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Fresh Faces Fall 2022

Introducing the Newest Corps de Ballet Members


As fall performances wrapped and preparations for this year's run of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker® were nearly underway, four apprentices were promoted to the ranks of the Company's corps de ballet: Dominika Afanasenkov, Sarah Harmon, Shelby Mann, and Anna Snellgrove. We caught up with them around campus to get to know them a little better before seeing them onstage later this month.

Dominika Afanasenkov

What did you do when you first found out you’d be a part of the Company?

When I first found out that I would be getting my corps contract I couldn’t hold back my tears of joy and relief. This past year being an apprentice was a chance to live my dream, but now being a part of the Company, it actually feels like that same dream is reality.

What have been some of your favorite moments as an apprentice with the Company?

I would have to say that my first performance with the Company, which was Walpurgisnacht Ballet by George Balanchine, and getting to dance Glass Pieces by Jerome Robbins in Saratoga, were two of my favorite moments as an apprentice. My first performance felt even more special because Walpurgisnacht was the first ballet by Balanchine that I had ever heard of and saw when I was 12. It was my introduction to Balanchine, and to have it be my first ballet performed with the Company felt extremely special.

As for Glass Pieces, it was a ballet I would go and watch every night as a student during the weeks it was on. The interaction of the music with the choreography really spoke to me, and it was always a ballet I dreamt of performing. Performing it exceeded all of my expectations—you are fully immersed in this powerful experience together. The first movement is almost entirely just walking across the stage in no particular pattern for the corps, and being able to really see the stage and each other is something very special.

What makes NYCB special to you?

Something that makes New York City Ballet special to me is definitely the repertory. We are just spoiled by the number of wonderful and different works we get to perform—I feel like there is always something for everyone. When watching ballet, it was always my favorite to actually see a particular person dance, and this Company is made up of so many singular humans that are set free in a way to be themselves in a ballet. As a dancer, I believe that is the biggest gift!

Are there any ballets you are looking forward to performing?

I am looking forward to Nutcracker! It has been five years since I've been in one! At my ballet school back home in Florida, Next Generation Ballet, we had guest artists perform the Sugarplum Fairy and the Cavelier each Nutcracker; my last Nutcracker there, Sara Mearns and Amar Ramasar were the guests. I now realize so much inspiration came from this time of year, having dancers I look up to so much dance onstage with me. Not much has changed. I’m still in awe during each performance, but now I get to dance on our home stage with everyone.

Who inspires you most, or is a particularly important model or mentor?

Kay Mazzo has alway been one of my biggest inspirations. Before getting into SAB there were three videos on YouTube that I would rewatch constantly: Serenade, Stravinsky Violin Concerto, and Duo Concertant, and Kay would dance in all three. I am in awe of her individuality. When you see her onstage and the more she dances, the more you get to know her. This quality struck me and in a way it gave me the go-ahead to do the same. Getting the opportunity to then be taught by her and learn from her is something I will never take for granted.

What do you do when you’re having an off day, or an off week, to get back into the right headspace?

With our busy schedule I realize how much I appreciate our day off on Monday, mostly because it gives me space and time to take a step back and realize how lucky I am to be doing what I truly love every single day. Sometimes I get so caught up in the schedule that having a moment to realize where I am and what I am doing feels incredibly gratifying.

Sarah Harmon

What do you like about living in NYC?

I love having the opportunity to dance in New York City because there is so much to be inspired by. Art is greatly appreciated here, especially in Lincoln Center, and it’s really exciting to see the variety of people who come to the theater every night. It's really important to me that I’m able to support other artists in the city as well, getting to see dancers from ABT, operas at the Met, the Philharmonic across the plaza from us; it’s all really inspiring.

I love the hustle and bustle of the city. In Jerome Robbins’ Glass Pieces, the first movement is composed of a large group of dancers walking back and forth across the stage, in no particular pattern. The first time I performed Glass Pieces, I felt like I was walking through a busy intersection in New York, with people walking past me, each person with their own unique story, with their own unique destination.

What do you like to do, outside of dancing?

Outside of the studio, I love to do yoga. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, and there’s no need to match the person next to you. It’s all about how it feels in the body and not how it looks. It grounds me and feels like a form of meditation. Even a simple child’s pose brings me right back to myself.

How do you unwind after a tough day of rehearsals or a performance?

After a long day of rehearsals and shows, I love snuggling up on the couch to knit some colorful leg-warmers for myself and friends, while watching a comfort TV show like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel or New Girl.

Shelby Mann

What did you do when you first found out you’d be a part of the Company?

I was so happy I was at a loss for words. When I first found out I was going to become a corps de ballet member with the Company, I called my family and best friend to tell them the news. It was one of the happiest moments of my life, and what made it so fulfilling was that I was able to be with three of my closest friends who also got their corps contracts. That made the moment really special because I was able to share it with people I care about.

What have been some of your favorite moments as an apprentice with the Company?

I have so many favorite moments as an apprentice, but the most fulfilling and satisfying ones for any apprentice, I think, are when you are thrown into a part you had been understudying and are finally proving yourself onstage. That only happened to me once as an apprentice, for the role of butterfly in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I had the time of my life.

What makes NYCB special to you?

I have looked up to New York City Ballet dancers my whole life. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a ballet dancer, and I knew that NYCB was my dream company. I could write a 10-page essay on why NYCB is one of the best ballet companies in the world, but I don’t have that much room to write! But on more of a personal note, many family members of mine have been in NYCB, so this company and Lincoln Center have always felt like home to me, and I am so lucky and thankful to be a part of it, too!

Are there any ballets you are looking forward to performing?

I am really looking forward to performing George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker® [as an adult]. Since I started my apprenticeship in the winter of last year, I have yet to perform a Nutcracker. I was in NYCB’s Nutcracker when I was a young student at the School of American Ballet for many years, so I am so excited to perform it with the Company! I am also looking forward to performing The Sleeping Beauty this winter. Sleeping Beauty is such a beautiful and exquisite ballet that I have always admired, so I am very excited about that one as well.

Anna Snellgrove

What have been some of your favorite moments as an apprentice with the Company?

I have had many incredible moments so far with the Company, but my first performance with NYCB was a really special moment. I danced in Walpurgisnacht Ballet, which has been one of my favorite ballets I’ve performed so far. As the curtain rose for the beginning of the ballet, it was exhilarating, and it was a very emotional moment for me. I felt so much joy dancing on the stage. Walpurgisnacht is such a powerful ballet, and I felt extremely grateful to be dancing in it with NYCB.

Another very memorable moment for me was NYCB’s tour to Saratoga. I was performing every night with different ballets that I really enjoyed—Glass Pieces, Chaconne, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and The Four Temperaments. When I attended the School of American Ballet’s summer intensives, I always looked forward to the trip to Saratoga and left the show feeling so inspired. Performing at Saratoga was a special full-circle moment for me.

What do you do when you’re having an off day, or an off week, to get back into the right headspace?

Something that I do, especially when I feel off, is meditate. When I get stressed or overwhelmed, it calms me down and re-centers me. Sometimes I feel that it can be hard to prioritize downtime when things get busy, but it is one of the most important things that I do for myself. I also like connecting with my family and friends for support.

What makes NYCB special to you?

When I was younger, I dreamed of dancing on this stage with New York City Ballet. I feel so grateful to have the opportunity to perform with so many amazing dancers, and to perform incredible repertory. I love being able to dance alongside my friends, some of whom I have known since I was 12, and others who are becoming new friends.

Are there any ballets you are looking forward to performing?

I’m really looking forward to performing in The Nutcracker. It will be my first performance as a corps de ballet dancer, and it has been one of my favorite ballets since I was a young dancer.

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