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Victoria Santaguida, Joffrey Ballet School
Spending the last two summers at the Joffrey Ballet School’s intensive in New York convinced Victoria Santaguida to attend year-round. She was drawn by the versatility of the teachers and the range of choreographers. Now 19, Santaguida started ballet when she was 3 in Toronto. It proved a big move from Canada to New York, and on top of that, the Cecchetti-trained Santaguida had to adjust to a different technique. The Joffrey’s curriculum blends several techniques plus an awareness of human physiology and anatomy. Transitioning was difficult at first, but she says, “the Joffrey style makes me feel like I’m performing all the time. It’s so natural to someone’s body.” Santaguida shares an apartment with another student and dances eight to nine hours a day, six days a week. She performs with the Joffrey Concert Group, traveling across the country as well as participating in outreach in New York. One day, she hopes to dance in a contemporary ballet company.
Olivia Gusti, Next Generation Ballet at the Patel Conservatory
2014 has been a good year for Olivia Gusti. Only 16, she won the Grand Prix award in the regional Youth America Grand Prix in Tampa, Florida. When not competing, she spends her days at Next Generation Ballet, the full-day intensive training program at Tampa’s Patel Conservatory at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts where she also receives private intensive coaching for competitions. Despite its selective admission process, accepting only 40 to 50 students each year from over 150 applicants, Next Generation Ballet feels like family to Gusti, she says; she spends six days a week with them, dancing six to eight hours a day. She loves “the adrenaline that you get when you are onstage,” and especially likes that Next Generation Ballet hosts seven performances a year, giving all the dancers an opportunity to dance major roles like Dewdrop in The Nutcracker—her favorite to date.
Oscar Frame, Kirov Academy of Ballet of Washington, DC
Oscar Frame started dancing in London at the age of seven, but delved more deeply into ballet when his family moved to Brighton. At the Vaganova-based Hampton Ballet Academy, his teacher Judy Breen encouraged him to consider a professional career. Following her advice, in 2011 he attended a summer intensive at Kirov Academy of Ballet of Washington, DC. There, instructor Nikolai Kabaniaev urged him to accept a scholarship position in the year-round program. For the past three years Frame has immersed himself in three-and-a-half hours of ballet class five days a week, plus a Saturday class and rehearsals, all while taking a full academic curriculum. He describes the Vaganova method as “the most structured technique” in ballet, saying it taught him to excel at the basics like alignment and footwork. Frame says the expectations for male dancers are getting closer to those of female dancers: “Men are now expected to also have high extensions.