Aran Bell performing Don Quixote at Youth America Grand Prix. Photo by Nina Alovert, courtesy YAGP.
It’s not just that Aran Bell can nail a picture-perfect quintuple pirouette, with a sustained relevé to finish. Or that the 13-year-old can whip out split jumps effortlessly at the end of an exhausting variation. Despite his small stature (5’ 2’’), Aran shines with an impossibly huge presence. He has you hooked from the moment he appears onstage, where he looks completely at home. And, OK—he’s totally adorable.
At age 3, Aran (pronounced AR-an) hounded his mom for a year to let him take ballet like his older sister. After his dad, a Navy doctor, was posted to Washington, D.C., Aran commuted two hours each way to Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet for two years. When his dad was transferred to Naples, Italy, three years ago, Aran began training under the tough Denys Ganio at Maison de La Danse in Rome, a two-hour drive from Naples.
Naturally very shy, Aran credits Ganio with pushing him to develop his stage presence. “At the beginning, the most I did was smile. Maybe,” he adds, with a grin.
Now a seasoned performer, Aran loves the thrill of competing—and he has wowed audiences all over the world, including spectators at the 2011 Youth America Grand Prix finals in NYC, where he won the overall prize in the Junior Division. After touring with YAGP for two weeks, he received coaching on his Basilio Act III variation from one of the best Basilios ever: former American Ballet Theatre principal Jose Manuel Carreño.
Carreño singled out Aran for his natural talent and singular focus and invited him to attend the Carreño Dance Festival summer intensive in Sarasota, FL, last August, for more coaching. “It’s so awesome,” says Aran, visibly humbled when talking about working with his idol. “He’s really, really good at teaching, especially Don Quixote. He knows everything.”
In addition to performing at competitions and galas across Europe, Aran may choose to attend a different school next year. He has standing offers from Paris Opéra Ballet School, The Royal Ballet School, Stuttgart Ballet School and ABT’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School—all affiliated with companies that he says he would love to join someday. And his dream ballet? Now that he has the Basilio variation down, he wants to tackle the rest of Don Q.
Aran at the Carreño Dance Festival. Photo by Bill Wagy, courtesy Carreño Dance Festival.
Birthday: October 7, 1998
Most-played song on his iPod: Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”
Hidden obsession: His huge collection of Nerf guns. “When I’m done dancing, I’ll probably either design Nerf guns or fix them.”
Favorite movie: Rambo
Still gets starstruck when: Taking class with his other idols—ABT’s Ethan Stiefel and the Bolshoi’s Ivan Vasiliev (a fellow lefty who Aran beat in a pirouette competition backstage
Craziest prize: 7,000 euro (about $9,500) for winning a competition in Milan that he received special permission to enter (it was supposed to be for 16- to 25-year-olds)
Unwinds on the weekends by: Playing soccer, riding his bike, taking trips
Movie star moment: Aran is one of the six students profiled in the new Youth America Grand Prix documentary, First Position.
Much of Janelle Ginestra's career has been about helping others shine. She's dedicated herself to supporting and cheerleading her partner, WilldaBeast Adams; the emerging talents in their dance company, ImmaBEAST; and the countless dancers she inspires at master classes and conventions. Her YouTube channel has become a launching pad for young talents like "Fraternal Twins" Larsen Thompson and Taylor Hatala, thanks to viral videos featuring Ginestra's creative vision.
But Ginestra's a skyrocketing success in her own right—an in-demand choreographer, a social media influencer, and a dance entrepreneur, building a legacy one eight-count at a time. It's time for her turn in the spotlight. And she's more than ready. "I want to be a legend in whatever I do," she says. We'd argue that she already is.
If you've ever seen a Janelle Ginestra class video, you know how lit her combos are. What you don't see in those clips is how devoted Ginestra is to her students. We went behind the scenes at one of her sold-out IMMA SPACE classes to see Ginestra in her element, mentoring some of L.A.'s most talented dancers. It was an inspiration feedback loop.
All photos by Joe Toreno.
In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be featured!
I love ballet, and I've been told that I have a lot of potential. I can see myself dancing professionally one day. But I'm also working toward my black belt in karate—and I'm passionate about that, too. How can I keep up my technique while also making time for the other things I love? Is that even possible?
What do you get when you combine a Beyoncé anthem, fierce girls from all over the world, and choreography by legends like Ellenore Scott and Lamar Lee? You get the epic music video below. The viral video features little girls who live everywhere from Tanzania to Washington D.C. dancing and lip-syncing to Queen Bey's song "Freedom," and the result is electrifying. These littles can dance—and they bring a determination and enthusiasm to their movement that's truly inspiring.