Skylar Brandt, a principal ballerina with American Ballet Theatre, is a rising superstar in the ballet world.
And, excitedly, she is making her New York debut as the lead in the ballet Giselle on Thursday, October 21, 2021, at the David Koch Theatre in New York City.
I have been following Skylar’s dancing and career since we first met in 2003, when she was only ten years old. At the time, she was taking a private lesson with the beautiful ballerina Diana White, and I came for an adult ballet class and rehearsal at the Scarsdale Ballet School.
From the waiting room, I could peek in and saw this tiny girl with laser-sharp focus. Indeed, it was crystal clear at that very young age that Skylar was going places. I am so in awe of her incredible talent and drive. Plus, she’s such a fantastic person on top of all of that.
Shortly after Skylar was promoted to principal ballerina in 2020, she posted this clip talking about her dreams filmed when she was eight years old.
Apparently, she was born to be a ballerina!
Skylar, like me (at the time), is from Westchester County. And, a couple of years after I met her, Skylar moved on in her training and studied at the prestigious Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis Ballet (JKO) School in New York City.
This is the official ballet school for the American Ballet Theatre.
Skylar graduated from the JKO school and, while still in high school, went into ABT II, now known as the studio company. Most of those dancers are taken into the main company after a year or two. Skylar was hired by ABT over ten years ago as a member of the corps de ballet. Soon after, she was given many solo parts.
I’ve been fortunate to see her perform too many times to count. And, she never fails to deliver. Her parents, who were and still are immensely supportive during her training years, are at every performance. I’ve also run into Skylar at other ballet performances and taken classes with her. Not only is she the most talented dancer ever, but she’s also incredibly warm and humble.
In 2015, Skylar was promoted to soloist.
And, in September 2020, yes, several months into the pandemic, in a surprise move no one expected (because of the circumstances), she was promoted to principal ballerina, the highest position in the company.
On the day I found out about Skylar’s promotion to principal ballerina, I had just been to the dentist to get a new crown. I was still sitting in my car with a droopy mouth in my old garage, crying for joy as if it was my own daughter. However, I know I’m not alone because I’m positive that everyone whose life has been touched by Skylar feels like she’s their daughter or sister.
For anyone who knows ballet, the part of Giselle is one of the iconic ballerina roles that few have the opportunity to perform.
So, when I found out that Skylar was going to have this opportunity, I knew I had to come back to see her perform.
Skylar has a fantastic Instagram account filled with still images and numerous clips of her practicing in her apartment or being coached by her phenomenal coaches, Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky.
This clip, a parody of the film Center Stage from the summer of 2020, was one of the ways Skylar managed to keep her spirits up during the months and months of uncertainty.
Please note, if you don’t already know. A ballerina of any rank is NEVER required to do more than a “clean double” pirouette (unsupported).
Skylar routinely knocks out, in cleaner-than-clean-textbook placement, 9 or 10 pirouettes! Oh, and she can do them in any position or direction. For her, that’s irrelevant.
Even her coaches (Maxim Beloserkovsky in this case) are gobsmacked by her unprecedented talent, as evidenced here when Skylar does a clean QUADRUPLE en dehors pirouette en attitude derriere during a rehearsal. This is a portion of the real black swan variation from the ballet Swan Lake.
Most ballerinas only do a single, and no audience will ever complain. A few ballerinas are able to perform a double. The reason for this is that it’s especially challenging for the dancer to get up “on top of” her leg and keep her balance and line in that position.
And please enjoy this gem where Skylar is balancing en pointe in attitude en derriere while turning herself around 360 degrees. Normally, the promenade, inherently a challenging maneuver, is done with the aid of a partner as part of the Rose Adagio in the Sleeping Beauty ballet. Doing so without a partner is freakishly fantastic!
And, NO. There are no magnets on the tips of her pointe shoes. lol
Yes, I know. I know! Skylar makes it look easy.
Believe me. I’ve studied ballet for at least 35 years. It’s not easy.
Sometimes non-dancers are curious about a ballerina’s pointe shoes.
No, even though they can sometimes make quite a sharp noise, there is no wood in them. Traditionally, the stiff toe boxes are actually a kind of paper mache and cardboard wrapped in satin. (note: there is another brand by Gaynor Minden that uses a synthetic polymer for the toe boxes.)
And, one last video showing the progression from age 10 when I first met her to the present day.
Skylar Brandt as Odette from Swan Lake on the cover of Dance Magazine!!!
Thank you, Skylar, for your beauty, unwavering dedication, and for giving immense joy to all who have the privilege of experiencing your exquisite art.
It is a tremendous thrill to be in New York for this important debut you have been training for 20+ years. May your career continue to flourish for many years to come!
With fondest love,
My review for Skylar’s New York Debut in Giselle on October 21, 2021
Skylar’s performance was magical times a million!
And, I don’t use those words lightly as I’m incredibly picky.
In Act I, Skylar was everything one expects to see from the character of Giselle; fragile and light as a butterfly.
She performed the iconic solo, making it look as effortless as a game of hopscotch. But, most importantly, she WAS a young girl, innocent, shy, naive, tender, full of joie de vivre. Soooo delicate. It was no wonder that everyone in the village was in love with her.
Skylar’s mad scene* was not over-the-top and had the necessary restraint some ballerinas fail to achieve.
No acting is required. A broken heart just is, and our hearts were broken along with hers.
In Act II, she WAS weightless. I don’t mean light. I mean, it was like Cornejo (also fantastic as Albrecht) was lifting a cotton ball.
But everything, Skylar’s` acting, and effortless technique was beyond perfect.
Her whirling dervish initiation into the Willis sisterhood was at tornado warped speed, yet beautifully centered. Then out of nowhere, she went on pointe and finished with a perfectly placed attitude turn (The audience let out an audible GASP!)
And then she just kept going with her unearthly jumps. As she tore off the stage as if possessed, the audience went nuts as if it was the Yankees in the final inning of the world series, down by one point, with two outs, the bases loaded, and a ball just hit out of the park.
When the curtain came down, they got an immediate standing O!
I’m attaching a couple of photos from the curtain call. Unfortunately, I was in row N, so not the best.
Skylar Brandt with Herman Cornejo
The resolution is so bad it almost looks like a painting.
I adore this image showing off Skylar’s gorgeous swan neck. I can’t wait to see her in Swan Lake! But, too bad that guy’s head’s in the way.
*The “mad scene” is the final scene in Act I where Giselle learns that her “fiancé” is actually two-timing her, and not only that, he’s a count, not a common villager as herself. Being of an immensely fragile constitution with an apparent heart condition, Giselle attempts to reconcile that all of her dreams have been shattered. But, she cannot, and as she lunges towards, Albrecht collapses and dies in his arms.
For more of the amazing Skylar Brandt rehearsing and sometimes cavorting on tik tok with her family, please check out her beautiful Instagram account.
For another treat from the recent World Ballet Day is veteran ballerina Marianela Nunez who I was fortunate to see dance in New York several years ago.
Nela as she is fondly known is now in her late 30s. However, she looks like mid-20s and shows no sign whatsoever of any loss of her astonishing abilities.
She’s done pretty much every role in the repertory at the Royal Ballet, including a brilliant Giselle. But, she’s one of the few ballerinas who is sometimes cast to do the part of the queen of the Willis, Myrtha. Of course, not at the same time as Giselle. haha
A few days ago, for World Ballet Day, the great ballerina, from decades ago, Monica Mason coaches Nela in this supporting role of Myrtha. Although, quite frankly, there’s minimal coaching required as Nela owns this part like nobody else, actually appearing to be FLYING through the air.
You’ll also get a taste of how incredibly physically demanding this part is for a ballerina.