Last year, Teen Vogue's "Strictly Ballet" infiltrated the elite world of NYC's School of American Ballet. We got to meet a few of its most promising students, including Mimi Staker, who's now a corps member of New York City Ballet, and Jasmine Perry, now an L.A. Ballet corps member. It was a fascinating account of life at SAB—what the training is like and the pressure that comes with being a student at one of the most prestigious schools in the country.
But Teen Vogue editor in chief, Amy Astley, wanted to expand the narrative. So for the second season of "Strictly Ballet," the cameras are taking us inside Miami City Ballet School, introducing six of its most advanced students as they look to the next stages of their careers. Why Miami? "I'm fascinated by the city's culture," Astley says. "I also really wanted to show the diversity in ballet. I think a lot of people aren't aware of the rich history of dance and ballet in the Hispanic culture—they don't know about the National Ballet of Cuba or Alicia Alonso." Many of the students featured this season are from outside the U.S., trying to make it in ballet—and in America. "Valeriia is from Russia, Mayumi and Gustavo are from Brazil and Carlos came from Cuba," Astley continues. "They left their families behind, they're homesick. And they all want their families to be proud, because they've sacrificed so much, too. It's very personal."
(From left) Miami City Ballet School's Mayumi Enokibara, Gustavo Pachecco, Margarita Armas, Carlos Valdés and Ella Titus (Henry Leutwyler/Teen Vogue)
Dance Spirit caught up with a couple of the dancers featured in the series, Ella Titus and Mayumi Enokibara, two Miami City Ballet apprentices.
DS: Where did you train before coming to Miami City Ballet School?
Ella Titus: I'm from Clearwater, Florida. I trained at Steps School of Dance with Maureen Gibson, Florida West Ballet with Pavel Fomin and privately with Haydee Gutierrez. This will be my fourth year in Miami—my first summer program here was in 2008 and I moved here full-time my freshman year of high school.
Mayumi Enokibara: I'm from Brazil, Rio de Janeiro. I started ballet when I was 3 years old, and at 6, I started training more seriously at Escola Estadual de Danças Maria Olenewa at Theatro Municipal (it's one of the biggest classical companies in Brazil). When I was 14, I heard that Miami City Ballet was coming to Brazil to audition students for its summer session. A few days after the audition, I found out I got a full scholarship to the summer intensive. I was so excited! During the summer, the office asked if any of us would like to stay for the year-round program. I called my mom because I really wanted to, and while she was worried that I was too young, she let me try out. In the last week of the summer, I received a full scholarship to stay the whole year. I'm 18 now, and I've been here since then.
DS: What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming season of "Strictly Ballet"?
ET: I want my family and friends to be able to see my dancing in the episodes. Since I've lived away from home for so long, they've missed lots of my performances.
ME: I'm so excited to show what life as a dancer is like, and show that it's not easy at all.
Ella Titus with Carlos Valdés (Henry Leutwyler/Teen Vogue)
DS: What was most challenging about filming?
ET: The first few days of filming, Mayumi and I were in the theater performing George Balanchine's Symphony in 3. I'd just been thrown into the ballet because another dancer was injured—plus I was sick. I kept losing my voice during the interviews. It was so embarrassing!
ME: Speaking English all the time, for sure. It's not my first language.
DS: What's your dream performance role?
ET: I have a few: Afternoon of a Faun, the lead girl in Balanchine's Tchaikovsky Suite No. 3, the Élégie section, and William Forsythe's In the Middle Somewhat Elevated
ME: I basically love all the Balanchine ballets, but my dream is to do Apollo. It's so beautiful. On the classical side, I'd love to dance Nikiya in La Bayadère.
DS: Who is your dance idol?
ET: Miami City Ballet principal Jennifer Kronenberg
ME: Cecilia Kerche—she's a dancer in Brazil. At Miami City Ballet, I'd say Nathalia Arja, Jennifer Kronenberg and the sisters, Patricia Delgado and Janette Delgado.
DS: What's the strangest thing in your dance bag?
ET: I grew up dancing in Miami City Ballet's Nutcracker. When I was Marie, I saved the fake snow, and ever since then, I've sewn a piece into every one of my pointe shoes! So I have a little bag of snow in my dance bag.
DS: What's the best part about being in Miami?
ET: I've lived in Florida all my life and couldn't imagine living anywhere else. Plus, Miami has great weather all year. (Fun fact: I've never seen real snow!)
ME: Miami isn't so different from Brazil: The weather, the beaches—and there are a lot of Latin people who make it feel more like home. But the best part is definitely the shopping.
"Strictly Ballet" season two debuts today! Meet all the dancers in the season premiere, and watch Mayumi's first episode below: