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.
Kalani Hilliker made "Dance Moms" fans sit up a little straighter when she first appeared on "Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition" back in 2013. The then–12-year-old ballerina had charisma, she had sass—and, wow, did she have technique! Abby Lee Miller, the show's infamous host, saw Kalani's star potential from the start, saving her from elimination and ultimately inviting her to perform alongside Maddie Ziegler on Season 4 of "Dance Moms." "I was never supposed to be on 'Dance Moms' beyond that one performance," says Kalani, now 16, but she ended up staying on the show for the whole season—and the following three. "It was my first time, but not my last time, causing drama. And it was also the first time I got to meet the other dancers, who have become like sisters."
You may already know Apolla Shocks are able to replace your current footwear and dance shoes because of the durability, aesthetics, and traction, BUT there are many other reasons to ALWAYS keep a pair in your dance bag. BESIDES wearing them in class or onstage:
Move over, Sergei Polunin*: There's a new ballet heartthrob in town.
Well, not "new," exactly: The fabulously talented Isaac Hernández has been a lead principal with the English National Ballet since 2015, and previously danced with Dutch National Ballet and San Francisco Ballet. (He's also part of a distinguished dance family: You met his brother, SFB corps member Esteban, in our March issue roundup of up-and-coming danseurs.)
But a dreamy new video by filmmaker Ezra Hurwitz—"Despertares" [Wake Up], featuring Hernández dancing in studios and on rooftops all over NYC—makes a strong case for this beautiful dancer becoming your next ballet crush:
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In an audition or onstage, knowing how to use eye contact appropriately is a total game changer. Dancers who aren't afraid to meet the eyes of judges or audience members exude a special confidence that allows them to be seen as capable, talented performers. When dancers look at the floor or around the room, though, they telegraph insecurity. Don't send your critics looking for flaws! Avoid these three no-no's and become a true master of eye contact.
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A few days ago, Demi Lovato dropped by Jojo Gomez's class at Millennium to see what Gomez had made of her hit "Sorry Not Sorry." Gomez's 🔥 choreo—and the incredible performances by some of Hollywood's best dancers/most devoted Lovatics, including Kaycee Rice—didn't disappoint.
Is there anything better than a killer dance photoshoot? OF COURSE NOT! Whether you're taking headshots, model shots, or simply images that'll slay on Instagram, dance photography makes the world a prettier place.
To make sure your next dance photoshoot is as 🔥 as you are, we asked photographer Kenneth Edwards for his dos and don'ts. Follow his advice and your dance photography future will be as bright as your "golden hour" lighting.