Please click on the links below to read more about each student.
- Hannah Holtsclaw '16
- José Eduardo Porras Fajardo '18
- Hannah Folan '18
- Julia Bluhm '16: NYC Trip
- Abi DeSchiffart '16
- Felicity Audet '15
- Errol Kurtz '15
- Aubrey Whisnant '15
Former BBT student and 2016 MCI graduate, Hannah Holtsclaw, recently accepted the position of principal dancer with Ballet Pensacola. Hannah first received an invitation to dance with Ballet Pensacola last spring following a special master class with the company’s Artistic Director, Richard Steinert, and officially joined the company in September as part of an experiential learning year with the University of Cincinnati – College Conservatory of Music (CCM) where she is a junior pursuing a BFA in Ballet. She will remain a full-time student with CCM while she begins her professional career as a principal dancer with Ballet Pensacola.
Hannah is grateful to Ballet Pensacola Artistic director, Richard Steinert, and ballet mistress, Christine Duhon, for giving her an opportunity to grow as a dancer and realize her potential as an artist. "Joining a professional ballet company has been my goal since I was twelve years old. When I received the offer to become a principal dancer with Ballet Pensacola, it was an unexpected and a very rewarding, validating moment in my life. It reaffirmed for me that the years of endless training were worth it and that I can be an accomplished artist in this craft. I am so fortunate to be dancing every day and making a life out of my supreme passion, while dancing alongside such talented and inspiring artists at Ballet Pensacola." "
Hannah expressed her excitement for this new stage of her career and credits her training at BBT for her growth into the mature artist she’s becoming. “Bossov Ballet at MCI gave me a balance of academics with rigorous training, which is what inspired me to pursue my degree. At 16 years old, Natalya Getman taught me the most important lesson, that performing on stage is a great privilege."
According to BBT Artistic Director and teacher of Hannah, Natalya Getman, to become a dancer you have to go through a long process of training your body and mind to work in unison, “there are no "quick fixes" in ballet”. Getman also expressed that during Hannah's time at BBT, she always showed patience and dedication through her work. “That quality has helped Hannah to continuously move forward on her life path.... "
Hannah’s first performance as a principal will take place on October 19th as the Little Witch in A Nightmare Before Christmas. In addition, Hannah will be dancing the role of Dream Clara in the company’s production of The Nutcracker in December.
Ballet Pensacola, founded in 1978, has a full training academy of more than 350 students and a professional company of dancers from all over the world.
Led by Artistic Director Natalya Getman, Bossov Ballet Theatre at Maine Central Institute is both a performing company and New England’s premier international pre-professional ballet school. The program offers students a unique opportunity to study and perform classical ballet as part of a rigorous, college preparatory academic curriculum, allowing them to earn full academic credit for ballet training. Students who complete the program are uniquely positioned either to matriculate to an outstanding college, or join a professional ballet company.
Three years ago when he was first introduced to musical theater in his home country of Mexico, José Eduardo Porras Fajardo discovered ballet. More importantly, Jose realized he was a gifted ballet dancer. After dancing in musical theater performances at Artestudio, including Peter Pan, Cats, and The Producers, to name a few, José turned his focus on perfecting his talents in ballet. Once he connected with BBT’s Artistic Director Natalya Getman, José decided to join the BBT as a post-graduate student at MCI.
Originally from Mexico, José joined BBT in 2017, leaving his parents and siblings in Mexico City to move to central Maine. Since he’s been with the BBT, José performed as Fritz and Spanish Chocolate in the BBT’s Nutcracker during the holiday season, and will perform the role of Pear in Cipollino. This latest role will prove no easy task, as its will require playing the violin while dancing original, and demanding choreography created by Getman. José is excited to be performing in BBT’s full length production of Swan Lake this summer.
“I enjoy the work ethic of the Bossov,” said José recently. “For a school ballet, BBT’s performances are as good as many professional ballet companies.” José added, “BBT’s work is challenging, but I’ve learned so much since I’ve been here from Natalya and the other dancers.”
It was this desire for challenge, together with a strong work ethic, that drew Getman’s attention to José, and resulted in her inviting him to join BBT’s elite group of year round dancers. Getman explains, “The first time I saw José in his audition video, I could tell through the energy he projected that he is a hardworking and very determined person. This determination, as well as his strong but kind character, helped him to improve as a dancer, and as a great human being. We are very fortunate at Bossov to have students like José, who give inspiration to me as a teacher, and serve as a good role model to our younger students. The best gift to a teacher is to witness his or her student’s learning growth. I can see lots of growth that has happened in José this past year, and I cannot be any prouder of him as I am right now.”
What José likes most about coming to MCI is the diversity of students from all over the world. “It’s really great for me to interact with non-Spanish-speaking people every day, learn about their cultures and languages.”
Has the transition from Mexico’s warm climate to Maine’s colder environment been a hardship? José shrugged. “I like the cold – I’m looking forward to winter,” he smiled. After José returns to Mexico he will attend college at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México where he is planning to study veterinary science, and continue sharing his performing talents onstage.
“Home,” Hannah Folan says when asked to describe BBT in one word. “It has given me so much. This is where I grew up and became a woman.” Hannah is one of many who left her home at a young age to further her ballet training at BBT. In our interview she described how she left her home in Connecticut at the age of 14 to obtain the unparalleled training of Natalya Getman, a past soloist for the world renowned Moscow Ballet. She explained that BBT is different because you can get the “best of both worlds.”
At BBT, one can obtain ballet training in the Vaganova method along with a full high school education at MCI. This includes opportunities to take AP and other high level classes as well as the freedom to get involved in after-school activities. BBT dancers carry a busy schedule full of long rehearsals and academic challenges, but despite this, they get involved in the school and town communities.
BBT dancers can be seen supporting other MCI students at sporting events or other arts events, in addition to leading and participating in clubs and activities such as Student Council, Key Club, Philanthropy Council, Art Club, and more.
BBT has given these dancers the opportunity to have the true high school experience while still allowing them to continue their ballet training. From my personal research this is found in no other place.
Many schools offer online school programs to pair with the endless hours of training. This may work for many, but not for BBT dancer Kyra Rosenberg. She previously attended a ballet conservatory with an online schooling program and stated, “I am definitely a visual learner, so being able to interact in a structured classroom easily trumps the independent and textbook based learning from online schooling.”
Although BBT is a school that trains specifically in the Vaganova technique, the dancers say that they learn so much more than just that. The dancers learn different types of character dance, contemporary dance, and partnering. More importantly, the dancers learn how to be good people to one another in a world in which cruelty is a frequent occurrence.
The dancers speak of what they call “life lessons with Natalya,” in which Natalya will sit them down and speak to them about life. In the words of sophomore Eva Walden, “she talks about a lot of subjects that we don’t really want to hear, but need to.” The dancers express that because she has so much experience in the ballet world and world in general, she can offer her wisdom in ways that are beneficial to the students as they go on to new things. They think of Natalya as their second mother and their fellow dancers as their family. BBT student José Porras says that "BBT friends are like the roots of a tree. They will always support you."
New York City is a place with quite a reputation. It’s known for endless skyscrapers, buzzing taxis, blinding lights, and Broadway. In the ballet world, it’s also known for housing two of the most famous ballet companies in America. I knew this when I arrived there for our three-day trip in April with Felicity Audet '15, Arjan Orr '16 and Errol Kurtz '15. I felt small and humbled to have the opportunity to dance in such a place, no matter the setting. But by the time we left, I didn’t feel small or insignificant. I felt like New York City had made its own little spot for us, and in it we weren’t just dots in a blur of people and cars; we were appreciated. This is the power of ballet. No matter the place, no matter the circumstance, everyone values a beautiful performance.
The little spot in which we had the honor of performing was a private club near Central Park. The club was “like a place that only seemed to exist in the movies” as described by Felicity Audet, or like a "hidden palace," as Arjan recalled. Errol even described feeling like he was "transported back in time" upon entering. Felicity, Errol, Arjan and I arrived with Natalya Getman and Chris Faria to perform for and dine with the club’s members. The club was filled with historical paintings, pictures of famous people, and lavish furniture. Felicity recalls being awestruck by the amount of history and the sophistication of the buildings and being “deeply honored to be allowed to step into them in the first place, let alone perform and dine.”
We performed excerpts from a few ballets in our repertoire, including Marie and the Prince’s adagio from The Nutcracker, and the opening scene from our upcoming performance of Carmen. And while we had performed some of these pieces before, the performance in New York was an experience unlike any other. We performed in a formal library, on a carpeted floor and beneath a beautiful chandelier. The conditions were not ideal for dancing, considering that we had to dance en pointe on the carpet, but it was a very valuable experience because it required us to adapt. Professional companies perform in many venues, in traditional and non-traditional settings, and this opportunity gave us a taste of that. Dancers always need to remain respectful and proud of their art form, giving their best possible performance despite the conditions they face.
Another unique aspect of dancing in the club was that the audience was only a few feet in front of us, leading to a very intimate performance. Errol recalled being "able to see [the audience's] emotional responses to us dancing," which was different, but he also thought "it was nice to see the people we were performing for." We were so close that the audience could hear our breathing, feel our exertion, and see every step, and it was somewhat nerve-wracking. As Arjan put it, "The closeness of the audience makes the pressure to perform a lot greater; while, at the Opera House, the lights and the distance tend to be more forgiving."
After the performance, we had the honor of joining the club’s members at a long, formal table to enjoy their exquisite food and talk about the performance. The response we received was overwhelmingly positive. Felicity remembers that "many people were very impressed" and that "everyone was exceedingly friendly, making it difficult to feel as awkwardly out of place as [we] might have imagined." The audience was also very impressed to learn about our dancing schedule at MCI, how we balance academics and ballet, and how many of us are involved in additional activities. Arjan even performed some piano music at the beginning of the show and also received a very positive response.
While some of the club members knew little about ballet, there were also many who had seen several professional ballet performances and still were very impressed by our artistry and level of dancing. This just proves how professional all Bossov dancers are, and are taught to be from a young age. It also shows how people from all walks of life have a great appreciation for this art form - even if they don’t fully understand it.
After returning home, the four of us agreed that the trip was an amazing experience we will remember forever. We were able to perform, overcome unique conditions, meet some extremely interesting people, and even fit in a bit of shopping and also exploring in Central Park. Mostly, we are thankful that we were given the opportunity to share what we do with a different audience, and that they were appreciative. As dancers, that always feels rewarding.
Abigail DeSchiffart '16: What the Arts Mean to Me
It is hard to find something to say about the arts that has not already been said. I could reiterate how students involved in the arts typically have better test scores and how being involved in the arts forces children to use different sections of their brains, the same sections used for mathematics and problem solving. The statistics that prove the value of the arts have already been said over and over again. The only thing I have left to tell is my own story about how being involved in the arts has changed my life.
I grew up surrounded by music. My mother played the piano both at home and at church and my father played the guitar. When my sisters and I were little, my father used to play the guitar and sing to us every night before bed. As a result, I grew up associating music with family and love. When I was eight years old, I was introduced to the piano and I almost immediately fell in love. Here was something with which I could create a sound beautiful to anyone listening. For me, learning to read music was like learning how to decipher a new code, and the result was a beautiful melody. Of course, my playing sounded far from beautiful when I first began, but over the next nine years I would learn to put my heart into what I was playing, and make the keys seem like an extension of my fingertips. The piano was the first instrument that I learned how to play, and as such, it will always have a special meaning to me.
Following the piano, the next instrument that I learned how to play was the trumpet. When I first picked it up in the fifth grade, I wasn't sure what I was getting into. The trumpet fascinated me. Here was this bold, proud instrument that was very unlike the graceful, yet equally powerful piano. I played in a band all through middle school and into high school. The trumpet has opened many doors for me and allowed me to meet many interesting people throughout my time playing it. If only for that, I am very grateful that I decided to pick it up for the first time all those years ago. In subsequent years, I would learn a little bit of other instruments, such as the clarinet and flute very briefly, but the trumpet and piano remain the two main instruments that I play today. The piano is something private that I play primarily for myself, while the trumpet has led to me being a part many different bands and learning how to play with other people.
When I was in the third grade, only nine years old, I was introduced to a program known as Destination Imagination. DI is a creative problem-solving competition that one participates in on teams of seven or less. It wasn't until DI that I truly learned how to act, improvise, and problem solve in the moment. DI changed how quickly I thought and how resourceful I could be when faced with a challenge. In addition to changing the process of how I thought, it also taught me a great deal about teamwork. During a DI challenge, you do not have time to argue or come up with separate solutions, you just have to build off of each other. DI opened a whole new aspect of the arts to me, acting. I found out that I loved to perform and to act with other people. I will be forever grateful to have the skills that participating in DI taught me all those years ago.
Though all of the arts I mentioned above are very important to me, it is the art of ballet that truly holds my heart. It is ballet that taught me about dedication, work ethic, passion, striving for perfection, and how it feels to absolutely love what you do. I first walked into a ballet classroom when I was just under four years old. Since that moment ballet has been a huge part of my life, although I did not officially start ballet training until I was around eight years old. As I got older, I began to dance five to six days a week, driving three hours a day in order to do so. I even left home my sophomore year of high school to attend Bossov Ballet, here at Maine Central Institute. Through studying ballet I have learned more about culture, artistry, and respect, both for others and myself, than in any other aspect of my life. It is impossible to count the millions of plies I have done in my life, or pirouettes, but each movement still contains a different aspect in it that I can improve. Ballet has constantly challenged me, ever since I took that first class. That was a part of what attracted me to ballet in the first place. As a child, academics always came easily to me. Ballet, on the other hand presented a challenge that I had not previously faced. It provided me an escape on the rougher days and a place in which I could find a home in the routine of a classical ballet class. During class, there is not room to focus on anything besides the movements, music, and instruction. It provided me a break from all of the stress and worries of the world outside that small, beautiful studio. As a ballet dancer, being in an empty studio leaves me with feeling of peace and of being home. I believe that I will always feel this way, even when I am no longer able to dance.
As I mentioned earlier, I arrived at MCI last year for my sophomore year. It did not take me long to realize that one area in which MCI truly excels is in the arts. From its outstanding music program to the equally proficient visual arts program, Maine Central Institute succeeds in presenting its students with the benefits that the arts have for them. Personally, I have been involved with many of the different arts programs at MCI, with varying levels of commitment. In playing the trumpet in the school concert band and pep band, I am constantly impressed by the skill of some of the musicians on campus, as well as the leadership of Mr. Dean Neal. While I am in the concert band, there are many other musical groups on campus of which I am not a part. These students meet both during and after school to practice and rehearse. They put on countless hours of time into this program and into their instruments.
The vocalist groups on campus are just as, if not more, impressive. The two vocal jazz groups won first and third place respectively at their state competition, which is almost unheard of. In addition to Mr. Neal, at MCI there is another music instructor, Mr. Wright, a talented musician himself, who teaches his students how to love playing the piano. He welcomed me when I first arrived here two years ago, inviting me to play in the piano recital, even though I could not fit piano into my schedule, and allowing me to use his room to practice. While I am not a part of the visual arts program, I have seen the evidence of their work around campus and in the many productions for which they help build props and sets. I did, however, have the privilege to be a small part of the drama program here at MCI. Through participating in the one-act drama team, I was able to witness students come out of their shells and learn how to perform. I saw them become the characters they were portraying and how their confidence grew. For me, that was the best part of the whole experience. It was in watching some of them find something that they loved to do, and to their surprise, found out that they were good at it.
The program at MCI that I am most invested in, and that has affected me the most, is Bossov Ballet. Being a part of Bossov for the past two years has not only changed my dancing, but also who I am as a person. The amount of respect that I have for our instructor, Natalya Getman, is impossible to put in words. She has taught us not only how to respect the art, but also how to respect ourselves and those around us. She dedicates countless hours to the program and to us, her students. It is Natalya who makes Bossov Ballet the incredible program that it is and who maintains the high level of training in technique, performance, and artistry. Through daily classes and rehearsals, we work to perfect the art that we all chose to pursue.
The arts provide communities that are accepting of all different types of personalities and that provide a place for these individuals to feel comfortable expressing themselves. When I first arrived at MCI, the arts community really welcomed me. It is among the dancers of Bossov that I have found my best friends and those with whom I have developed my closest relationships with at MCI. Through the other arts programs that I have been involved in during the past two years, I have met the majority of the people I relate to and enjoy the company of at school. Arts programs provide places for anyone with the dedication and work ethic to pursue his/her chosen art form to find a home. The arts have changed who I am as a person, and I will be forever grateful to all of those who helped me or supported me in pursuing the arts.
Felicity Audet '15
- Why did you start dancing? How long have you been dancing? What age did you start class? Where did you study? I started dancing because I loved to perform, and so I've been dancing ever since I was four years old. At first I started out taking musical theatre and tap classes, but later I started ballet with Ballet International in Indianapolis.
- How often would you dance in a day/week? When I was younger I would only take classes a few times a week, but as I grew older, I started having classes every day save Sunday and multiple rehearsals for hours each day.
- What shows have you been in and what roles have you danced? I've been in The Nutcracker too many times to count, but I've also danced Cinderella and Giselle in addition to many excerpts of full-length ballets.
- What are your favorite shows to see/be in? Out of all the ballets I've performed, I have to say Giselle was one of my favorites.
- What do you have to do to prepare for a show? I don't have a specific regime before a performance, but there are two things I try to make sure I get before the show: food and rest.
- What do people not know about the world of ballet? I think many people do not realize quite how much work dancers put into their training and rehearsals. As a dancer, many hours are spent in the studio every day throughout the school year and the summer. It's extremely challenging both physically and mentally, but as spectators many do not realize this, because they do not see all the blood and sweat that goes into creating the performance that they come to see.
- What are your favorite steps/move to perform? Out of all the movements we learn in the classroom, pirouettes (turns) are my favorites.
- How did you know you wanted to be a professional dancer? I don't think there was any specific moment for me. I just can't imagine a life without dance, and I just knew this was what I wanted to do.
Errol Kurtz (MCI Senior)
- Why did you start dancing? How long have you been dancing? What age did you start class? Where did you study?
- I started dancing because my mom made me take a class when I was eleven, and have been dancing for six years so far. I started dancing at Maine State Ballet and danced there for two years before coming to Bossov.
- How often would you dance in a day/week?
- I dance 1.5-4 hours a day, 18-22 hours a week.
- What shows have you been in and what roles have you danced?
- In The Nutcracker: party child, mouse, Russian variation and prince/Nutcracker; Peter and the Wolf: hunter; Paquita: Prince; Le Corsaire: pirate
- What are your favorite shows to see/be in?
- My favorite ballets are The Nutcracker and the Pas d'esclave from Le Corsaire.
- What do you have to do to prepare for a show?
- (Track people down to do my makeup). Rehearse for hours on end.
- What do people not know about the world of ballet?
- It takes a lot of effort to make it look effortless.
- What are your favorite steps/move to perform?
- The press lift.
- How did you know you wanted to be a professional dancer?
- I love being able to express myself through movements and dance. I love connecting with people and sharing the love of ballet with others.
- What do people not know about the world of ballet? Do you have any advice to other young men who may be thinking about ballet?
- I would tell young men go for it, it will open up opportunities they might not otherwise have.
Aubrey Whisnant '15
- Why did you start dancing? How long have you been dancing? What age did you start class? Where did you study? - I first started dancing when my mom put me in a tap class at four years old. I have been dancing now for 14 years, but I have only been in ballet for 7 years. I have studied in many different places over the years but I first danced at North Alabama Dance Studio in Alabama for 7 years before my family and I moved, then I started my ballet training at Foothills Dance Conservatory and International Ballet Academy in South Carolina.
- How often would you dance in a day/week? - I dance around 23-32 hours a week.
- What shows have you been in and what roles have you danced? I have danced most roles in the Nutcracker, Myrtha in Giselle, a soloist in Paquita, a big swan in Swan Lake, most roles in Coppelia, Cat in Peter and the Wolf, and many other roles in small production ballets.
- What are your favorite shows to see/be in? - I love being in/watching Giselle. It has been my favorite ballet that I've performed in.
- What do you have to do to prepare for a show? - I usually go out on the stage an hour or so before the show starts, mark all my dances, and listen to the Hip-Hop/Rap strength training station on Pandora in order to get my 'head in the game.'
- What do people not know about the world of ballet? - I don't think people realize how hard ballet is and I don't think they realize how dedicated we are. Unlike most sports, ballet is a year-round commitment, we only get 9-10 weeks off a year, so that really speaks for itself.
- What are your favorite steps/move to perform? - I love to do grand allegro (big traveling jumps across the floor) because I feel so free and calm in the air.
- How did you know you wanted to be a professional dancer? - I knew I wanted to be a professional dancer when I was 13 years old after multiple teachers had pulled me aside to tell me that I had a natural talent for ballet and that they saw great potential in me. After I made the decision to become a professional dancer, I went to my first summer intensive right here at Bossov Ballet.
- Do you have any advice to other young (wo)men who may be thinking about ballet? - I would say that if you are thinking about starting, go ahead and do it. Ballet is a beautiful art that encourages individuality and creativity as well as promoting physical and mental fitness. I would also advise them to 'listen' to their bodies and be aware of their limits. Your body is your instrument, so you need to treat it with great respect.