Ballet West's Allison DeBona first became a major figure on the pop-culture scene with her stint on The CW series “Breaking Pointe." Her ethereal grace and commanding stage presence have kept her there since. DeBona trained with the Parou Ballet Company (now New Castle Regional Ballet) in New Castle, PA, and the Pittsburgh Youth Ballet while growing up. She later attended Indiana University and graduated with a bachelor's degree in ballet before joining Ballet West in 2007. In 2011 she was promoted to demi-soloist, was given the soloist title in 2013 and, finally, was named first soloist in 2015. Catch her next month in the company's production of Madame Butterfly, and read on for The Dirt!
Go-to stress reliever?
Cleaning! Believe it or not!
Who's your dance role model?
I admire Stella Abrera. I always thought she was so beautiful. When she finally got promoted to principal at American Ballet Theatre it proved there is no limit to a career. Love her! Also, I think The Royal Ballet's Marianela Nuñez is so beautiful!
What's the most played song on your playlist?
Anything Maroon 5!
What's something no one knows about you?
I love football, particularly the Pittsburgh Steelers, more than ballet.
What's something that can always make you laugh?
My family. It's like a traveling circus!
What's one food you can't live without?
Do you have any nicknames?
Alli, Alli-Cat and Bones!
What's something you're most proud of?
I co-founded the artÉmotion Summer Intensive with Ballet in the City in 2015. We had 70 students year one. Our 2016 program grew to 115 students and we have intensives in Cleveland and Detroit. So proud!
If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go?
Iceland or Greenland
What's the strangest thing in your dance bag?
Most of the time it's the old banana that I forget about! A weekly science project.
Do you have any pre-performance superstitions or habits?
I take a warm shower and a B-complex vitamin.
Do you have any pets?
Yes! A shih tzu named Zipper Fly. We also had a chocolate lab named Colby Clarease, but she passed in November. I miss her dearly.
Who's your dance crush?
[Ballet West principal] Rex Tilton, of course! ☺
Do you have a favorite workout?
I love to run and lift weights. Always have, too. Even though people try to tell me it's “not good for dancers." Not true!
Where do you feel the happiest?
At home with my fiancé, Rex Tilton (Ballet West, principal), and our little doggie, Zipper Fly! I love them!!
What's your favorite movie?
Who would play you in a movie?
Definitely some kind of witch. I love creepy things!
Have you had any embarrassing moments onstage?
Not that I can think of. But, now I wonder if I'm jinxing myself!
What's your biggest piece of advice for other young performers?
Don't bother with being nervous. You'll only let precious moments onstage pass you by. Live in the good and bad moments onstage. It's all art, regardless. People will always appreciate your work, even if you don't appreciate it yourself sometimes.
What's one thing you'd consider yourself an expert at?
I'm a good problem solver.
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
I love watching sports. Sunday football games are my favorite! I love hockey and baseball, too!
Hey hey hey! What's going on, TSwift nation? We're guessing that, even six months out, you're still obsessed with "Shake It Off." Because who isn't? It's straight-up the Best Gym Song of All Time. (Seriously, it's the perfect elliptical machine tempo—try it!)
It also, of course, boasts one of the Best Crazy Dance Videos of All Time. There's nothing quite like Tay Tay in a tutu. Which brings us to the real subject of this blog post: Those "Shake It Off" tutus? Turns out, they're actually Ballet West's Swan Lake costumes. Such a great factoid, right? And now, BW is giving fans a chance to win one of the very tutus used in the "Shake It Off" video. That's right: This is your chance to own a part of both music video and ballet history.
Left: BW in Swan Lake. Right: Taylor in "Shake It Off." TWINSIES. (left photo by Luke Isley via BW)
The costume in question is currently being displayed at Salt Lake City's Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theatre, where BW is in the middle of a Swan Lake run. But you don't have to be in Utah to enter the giveaway. Just click here to fill out the entry form. (The contest is technically free, but there's a suggested donation of $10 per entry, with proceeds going to BW—a worthy cause!)
After you've hit "submit," feel free to commence daydreaming about doing this...
...and maybe a little of this. (Or, OK—a lot of this.)
Brace yourselves, bunheads: Season 2 of "Breaking Pointe" premieres one week from today. ONE WEEK! Let the countdown begin!
Actually, you don't even have to wait those seven long days for your next peek at the Ballet West reality series, because it turns out "Entertainment Tonight" got their hands on some footage from the second season. The clip follows the five ballerinas hoping to dance Cinderella in the company's upcoming production of the fairytale classic. Drama! Intrigue! Frederick Ashton's beautiful choreography! Adam Sklute pretending he doesn't already know exactly who will be dancing Cinderella at this point, but hey, he'll play along for the sake of the show!
Feast your eyes—then tune into The CW next Monday, July 22 at 9/8 c for the "Breaking Pointe" season premiere. Eee!
Heads-up, bunheads: "Breaking Pointe," the reality show following Utah's Ballet West, returns to The CW for its second season July 22. And thank goodness, right? It's one of the few mainstream portrayals of ballet that comes close to getting at the actual reality of the ballet world.
That said, because this is The CW we're talking about—you know, the network that brought you that soapiest of all non-actual-soap-operas, "Gossip Girl"—"Breaking Pointe" had plenty of drama last season, too. Did we love that side of the show, in theory? Not really. Could we stop watching it, in practice? Nope again.
The first trailer for "BP" round 2 just came out, and it's a drama-rama doozy. Ronnie is injured! There's a hot new dancer dude in town! Christiana might be feeling threatened by Beckanne! Allison and Rex are broken up...again!
On the plus side, there are hints of some pretty serious dancing going on, too. (Here's hoping season 2 includes quality footage of the company working on Balanchine's gorgeous Jewels, which they performed in April.)
Take a look!
In "Emeralds" from George Balanchine's Jewels (photo by Erik Ostling)
Christiana Bennett’s grace, poise and pristine technique have fueled her remarkable dance career. The Ballet West principal has given flawless performances of many coveted roles, including Juliet in Romeo and Juliet and Princess Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty.
Originally from Massachusetts, Bennett trained at The Rock School (then affiliated with Pennsylvania Ballet), the School of American Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet School. She was invited to join Ballet West in 1999, and was promoted to soloist in 2003 and principal in 2004. Bennett gained even more recognition when she was featured on The CW’s reality show “Breaking Pointe” last year.
The Ballet West dancers return to TV screens this summer in the second season of “Breaking Pointe.” Salt Lake City fans can also see Bennett onstage in Ballet West’s “Innovations” program in May. —Megan Kirsch
Dear Younger Me,
There are so many things I would like to tell you, but the most important thing to remember is to stay true to yourself. Be truthful and honest at all costs. Never hide your genuine feelings. Always be kind to others even if they aren’t kind to you. You may never know what forces are shaping their lives. Compassion for others is key.
Listen to and learn from those around you. Absorb every experience you have, even if you don’t think it’s an important one. The sum of all your observations will make you the person you will become.
Try to remember people’s names when you first meet them. Listen wholeheartedly when they are speaking to you, and make sure you look into their eyes. They may be saying more than you realize.
As a teen
Your family is your support system. Don’t take it for granted. These are
the people who know you the best and will always stand behind you.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes—it’s the only way to learn. Make sure you
try new things. You’ll be surprised at how much your opinion can change about something once you’ve experienced it.
Always have fun and enjoy your life to the fullest. And remember, everything will work out for the best in the end, even if it doesn’t seem like it will at the time.
All my love,
Yuan Yuan Tan in Neumeier's The Little Mermaid (ErikTomasson)
11 pros on what first inspired them to dance:
Yuan Yuan Tan
Principal at San Francisco Ballet
“My inspiration is Natalia Makarova. I used to watch tapes of her performing over and over and marvel at her port de bras.”
Comfort Fedoke (Kelsey McNeal/FOX)
“From the time Janet Jackson’s ‘Pleasure Principle’ music video came out, I was all about Janet.Then I saw *NSYNC in concert and got super hyped. At my first talent show in seventh grade, I performed to *NSYNC’s ‘It’s Gonna Be Me.’ I did all of the members’ parts—and wore the diamond-studded bandana, the blue jersey and the baggy pants. I was a one-woman show.”
Robert Fairchild (Paul Kolnik)
Principal at New York City Ballet
“The first time I saw a video of Gene Kelly dancing, I had a revelation. From then on, I knew performing was what I had to do.”
Billy Bell (Erin Baiano)
Founder of Lunge Dance Collective and dancer with Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet
“I’ve always been driven by challenges. If people tell me I can’t do something, I’ll try my hardest to prove them wrong. At age 10, I watched a breakdancing show and instantly knew that was my next challenge. At 11, I enrolled in a boys-only hip-hop class. My dance instructors convinced me my hip hop would be better if I took jazz too. Then they said my rhythm would improve if I took tap, and then that ballet would help my coordination. By the time I was 12 I was doing West African and Latin dance—anything and everything I could get my hands on.”
Nick Lazzarini (Tyler Golden/Oxygen Media)
Co-founder of Shaping Sound
“My mom put me into a recreation center dance program when I was 4. I ended up loving it. After I’d done a couple weeks of the rec center program, my kindergarten teacher asked if anybody could dance in our Christmas show. I put my hand up, like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m a dancer.’ I told my mom when I got home from school, and she panicked and was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ I said, ‘Mom, I got this.’ In the show, I was a giant dancing robot, and my mom says I actually pulled it off really well.”
Ghrai DeVore (Eduardo Patino)
Member of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
“Dance has always been a part of my life because of my mother, who was a member of Deeply Rooted Dance Theater in Chicago. I was inspired by the lights and the fame, but also by the integrity and honor of the dancer’s life. The ability to move someone from the stage—even if it’s just one person—is why I do what I do.”
Beckanne Sisk (Luke Isley)
Demi-soloist at Ballet West
“My older sister got me into ballet. I would go to the studio to watch her. I remember she had a starring role in a ballet to the music from Legends of the Fall, and I wanted to be just like her. My mom finally took me in to audition when I was 4, but I couldn’t reach the barre. I was devastated. By the next year, though, I was tall enough!”
Commercial dancer and “So You Think You Can Dance” alum
“I saw classical ballet on TV when I was 1 1/2, and I was immediately hooked. None of the dance studios in my area had classes for children younger than 3, so I just watched ballet on TV whenever I could. When I finally turned 3, my mom bribed me. She said if I ‘went potty’ in the toilet I could start dancing. It must have worked, because I’ve been dancing ever since. Thank goodness for classical ballet and toilets, I guess!”
Phil Tayag (Josh Jose)
Member of The Jabbawockeez
“I’ve always been fascinated by dance. My parents are Filipino, and our culture is all about the arts. When I was 4 or 5, my mom got a kick out of my Michael Jackson impersonation—any time we had a family gathering she would make me dance. Later I watched my older cousins breakdance. When I was 9, I got into my first b-boy crew. Ever since then, I’ve been in crews, battling and performing.”
Bailey Buntain (ABC FAMILY/ANDREW ECCLES)
Dancer/actress on “Bunheads”
“My mom signed me up for dance classes because I was shy as a child. She thought dance would bring me out of my shell. Little did she know it would turn into a complete obsession!
For me, the initial draw was that it was a new way of expressing myself. Later I was inspired by classic movies with Cyd Charisse, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers—and my all-time favorite, Vera-Ellen. She is a goddess!”
Madd Chadd (Courtesy LXD Ventures)
Chadd “Madd Chadd” Smith
“Growing up, I didn’t dance at all. I wouldn’t even go to school dances because I was uncomfortable. Then, my senior year of high school, I saw one of my neighbors doing windmills and was like, ‘Whoa—I want to learn how to do that!’ But b-boying and popping were just hobbies until I saw Boppin Andre dance at a party in college and everything changed. He had me questioning whether what I was seeing was real. From that point on, I practiced robotic popping 24/7.”
We asked DS’s Facebook fans what inspired them to start dancing. Here are some of our favorite responses!
Are you ready to party like it's 1776? Here's hoping your 4th of July celebrations tomorrow include dancing of some kind, whether you'll be busting out your red-white-and-blue–sequined unitard (what, doesn't everyone have one of those?) or just grooving by the grill.
To help you get in the spirit of things, here's a roundup of patriotic dance moments:
George Balanchine's Stars and Stripes. Sousa marches + baton twirling + tutus = one festive (and cutely tongue-in-cheek) ballet.
Reno Sweeney and the Anything Goes tap-dancing sailors. Does it get any more (S. S.) American than that?
The Rockettes, entertaining sailors during Fleet Week. Those costumes alone are worth a salute.
Kendra Wilkinson and Louis Van Amstel's "Yankee Doodle Dandy" foxtrot on "Dancing with the Stars." Don't think too hard about this one—just enjoy the crazy.
And last but not least: American Girl Molly McIntire as Miss Victory at the "Hooray for the U.S.A." show. Oh come on—you remember this! Her struggle to get her hair to curl perfectly? The suspense about whether her tap teacher, Miss LaVonda, would choose her for the role? (I miss being 8.)
Happy 4th, everyone! See you back here on Thursday.
By now you're probably addicted to the new ballet reality show "Breaking Pointe," which follows Ballet West. In the first episode our hearts broke as we watched Ballet West II dancer Katie Martin learn she wouldn't receive a company contract for the 2012-2013 season. As is usual with ballet contracts, she'll be finishing out the current season with Ballet West. But don't expect her to be moping around on "Breaking Pointe"--you'll see her auditioning and bouncing back. We caught up with Katie to learn more about what it's like to star in one of the summer's hottest shows.
Dance Spirit: What was filming like?
Katie Martin: Filming was really cool. You feel like a celebrity because there are at least three cameras on you at all times. I’ve gained a pretty large fan base, and they’ve been really supportive.
DS: Do you feel like you have been accurately portrayed on the show?
KM: The producers have done a fantastic job portraying who I am and what I stand for--especially how I’ve handled a lot of difficult situations.
DS: Did you have any idea that you wouldn't receive a contract?
KM: I didn't know anything officially, but I had a gut feeling that I might not get one. What you saw on TV was me finding out for the first time.
DS: What has it been like to go through this difficult time on TV?
KM: It's so hard! I cried with my mom watching the first episode. We both sat on the couch with a box of tissues. But I feel like all the press interviews have been really helpful. They've been like a bunch of "dear diary" moments. I've been forced to talk about the experience and how I've really been feeling.
DS: Do you think "Breaking Pointe" is an accurate portrayal of what it's like to be in a ballet company?
KM: "Breaking Pointe" does a great job showing America that ballet dancers are true athletes who work very hard. Of course, everyday life isn't as dramatic as the show, but when you're creating a television episode and all the filming is packed into one hour, it gets that way. Plus, ballet is a dramatic art. It's all about beating out every girl in the room.
DS: What has the audition process been like?
KM: It’s been really difficult—it’s not something any ballerina ever wants to go through. I was gone almost every weekend auditioning! I can’t talk about the outcome of the auditions at the moment, but it was ultimately a positive experience.
DS: How has the show affected your relationships with the other dancers?
KM: Thankfully I’ve been portrayed very nicely (I promise I really am a nice person!), but if anything my relationships have gotten stronger. It’s been really positive for [my boyfriend] Ron and me. It’s fun to hear him talk about me on the show, and we’ve gotten closer from seeing on screen how we actually feel about each other. Becks [Beckanne Sisk] is still my best friend and Ron’s still my boy.
DS: What is your dream role?
KM: Odette/Odile in Swan Lake or Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. I love a tragedy!
DS: Where do you hope to be in five years?
KM: I hope to be at least a soloist in a major ballet company. And I would love to be in Europe. I want to have built a substantial ballet career.
DS: What's your advice for Dance Spirit readers who aspire to professional ballet careers?
KM: My advice is to keep plugging away. You need to be able to look in the mirror at the end of each day and say, "I am beautiful. I can conquer anything. I can do this." Don't lose your confidence.
DS: Do you have an acting career ahead of you?
KM: I would love to have an acting career! No one's contacted me yet, but I would definitely be interested. Be sure to put that in.
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