April 20, 2014

"First Position" -- Where are they now?

This post has got nothing to do with language or dogs. But since the post I wrote about the Spellbound kids ("Where are they now?") is the most popular post on this blog, I thought I might do the same for the kids from the 2011 ballet documentary "First Position," which shares many of the characteristics of Spellbound.

Of the six dancers portrayed in the documentary, 3 (Michaela DePrince, Joan Sebastian Zamora, Rebecca Houseknecht) were old enough to be awarded a scholarship with a prestigious ballet school, the dream prize of every dancer in the competition. 2 of them are still professional dancers.

Michaela DePrince, the dancer from Sierra Leone with the poignant life story, is probably the most established of the dancers. In the 2010 YAGP competition, she won a scholarship with American Ballet Theatre and afterwards received offers from both ABT and the Dance Theatre of Harlem for the 2012-13 season. She picked the latter and had her professional debut in 2012. She became known to a wide audience through a guest appearance in the TV show Dancing with the Stars. According to Wikipedia, she joined the Junior Company Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam in 2013. In 2014 she moved to the regular company. She also has her own website. And did you know that she used to be a competitive swimmer? Read an interview (and see beautiful pictures) with her here.
Edited to add (Oct. 2014): Her biography, Taking Flight, is coming out this month.
Edited to add (Nov. 2014): NY Times review of 'Taking Flight' here. There is also a version of this book for beginning readers, Ballerina Dreams. I will give both books as Christmas gifts this year, also the 2015 "Dancers among us" calendar, which has a picture of Michaela on the title page.

Joan  Sebastian Zamora, from Colombia, whose picture is on the cover of the First Position DVD, won a scholarship with the School of the Royal Ballet in London and joined the English National Ballet, Britain's foremost touring dance company, in 2013.
See a short video of his recent work here.
Edited to add: In 2015, Joan joined Joffrey Ballet in Chicago.

Rebecca Houseknecht, the all-American princess, did not win a prize at the YAGP, but she was offered a position with Washington Ballet's Studio Company shortly after the competition (the invitation came from one of the judges), which she happily accepted. However, she found that she "didn't like having to dance for my job, as weird as it sounds." After a year, she left the company. According to this article in the Washington Post, she is now studying speech pathology at Towson University, where she also joined the dance squad.

The three younger dancers went on to compete at the YAGP again -- and won awards again. As of 2013, they are still too young to be members of a professional company, but for at least two of them, dancing still pretty much seems to be their career destination.

Miko Fogarty, the determined sister of a less determined brother (and daughter of a very determined mother), has quite a media presence, see her tweets here and her YouTube videos here . (There's quite a bit of fan art about her. ) In 2012, ABC Nightline reported on her third YAGP and in 2013 she won an award in the prestigious Prix de Lausanne and was awarded full scholarships from ballet schools in the US and overseas. In 2013, she was training with the Indiana Ballet Conservatory and with Kaoru Jinushi in Japan. Edited to add: In 2015, Miko joined the Birmingham Royal Ballet as an artist on a one-year contract.

Aran Bell, the gravity-defying 11-year old from Italy, was the winner of the Hope Award in the 2010 YAGP competition (the award for children who are too young to compete for the Grand Prix). A year later, he won the Junior Grand Prix.  He has attended prestigious summer programs and festivals. In 2013, at the age of 15, he performed as part of the dance troupe Intermezzo in New York.According to one source, he has standing offers from four world-class ballet schools: Paris Opera, Royal Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet, and ABT's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. When will he accept one of them?
Edited to add (Sep. 2014): Aran Bell is now dancing with ABT's studio company, which trains young dancers that are likely to become part of ABT.

Gaya Bommer Yemini, the spirited comtemporary dancer from Israel (who bonded with Aran Bell), went on to win the first prize in the contemporary category at the 2011 YAGP. In 2012-13 she was a scholarship student at the Princess Grace Academy in Monaco. Here's a picture of her from the Academy's Facebook page (dated Oct. 2013 and, sweetly, with a comment by Aran Bell):

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