ISSUE V…

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It’s that time of year again, taking a look at this years top ten ballet schools in the world. This issue features the best of the best, and takes a look inside Master Ballet Academy and the young women that ferociously train there. The cover features from L to R Kenzie Thomas, Robbie Downey, Madison Penney, Sophia Bovet, Cassie Van Wolde and Ashlyn Mae. Other girls featured in this issue include Tia Wenkman, Jaden Grimm, and Amber Skaggs.

In other ballet news… Veronika Part retired from American Ballet Theatre, while Devon Teuscher, Christine Schevchenko, and Sarah Lane were promoted to principal. Calvin Royal III was promoted to soloist.


Tremor Update: My arm is getting a lot better, the tremors are hit and miss but still can squeeze that hard on my left side without shaking. Teaching ballet has been really exhausting quite difficult trying to use that arm to the full extent. Teaching at summer course and trying to teach partnering is a joke. But I am optimistic. My move to Charleston is in less than three weeks, and it is quite stressful. August Issue has been started, and that rather intense.


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Photos by David King

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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

SHOP A BALLET EDUCATION


 

This Summer I will be teaching at Ballet Phoenix! For more information click here.
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Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner: the TOP TEN BALLET SCHOOLS of 2015

top ten ballet schools
Winner, winner chicken dinner. The list is in. The TOP TEN Ballet Schools of 2015.

There is always a great debate when it comes to rankings. Rankings for anything really are always surrounded by controversy, but we love them. While the list last year reflected the number of graduates from a school in principal jobs in 30 major international companies, this year’s list reflects the power, innovation, and the teacher’s that make these schools. This year we have seen the power of the ballet student. At the ballet competition circuit this year we saw super powerhouse and future stars premier to the world, and we were blown away.

BIG NAMES & BIG SCHOOLS

Harrison Lee took top prize at the Prix , he is from Australia. Gisele Bethea made another strong international competition circuit this year. She is a student in Arizona.  And while these individuals took home top prizes, home schools like School of American Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, the Vaganova School, and POB made surprising debuts for their students.

One of the plus sides of big ballet  competitions, are big ballet schools. Scholarships to the most prestigious schools that have made their place in ballet history.  Unfortunately though, these dancers don’t make a school.  Very rarely does a student start and finish their training at one school, in the US.  Sure, in Europe it is more common because there are state schools that feed into the state supported ballet companies, and opera houses.  So super stars don’t make schools, and shouldn’t be a factor when deciding the best of the best. Now, when looking at a school, you have to ask yourself, if you are in the US, is it a technical school or a finishing school. For example, School of American Ballet is a finishing school… Yes, it is technical, but the majority of their upper level students are from other schools.  Most small studios in the US should be focusing on technique, like learning the basics of turn out, feet, and learning how the body works… This is like CPYB.  CPYB you learn all the basics, but you leave to a bigger school, or professional school to finish out your training, and coaching.  So this was also taken into consideration, which eliminated off a lot of the US schools from last year.

HERE WE GO… the moment you have all been waiting for…

If this was college football, well it isn’t. Haha. This is bigger than college football, this is ballet. Like football there are TEN SCHOOLS that everyone wants to get into. The only thing bigger than the school you get into, is the company you might dance for as an end result. In comparison, these are the Ivies of the ballet world, and you do have to have top marks to get in. Who are we kidding, you have to have everything to get in…

Like the Ivy League list… there are three schools that will always compete for number one in the world. International, and probably the most historical, they are the prestigious Paris Opera Ballet School, the Vaganova School, and the Royal Ballet School. It is hard to say which one of these schools is actually the best, because they are completely different styles, and create very different dancers. Last year these schools took the top.  This year, we have lumped the three into one category, as the SUPER STAR STATE SUPPORTED SCHOOLS.  It really is only fair that the three of them share number one and make room for other schools offering great training, and are more realistic to get into.

  1. Paris Opera Ballet School, Vaganova School, the Royal Ballet School (Upper School).  Historically, the three of them have always ruled ballet, and unfortunately I don’t see that changing anytime soon. But, not everyone is meant to dance there.  Not everyone is a super turned out French girl, or a leggy skinny Russian girl, and very few boys are going to become the power houses that the Royal Ballet School produces. (Remember, huge headliner  names at the Royal Opera are mostly imports from winning huge competitions.) You can’t argue that each of these schools have a very specific style, and produce a very specific look… Regardless if I like the company or school or not…

    The Mikhailovsky Ballet’s Anastasia Soboleva & Victor Lebedev Asaf Messerer’s “Class Concert.” Photo: Stas Levshin
    Honorable Mention 1.5: Every other hardcore Russian school.The Mikhailovsky Ballet’s Anastasia Soboleva & Victor Lebedev Asaf Messerer’s “Class Concert.” Photo: Stas Levshin
  2. THE SCHOOL OF AMERICAN BALLET, founded by George Balanchine, SAB is probably the only school in the US that can even resemble a portion of what a state school has to offer. Sure, the Balanchine aesthetic is super specific, and the dancers are very… well American, but that is what is celebrated. The school produces great artists and the faculty nurtures dancers to become artists at a young age. Something the dance world loves. School of American Ballet is the feeder school to NYCB, which is oddly unique in the US.

    Her voice is a bit much, she is the corps now… So holla for a dolla…. and how did she not know who the faculty of SAB were… did she just wake up one day and was like I am going to audition for this random school in NYC? You can also watch the first season of strictly ballet about SAB life.
  3. THE JOHN CRANKO SCHOOL, is one of the leading ballet schools, associated with one of the most innovated companies in the world. The Cranko school is known for international power house students. A lot of students after a big win, will decide to attend the Cranko School to hone their technique but most importantly developing the artistry needed to work as a dancer. Then they either join the company or move on.  Oh the Cranko school is associated with Stuttgart.
  4. LA ESCUELA NATIONAL DE DANZA, in Havana, Cuba. Controversy.  While we left this school off the list last year, a huge heat came onto us.  So, let us take a look at the school at National Ballet of Cuba… Just because it is an important moment in dance diaspora, doesn’t mean that it is a good school… Ironically, if we are talking about dance diaspora, we should really look at Russian Immigration changing the world’s perception of ballet through the various wars, and conflicts. But, that is neither here nor there, we are here to talk about schools. While major dance companies have Cubans in their companies, the Cuban school is basically intense Russian training, with a focus on turns… and men.  If you look at these high ranked, high profiled ballet Cuban super stars… they are all men.  After seeing National Ballet of Cuba in Los Angeles, I wasn’t impressed by their women… Creating strong technical powerhouses, the school produces more men than women. (Many of you wrote in saying I left them off the list last year because of socialism, pff. And those who said it is the most important diaspora in dance, maybe not so much, but maybe over the past 50 years… )
  5. THE AUSTRALIAN BALLET SCHOOL, our friends down under are definitely pushing their way to the international front.  With some of the best PR campaigns I have ever seen, the Australian Ballet is a reflection of their school. With a new campaign called project assemblé, the Australian Ballet school will soon have a residence for their students. Despite popular belief the Australian Ballet School is not supported by the state, well it is partially supported by the state. You can audition for the school for placement, but beware, it the application alone is $83 USD.
  6. SAN FRANCISCO BALLET SCHOOL, has truly stepped up their game.  With their ranks at the company being filled with some of the most promising ballet dancers of our time, all of these students at least spent two years in the school. San Francisco has always been the West Coast’s center for ballet, but even more so as this season ended. SFB is becoming much more than just a school, but it is becoming a breeding ground for exceptional talent. Rightfully so, since San Francisco Ballet School claims the nation’s oldest professional ballet school. SFB has now rightfully produced a future superstar choreographer, Myles Thatcher who makes his NYCB premier at the Fall2015 Gala. It is more likely for a dancer to go start to finish at SFB than any other school. SFB has turned into a breeding ground for ballet superstars over the past ten years and is causing many students, and competition winners to go there.
  7. NBS, National Ballet of Canada’s School.   NBS is a healthy structured school in which students really are prepared for the real world of ballet.  Additionally last year, we talked about their program that bridges the last year of school and the first few years of professional ballet life.  The school itself has lost some recognition on the international circuit, as they haven’t had a huge international draw lately…. Also in Canada other schools have risen to the occasion allowing more options for Canadians to train at.  Mainly speaking about GOH Academy that produced international power house Alex Wong. (They were on the list last year, but so many of you wanted to know why Royal Winnepeg, and GOH Academy were left off… Frankly put, when it comes to NBS, you just can’t compete with them.)
  8. THE JUILLIARD SCHOOL OF DANCE, for those students who are 18, and haven’t found a company contract, there aren’t very many places to go.  The Juilliard School of Dance is one of a few exceptionally ranked programs. Another is NBS, number 7 on our list.This University offers dancers a B.F.A for 24 exceptional students. Their program is rigorous but their alumni have joined numerous companies both within the US and abroad. I really, really, really want to encourage dancers after 18, to not give up.  There are places to dance, or continue your dance education without feeling like the oldest one in the room. There are various universities and programs that help continue your training and transition into professional life.
  9. THE SUNHWA ARTS HIGH SCHOOL, South Korea is becoming a powerhouse in producing international ballet super stars. So, is it the rice? No. The Sun Hwa Arts High School is the premier school for young people in Korea to attend. Most of these kids are trained to compete on the international level, and then they transfer schools. As mentioned in a previous post, Korean males are required to serve two years to the army, unless they finish first or second at an international competition. Their training is basically Russian training mixed with extreme stretching technique. Much like the Cubans, an integrated Russian technique refined for a specific body type. A lot of the Sun Hwa girls end up at Kirov DC, which is associated with Universal Ballet of Korea. Why are they on the list? Because it is important to recognize that a lot of Russian based schools have created a technique based off of a specific, ethnic body type.  In this case it is a longer but narrow torso. So many girls at the prix finals were from SunHwa.
  10. Royal Danish School of Ballet This school reminds me a lot of School of American Ballet… Obviously not the same technique, they couldn’t be more different… This school though has a very specific technique, and very specific style. They produce crazy jumpers.  Ironically, the company director is from NYCB.  The school is small, according to their website it has roughly 60-70 students ages 6-16 and paid for the by the state.