballet, the Forsythe Company, Korean National Ballet.

I was not going to single out dancers, because there are other numerous prestigious dance awards out there that grade artistic merit. As European Ballerina’s pray for Prima Assoluta, Paris Opera dancers pray for Etoiles, people hope for the Princess Grace Awards or the Benois… The list goes on. But notably last season: Ogla Smirnova, James Whiteside, Evgenia Obrazsova, Hee Seo, Tiler Peck, and Sara Mearns all had pretty amazing seasons on the international stages. As Olga Smirnova isn’t even a principal yet, and Hee Seo just got her promotion last season they are two women to definitely watch. Evgenia Obraztsova makes her way next to other Russian powerhouses: Svetlana Zakharova, and Natalia Osipiva, Polina Semionova, and Diana Vishneva. Balanchine ballerinas Tiler Peck and Sara Mearns are both competing I think to be the star at NYCB. Both are crazy different in approach, body type and musicality, but watching them dance is addicting. Both have literally grown up on stage. James Whiteside definitely gets to be next to Roberto Bolle and Daniil Simkin at ABT, but rightfully so, he is stud on stage…  This year, I haven’t really seen any men that steal my heart… Well actually, the men of English National Ballet’s Emerging Artists were pretty amazing.

Also, as I just finished writing this I realized Royal Ballet didn’t really make anything… Truth me told I wasn’t impressed with their season, and because my anger at the Royal Ballet this blog was originally started… So…. Haha.