Darrion Sellman competing at Youth America Grand Prix (Siggul/Visual Arts Masters, courtesy YAGP)

At age 15, Darrion Sellman already possesses the traits that make his idols—The Royal Ballet's Steven McRae and American Ballet Theatre's David Hallberg—such world-class dancers. Darrion has McRae's easy grace and controlled turns, plus Hallberg's noble movement quality and super-archy feet, and he's taken those gifts and run with them. The talented dancer has earned merit scholarships to summer intensives at Canada's National Ballet School and San Francisco Ballet School, and won YAGP's Youth Grand Prix Award three times in a row. And in 2017, Darrion was recognized by The Royal Ballet School's International Scholars Programme as an exceptionally talented ballet student from outside the UK.

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Rising Stars
Photo by Erin Baiano

14-year-old phenom Madison Brown excels in both ballet and contemporary—and we're talking a wins-basically-every-competition-she-enters level of excellence. How does she do it? Read her Summer 2019 cover story, here on dancespirit.com, to find out.

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Videos
Photo by Erin Baiano

Imagine attending American Ballet Theatre's prestigious NYC summer intensive, training among classical ballet legends. Imagine taking the stage at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, competing against some of the country's best contemporary dancers. Now, imagine doing both—at the same time.

Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."

Maddie has an expressive face, endless extensions, and a quiet command of the stage. She dances with remarkable maturity—a trait noted by none other than Jennifer Lopez, one of the judges on NBC's "World of Dance," on which Maddie competed in Season 2. Although Maddie didn't take home the show's top prize, she was proud to be the youngest remaining soloist when she was eliminated, and saw the whole experience as an opportunity to grow. After all, she's just getting started. Oh, that's right—did we mention Maddie's only 14?

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Cover Story
Photo by Eva Nys, courtesy Ellison Ballet

Keaton Gillespie has the expressive face of a silent film star. Add in her soaring extensions, elegant port de bras, and gorgeous feet, and it's no wonder this 15-year-old is turning heads. Currently in her second year at Ellison Ballet in NYC, Keaton made the big move up from South Carolina on her own at 13, after crafting a PowerPoint presentation to convince her parents that the school's intense Vaganova curriculum was what she needed to take her dancing to the next level. (Her parents will join her in NYC this summer, now that her brother has finished high school.) Keaton's 2018 wins included junior grand prix at ADC/IBC and top 12 classical at the Youth America Grand Prix NYC finals. But she's not in it for the trophies. "I love ballet for the artistic challenge," Keaton says. "You're doing something so physically demanding, but you have to portray a character at the same time. I want to impact people with my artistry onstage."

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Rising Stars
Photo by Erin Baiano

In our "Dear Katie" series, Miami City Ballet soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email dearkatie@dancespirit.com for a chance to be featured!

Dear Katie,

I've reached a point where it's clear that my body isn't designed for ballet. Realizing that broke my heart, because dancing with a classical ballet company was always my dream. Some of my teachers have said that I should audition for contemporary groups, but I feel like that would be weird—I've barely studied contemporary dance, and I don't love it. Should I quit dance? Or should I go down a path I'm not 100 percent passionate about?

Aaliyah

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Dear Katie
Alison Miller (front) in Stanton Welch's "The Ladies" (Amitava Sarkar, courtesy Houston Ballet)

Few things ruin the magic of a performance faster than the sound of loud pointe shoes. "When an audience watches someone dancing, they don't want to hear tap-tap-tap," says Houston Ballet first soloist Allison Miller. Pointe shoe sounds can be distracting to you, too, breaking your concentration and keeping you from getting lost in the moment. So, how can you step more softly? Doing so takes thought and practice, and maybe some changes to your shoes themselves. But it can also help you stand out—quietly.

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Ballet
Photo by Erin Baiano

In our "Dear Katie" series, MCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email dearkatie@dancespirit.com for a chance to be featured!

Dear Katie,

I'm 14 and have been studying ballet seriously for about three years. Even though I feel ready, my teachers haven't put me on pointe yet. Am I doing something wrong? Should I ask them about it, or is it pointe-less?

Leilani

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Dear Katie
Screenshot via @sussexroyal on Instagram

It's a great week to be following the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (aka Prince Harry and Meghan Markle). First, on Tuesday there was the surprise launch of @sussexroyal, the couple's very own official Instagram account. Now, we have some seriously adorable photos and details from Harry's solo visit Wednesday to the YMCA South Ealing in West London. Among other things, the dashing royal made friends with a baby and tried out his pre-ballet skills. What a time to be alive, friends.

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Just for Fun
Houston Ballet first soloist Oliver Halkowich (right) in rehearsal with Justin Peck (second from left) (Lawrence Knox, courtesy Houston Ballet)

Houston Ballet will present an exciting new program starting tonight and running through Sunday, March 24: Come In, by Aszure Barton, and Dream Time, by Jiří Kylián, both company premieres, and Reflections by phenom Justin Peck. We caught up with HB first soloist Oliver Halkowich to get the scoop on what it was like in the studio with Peck.

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Choreography
Ballet Academy East student Stella MacDonald (Erin Baiano)

It's the rite of passage every young ballerina dreams of: getting her first pair of pointe shoes. But it's important to remember that a lot (and we mean a lot) of hard work and technique-honing leads up to this moment—not to mention getting the green light from your teacher. Dance Spirit turned to Jenna Lavin, former Miami City Ballet dancer and principal of the pre-professional division at Ballet Academy East in NYC, for three exercises meant to strengthen, train, and stabilize the muscles you'll be using once you're on pointe.

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Fitness
Delgado in George Balanchine's "Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2" (Alexander Iziliaev, courtesy Miami City Ballet)

Miami City Ballet principal Jeanette Delgado's dynamic, show-stopping presence and powerful, crisp technique have been wowing audiences for well over a decade. A Miami, FL, native, Delgado began training with Vivian Tobio, Liana Navarro, and Maria Victoria Gutierrez. At age 9, she received a scholarship to Miami City Ballet School and, in 2003, she earned the Princess Grace Award. That same year, Delgado became an apprentice with Miami City Ballet. In 2004 she was promoted to the corps, and in 2006 to soloist. She became a principal dancer in 2008. Catch her this month performing in the company's spring program. —Courtney Bowers

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Dancer to Dancer
Colorado Ballet principal dancer Dana Benton's first pair of pointe shoes, kid's size 12—with all the darning worn off from dancing around on the carpet at home (courtesy Benton)

The mark of a truly skilled ballerina is her ability to make the pointe shoe look like a part of her body, an extension of her beautifully S-curved leg. It's hard to believe the shoe was ever foreign to her, or that she ever had that awkward first time on pointe. We asked six professional ballerinas to reminisce about that very first pair, and the memories—and photos—they shared are sure to make you smile.

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Ballet
San Francisco Ballet's Frances Chung in rehearsal (Erik Tomasson, courtesy San Francisco Ballet)

Even for natural turners, pirouettes from fifth can be a challenge. You need to take off from a small crossed position and stay straight over your supporting leg, from start to finish. "It's the hardest place to turn from, because you can't access your plié as much as you can from fourth," says Jennie Somogyi, former principal dancer with New York City Ballet and director of Jennie Somogyi Ballet Academy in Easton, PA. "I'm always telling my students to plié more!"

If you're struggling with pirouettes from fifth position or want to refine your approach, try these pro tips.

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How To
Images by Norelle, courtesy Jennifer Falcione

When we asked what her proudest accomplishment so far is, Kiarra Waidelich paused for a moment. That's because she has so many to choose from: In the past two years, Kiarra's earned Mini and Junior Female Best Dancer at The Dance Awards, snagged Youth America Grand Prix's Hope Award, and made it to the divisional finals on Season 2 of "World of Dance." Equally gifted in ballet ("I love the mental and physical challenge") and contemporary, it's the latter that made Kiarra realize dance was her passion. "If something bad or stressful happens in my day, I use contemporary as a way to express and release what I'm feeling," she says. "Dance is a way for me to emote and let things go."

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Rising Stars
Photo by Nathan Sayers

Chloe Misseldine has every reason to be nervous as she and her partner run through the challenging wedding pas de deux from Don Quixote. Their performance is just days away and the two American Ballet Theatre Studio Company dancers have only had a week to prepare. Add to that the fact that ABT principal Gillian Murphy, one of the world's most famous ballerinas, is at the front of the studio taking notes.

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Cover Story

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