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Fresh Faces Fall 2023

Meet the Newest Members of the Company


As Spring 2023 performances wrapped, two apprentices were promoted to members of the Company: Olivia Bell and Charlie Klesa. Not long after, amidst a full summer of tours, Grace Scheffel joined their ranks. As we look forward to the beginning of our 75th Anniversary Season and seeing these fresh, new faces on the NYCB stage, we spoke with all three dancers to help you get to know them a little bit better.

Olivia Bell

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

When I found out I got my corps contract, I called my parents to tell them, but I didn’t get to finish the conversation because the other dancers overheard and started screaming for me and hugging me. It was already a special moment, but having the love and support of my colleagues made it even more memorable.

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

Two of my favorite moments have been learning and performing in Gianna Reisen’s Play Time and in Kyle Abraham’s Love Letter (on shuffle). I worked with Reisen during my SAB Workshop and I love her work, and Abraham’s The Runaway was on the first NYCB program I saw as an SAB student, and I’ve wanted to dance one of his ballets ever since. So both of those were full-circle moments for me. Also, my first performance with the Company was the Fall Fashion Gala. I danced in the corps of 4th Movement and Finale of Symphony in C alongside all of my friends and so many dancers who have inspired me for years. It was surreal!

Are there any ballets you are looking forward to performing?

There are so many ballets coming up this season that I want to perform! Stars and Stripes, Jewels, and Symphony in Three Movements are just a few.

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

[Associate Chair of Faculty at the School of American Ballet] Aesha Ash and [former NYCB dancer] Debra Austin are two mentors who are also my biggest inspirations. They are both Black women who danced with NYCB, and I owe so much to them. They have encouraged me, lifted me, and shared so much of their knowledge and experiences with me. I know that they are always just a phone call away, and having their support—especially since they’ve had similar experiences to what I’m having now—is priceless. I am forever grateful for their guidance and support and for them paving the way for me and all the other brown ballerinas at NYCB. I can never adequately express my love and gratitude for them.

Another important mentor is [Corps de Ballet Member] Olivia Boisson. I learned about her when I was nine and thought it was so cool that we were both brown dancers named Olivia B. I got to meet her when I was in NYC that summer, thanks to the Brown Girls Do Ballet organization, and we stayed in touch. She always checked in on me during summers at SAB and I got to come to NYC to see her dance Coffee in The Nutcracker before I came to the school (that was also my first time seeing NYCB’s Nutcracker). She was one of my unofficial mentors growing up and then she became one of my official mentors through the NYCB Apprentice program! Another special mentor is [former NYCB dancer] Heather Watts. She has coached me and guided me and given me so many incredible opportunities over the last couple of years. I am so grateful for her.

What is your favorite movie?

My favorite movies are Thor: Ragnarok, Doctor Strange, and Black Panther. I am a huge Marvel fan, along with the rest of my family, and whenever a new Marvel movie comes out we all gather to watch it together.

Charlie Klesa

What makes NYCB special, to you?

NYCB is special to me because there is so much to learn from all the dancers in the Company. It is extremely inspiring to come in every day and experience the work everyone in the Company puts in to elevate themselves. I try to soak up everything I can from the dancers and apply the things I learn to my own dancing.

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

After a tough day of rehearsals I usually like to relax at home and clear my mind. Reading, watching a show or movie, hanging out with friends, or playing basketball are all things I do to let the day go and just have fun.

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

I had a lot of great memories as an apprentice with the Company. One of the most rewarding parts was performing alongside my colleagues in corps work. Everyone elevates each other on stage and it feels great to have fun and perform a ballet together. I also had a great time performing Justin Peck’s The Times Are Racing. Having the opportunity to be in that ballet helped me grow as an artist and I will never forget it!

Grace Scheffel

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

Some of my favorite memories from this past year as an apprentice happened in the dressing room of the theater. When we are getting ready for shows or just hanging out in the dressing rooms there is never a moment that we aren’t laughing. Being backstage and getting to watch all of the incredible dancers in the Company is one of my favorite things to do. We are surrounded by so many unique and amazing dancers and people. Any chance I have, I love standing in the wings and watching people rehearse or perform.

What makes NYCB special, to you?

I grew up spending my summers in Saratoga Springs and saw New York City Ballet there. It was the first time I had ever seen a ballet performance. My mom had seen an article in the newspaper about NYCB auditioning local children to dance with them while at SPAC. The first time I auditioned, I was selected by [SAB Faculty Members] Dena Abergel and Arch Higgins to perform in Circus Polka. Because there are so many children in that production, NYCB brought up a few girls that were in the Children’s Division at SAB. I thought they were so good and wanted to train someday at the School of American Ballet where they were from. The next year I auditioned again for the SPAC performance and was selected to perform in La Sylphide. Finally, I auditioned for a third summer and got to dance in A Midsummer’s Night Dream. The next summer I was 11 years old and finally able to audition for the SAB summer intensive program. I was offered the opportunity to attend and at the end of that program, I was offered to stay and attend SAB for the year-round program. Having danced with the New York City Ballet as a child in Saratoga, and to now be a part of the Company, is a full circle moment and a dream come true.

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

I have looked up to many dancers in the Company since I was a student and to dance with them and speak with them every day is surreal. Two dancers who have always been an inspiration to me are [Principal Dancers] Indiana Woodward and Megan Fairchild. Indiana has the most welcoming and kind personality; when I joined the Company and was super nervous and scared all the time, she always made me feel like I belonged and was a part of the Company. I also absolutely love watching her dance in so many ballets. Megan Fairchild was my teacher at the School before I joined the Company and she would always share so many important values and tips with us. When I joined the Company she pulled me aside and told me that we needed to fix my shoe situation! She knew that I was struggling with finding a shoe that worked for my foot, so she offered her customs to me. Megan told me that I could wear as many of her shoes as I needed because she wanted me to have a shoe that would help me dance to my best ability. Both of these dancers are role models to me both onstage and off.

Do you have any special memories from SAB?

I attended SAB for 5 years before joining the Company, so the teachers at the School have watched me and helped me grow up. Character classes and variations classes were always some of my favorites because we would get to learn the repertory that New York City Ballet dances. I remember learning Mozartiana with [former Principal Dancer] Sterling Hyltin, and later that night going to watch the ballet and getting to see her perform the role we had just learned. Another one of my favorite moments was getting to work with Sterling again, but this time one-on-one. I had the opportunity to learn the second Aria of Stravinsky Violin Concerto as an understudy for the School of American Ballet Workshop. During those rehearsals with Sterling was the first time I felt what it was like to be a professional dancer. Working with both Sterling and [SAB Faculty Member] Kay Mazzo was incredibly special because Kay originated the role and both women focused so much attention on the details. It was incredible to hear so many stories about when Balanchine originally choreographed the piece.

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

After a long day of rehearsals, or a long week of shows, my favorite thing to do is order my favorite foods. My usual Sunday night routine is to order a cheeseburger, cheese fries, and a chocolate milkshake and watch a movie. If I am in the mood for something a little different I will go to my favorite Italian restaurant. I am a regular there so when I sit down they don’t even have to ask me what I want because I get the same rigatoni and meatballs every time. Going out to my favorite restaurants in NYC, even by myself, is one of my favorite things to do!

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