Watching Boston Ballet’s full company class, it’s tough to pick out the 10 members of Boston Ballet II from the 40 or so dancers in the main company. Certainly, 18-year-old Brittany Stone seems right at home. Petite and slender as a reed, she sails through combinations with fluid arms, articulate feet, sky-high extensions and timing that echoes each musical phrase.
Stone initially was awarded a full scholarship to Boston Ballet School’s Trainee Program last summer. However, after only a month, Boston Ballet artistic director Mikko Nissinen and assistant artistic director Russell Kaiser were so impressed with her hard work, versatility and improved skills that she was plucked from the ranks to join BBII. “She is a well-trained, beautiful, unaffected dancer,” says Nissinen. “She has lots of potential.”
Stone started ballet at age 6 in her hometown of East Hartford, Connecticut. “My parents also put me in sports and karate, but those didn’t stick,” she recalls. “Ballet stuck. It’s such a great escape—whatever was going on in my life, I could go to ballet and forget.” When Stone was 13, she moved to New York City to study in the preprofessional program at American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. In 2009–10, she spent her last year of high school at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts before landing in Boston.
Kaiser calls BBII “a wonderful bridge between being exclusively a student and a full-fledged professional,” adding that it offers more transitional guidance and intensive training than a typical second company. In addition to three weekly classes with the main company, the dancers also take two BBII classes each week and sometimes add in Boston Ballet School and Trainee Program classes as well. The small, rigorous BBII classes are tailored specifically to their stage of development and provide one-on-one attention. The full company classes, on the other hand, put the dancers among the ranks of the professionals. “My first company class was scary; I was super-nervous,“ Stone recalls. “You have to be very disciplined. But everyone is friendly. I love watching the dancers I admire, to pick up little things.”
BBII dancers have opportunities to work directly with distinguished artists such as Boston Ballet resident choreographer Jorma Elo, former Paris Opéra Ballet étoile Florence Clerc and Balanchine répétiteur Sandra Jennings. They regularly understudy roles from Boston Ballet’s diverse repertoire, and they join the main company for select performances. Stone danced in the company’s 40-performance run of The Nutcracker as well as the season-opening La Bayadère, including the challenging “Kingdom of the Shades” sequence.
In addition, BBII performs its own repertoire, sometimes choreographed specifically for them, in concerts throughout Greater Boston. Frequent school outreach performances give the BBII dancers, ranging in age from 16 to 21, a showcase for major pas de deux they normally wouldn’t have a chance to perform at this stage of their career.
BBII also helps the dancers with professional placement, and members have gone on to dance with companies around the globe, including The Royal Ballet, Nederlands Dans Theater and American Ballet Theatre. But most commonly, BBII alumni join Boston Ballet. In the current season, 17 of the company’s 46 dancers are former BBII members.
Stone hopes to follow in their footsteps. “It’s my dream to stay here,” she says, rattling off the reasons. “The quality of the company, the Opera House, the supportive atmosphere. It’s the perfect balance of quality and size, small enough that you get a chance for solo roles. I wouldn’t want to get lost in a bigger company. I love Boston Ballet and can’t imagine dancing anywhere else.”
A Day In Her Life
On an average day, Stone walks from the small apartment she shares with another dancer to Boston Ballet’s studios for a 9:45 to 11:15 company class. Rehearsal follows, from 11:30 to 2:30. After an hour for lunch, she’s back in the studio rehearsing until 6:30 before going home to eat dinner and maybe go to the movies or hang out with friends, then sleep. “It’s really different from going to school all day and dancing on the side,” she says. “It’s a lot of hard work, but I always try to make it fun, even when it’s not the best of days.”
Boston Ballet II
Number of BBII Members: Currently 10 (six women, four men)
Length of Contract: Maximum two seasons (40-week contract, renewable for second season)
Salary: $425 to $450 a week
Benefits: Full health and dental, plus a shoe allowance
Opportunities: Solo and corps roles with full company, BBII concerts and guest appearances, school outreach performances