Unfortunately, it looks like you are using an outdated browser.

To improve your experience on our site and ensure your security, please upgrade to a modern browser such as Chrome, Firefox, Safari, or Edge.

Skip to main content

You have the promo code applied

Fresh Faces 2021

Meet the Newest Dancers in NYCB's Corps de Ballet


New York City Ballet’s momentous onstage “entrance” this fall is accompanied by the notable entrance of four new members of the Company: Apprentices Savannah Durham, Zoe Bliss Magnussen, Samuel Melnikov, and KJ Takahashi have been promoted to the corps de ballet just in time for the 2021-22 Season. We can’t wait to get to know them better as performers; in the meantime, we’ve asked them a little bit about themselves and how they came to join the NYCB family.

Interviews have been condensed and edited for clarity.



Are there any ballets you’re looking forward to performing?

I’m really excited to perform Western Symphony. I performed it a few years ago for Workshop at the School [of American Ballet] and it’s a favorite to watch and perform. It’s timeless, and filled with quirky, silly moments that still make me laugh when I watch it today. It uses so many dancers and there’s so much going on it feels like one big party. It’s one of those ballets where you can feel everyone’s joy as an audience member. At the end of the ballet, the cast comes together for a super high-energy finale, and we keep dancing as the curtain comes down. It’s an element that feels genuine, because when you’re watching it you don’t really want it to end. To me, it’s like you’ve wound up a dancing music box, and now it’s closing. I think it’s such a perfect ending; it maintains the fantastical, make-believe quality of this “Western World” you get immersed in for the night.

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

I think just being able to perform as much as we do is a great memory as an apprentice. Coming right out of the School, performing isn’t something you’re super accustomed to; we have Workshop and that’s mostly it. I never did any ballet competitions, and my studio was like SAB with only annual performances, so I felt a bit behind compared to others. As dancers we all ultimately love being onstage, but it’s different from dancing in a studio, and you have to adjust. For me, I’ve had to figure out my body and what comes naturally to me versus what doesn’t. I found certain things would stand out and others not and I wouldn’t be aware of it. Our Company is known for being great performers and the special energy we bring onstage, and being new to the Company I wanted to rise to that occasion. Everyone says it but you really do have to dance all the way up past the Fourth Ring. Mentally it’s been a challenge, too, in the sense that I feel I can always do more and I like to keep striving for this image of my best self as a dancer and an artist. I think trusting my body and my abilities has been a major mental element that I inch through everyday. My apprentice year cut through the pandemic and I feel I learned a lot physically and mentally that I carry in my dancing.

What is your favorite book? Or favorite movie?

A book I really enjoyed reading last year during quarantine was A Little Life. It takes place in New York, and that always makes a book extra exciting. I was home in North Carolina while I was reading it so I was living a bit vicariously through the characters at some moments. It’s one of the longest books I’ve read, and many people say that by the time you’ve finished it you feel like you’ve lived “a little life.” It follows four friends from college through their adult lives. It’s a very emotional book, and I don’t want to give anything away—I think it’s better to read it with less information. It’s definitely a very heavy and emotional book; I cried a lot while reading it, but I’ll always recommend it to people.



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

When I found out I was going to be a part of the corps de ballet I was just overwhelmed with joy and there were immediate happy tears!! I was so shocked and surprised that I really didn’t process it for about a week, it felt like a dream!

What do you like about living in NYC?

I like that you have total freedom and encouragement to be whoever you’d like to be. I like that on any given day you can see something you’ve never seen before, and I love that there is an endless amount of inspiration on every corner!

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

Some of my favorite moments as an apprentice with the Company have been dancing “Snow” in Nutcracker, the corps of La Source, and monsters in Firebird! My first performance ever with NYCB was Nutcracker and I had this moment when the snow started to fall and I just felt totally out-of-body. It felt so surreal to be dancing something I’d watched and loved since I was a little girl. The orchestral music, costumes, dancing, lights, friends, and that crazy snow that gets everywhere… I just remembered feeling so lucky!

What makes NYCB special to you?

NYCB has something that is very hard to put into words. There’s a strength that looks powerful and delicate at the same time, and I think it is the most gorgeous thing I’ve ever seen. I also love the people that make NYCB what it is. Though I’ve only been here a short while, you immediately feel like there is a group of people supporting you. Everyone has something different to bring to the table and my favorite thing has been to observe and learn from them.

Are there any ballets you are looking forward to performing?

So so many!! Off the top of my head, though, I am looking forward to performing Serenade, Chaconne, Symphony in C, Glass Pieces, Jewels, Slaughter on Tenth Ave, Divertimento No. 15, Stars and Stripes, and Vienna Waltzes.

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

To get back in the right headspace I try to slow things down and break down whatever is frustrating me. Usually a good yoga or meditation session is in order! Sometimes talking to a friend or just taking a walk to clear my head does the trick, too!

Do you have any special memories from SAB?

One of my most treasured memories from SAB was learning Concerto Barocco from Suki Schorer. It felt like such a gift to have that choreography passed down to me from Suki!

What makes you unique as a dancer?

I think what makes me unique is the way that I think about dance. Once I learn something, I love to take the time to try new things and explore boundaries within that ballet. I like finding little steps or spots in the music when I can do something special or really play with it and make it my own!



What do you like about living in NYC?

I like the atmosphere and speed of the city. I love the fact that everything around you is constantly moving. It urges you to keep going forward and push yourself to new heights, like the city around you.

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

I got to perform in Monumentum pro Gesualdo, as well as Episodes, during my time as an apprentice. I also performed in the fourth movement of Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet, which has definitely become one of my favorite ballets. The energy you get from the music makes it so exciting. It feels like you can really let go and dance. I love the many moments in between rehearsals, in the dressing room pre- and post-show, and in Company class with friends and colleagues. These are experiences I will always cherish and can’t wait to continue to have more.

What makes NYCB special to you?

I think New York City Ballet is special to me because of the repertory the Company performs, as well as the legacy that exists at NYCB. I was able to be taught by many former NYCB dancers while I attended Colburn Dance Academy, under the direction of Jenifer Ringer and James Fayette, who both danced as principals in the Company. I was also taught by many current and former NYCB dancers during my time at SAB. It is an exciting and amazing experience to dance on the same stage as someone who taught you and sometimes perform the same roles they did. It is amazing getting to work with our Senior Repertory Director Rosemary Dunleavy who has taught the same ballets to my previous teachers, as well as to me, now.

Are there any ballets you are looking forward to performing?

I’m looking forward to getting to perform Glass Pieces by Jerome Robbins this season. I learned the third movement during my first year at SAB. We performed it for a winter showcase; ever since then it has been something I’ve wanted to perform. The music is so powerful, and getting to dance alongside so many colleagues really gives me a feeling of togetherness. I’m excited for the opportunity to get to dance it onstage.

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

I was extremely fortunate to get to work with Peter Frame during my time at SAB. His energy, work ethic, and attitude toward life were extremely inspiring. He was able to inspire everyone he met and truly made a difference in helping to build a “full dancer.” I will always be grateful for the time I was able to spend learning from such a special person and dancer.

An inspiration of mine since I was very young is Alexander Godunov. I remember being six or seven years old and watching videos of him dance. I couldn’t believe the strength and power he had when dancing. My dad came as a refugee from the Soviet Union, making me a first generation Russian American. I remember watching Flight 222, which is loosely based on Godunov’s defection. It led me to watch more documentaries about him; I think the movies helped me to better understand my heritage. I’m honored to be in George Balanchine’s company and to be a part of the vision he created for American ballet.

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

I’ve recently started training with Joel Prouty at Studio IX on my days off since we started rehearsing. It sets me up with the right mindset for the rest of my week. He really makes me push myself and realize what my body is capable of doing. I feel like I’m able to carry the mindset with me the rest of the week. It helps me to push through those off moments and keep trying.

What are you most proud of, outside of dancing?

I’m very proud of both of my parents for their work during the pandemic. They are both mid-level healthcare providers who have worked the frontline during the global pandemic. It’s been inspiring to see their dedication and their hard work.

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

I usually come home and hang out with my cat Harley. His comedy and shenanigans are the best stress relievers.

What makes you unique as a dancer?

My height, my hair, and my high jump.



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

My first ever show with the Company is definitely one of my top favorite moments as an apprentice. I was so nervous standing in that line with everyone while the beginning section of Rubies began playing, but once the curtain went up and I saw the audience from my perspective, all the nerves flushed away and I had the time of my life! Some other memorable moments during my apprenticeship were when I was given the opportunity to perform Taylor Stanley’s principal role in Lauren Lovette’s The Shaded Line, along with the Candy Cane and Tea sections in the 2nd Act of Nutcracker.

What was it like working with Kyle Abraham, originating a role for When We Fell?

Working with Kyle for those three weeks in Kaatsbaan was extremely enlightening for me when it came to building my vocabulary in dance. I thought I already knew so many facets of dance from my earlier training, but after that first rehearsal I realized there’s so much more I could learn from him. The process of making the ballet was very stress-free and things came together so smoothly that we finished the whole ballet within the first week of rehearsing and worked on fine tuning details for the remaining two weeks.

While I’m proud to know that When We Fell is the first ballet that has ever been created on me with the Company, I felt a sense of responsibility for my role because I wanted to properly fulfill what Kyle was looking for in terms of movement capability and quality. Nonetheless, I’m filled with gratitude and am thankful to those who’ve given me the opportunity to be in this work and entrusted me with playing a part in creating such an amazing dance film. After this first experience working with Kyle, I look forward to working with him again in the future!

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

Gen Horiuchi was a big reason why I wanted to be in the Company. He was the first Japanese male dancer in the Company and knowing that is what truly drove me to work my hardest to be the second Japanese dancer in the Company, which is a title I hold proudly. I’ve met him once, in passing, but never got to truly speak with him, which I would really like to do as I have so many things I’d want to ask him!

Another big inspirational dancer for me is Tetsuya Kumakawa, former principal with the Royal Ballet and now artistic director of his company K-Ballet. His show of strength and elegance, the way he put those together and made ballet look effortless, is what I aspire to show in my dancing. What really got me hooked on him, though, was not his ballet skill, but the more contemporary works that he’s done for Twyla Tharp. The way he switches from a vulnerable, more relaxed state of movement to then instantly be in ballet-mode really captivated me and inspired me to be able to move like that.

What makes you unique as a dancer?

I think my versatility in dance is what makes me unique as a dancer, while also maintaining a strong structure in ballet. Because of my background in hip hop, I have that set of skills within me to do whatever a choreographer asks for. If they ask me to move sharply with a few pops in the arms and body or move as fast as I can, then suddenly move as though someone pressed the slow-mo button and move extremely slowly through the space, I can do it because I’ve spent my whole childhood in Texas practicing those kinds of movements in my garage.

Stay closer to the action

Enter your name and email address to receive email communications from New York City Ballet, including special offers, on-sale dates, and other updates.