Thursday, January 14, 2016

Interview with Meredith Harrill

CFB Alumna: Meredith Harrill
Photo by Michael Cairns

Meredith Harrill began her ballet studies at the Central Florida Ballet and later studied at the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington, D.C. on scholarship. She competed in the Finals of the Youth America Grand Prix in New York City, was a finalist in the World Ballet Competition, and a trainee with the Joffrey Ballet and BalletMet Columbus. Since joining State Street Ballet in 2013, Meredith has toured nationally and internationally with the company and has been a featured soloist in numerous ballets by resident choreographers William Soleau and Robert Sund.

We sat down with Meredith to discuss her time at the Central Florida Ballet, her recent engagement, and what it has been like to become a professional ballet dancer.

At what age did you start training at the Ballet Academy of Central Florida (BACF)?
I started at BACF when I was eleven years old

How did BACF help you transition into being a professional dancer?
Before training at BACF I had been a competitive gymnast and lacked basic knowledge and technique in ballet. BACF provided a solid foundation to build on and then push even farther. Whether it be an extra pirouette, longer balance, or more expression, the instructors at BACF always encouraged you to push past your comfort level and do more than the day before (while maintaining cleanliness).

 Meredith competing at a Gymnastic Competition

What performances did you enjoy dancing the most with the Central Florida Ballet?
I enjoyed performing 9/11 An American Moment while with the Studio Company. It has a really powerful message and the choreography allows a certain amount of individual expression and interpretation. I also always looked forward to Nutcracker each year. It was inspiring to watch the dancers you looked up perform certain roles and then as the years went by have the opportunity to perform them yourself. It was also a treat to perform in the Linda Chapin Theater and be a part of such a large scale performance (with so many amazing professional dancers) as a student.

How did you receive your scholarship offer to Kirov and your first company offer with the Joffrey Ballet? Was it tough to leave your family and friends? How did you keep in contact with them?
I attended two summer intensives at Kirov Academy in Washington, D.C. and each time was offered a scholarship to attend year round. The second year, when I was fourteen, I felt I was ready to make that commitment and leave home to pursue training there. It was very difficult to leave my family and my second family at BACF. I was so excited initially, I don't think it really hit me until I moved into the dorm and had to say goodbye to my parents. I made some really close friends at the school, and since we were all in the same situation we provided a great support system for each other. After my Junior year at Kirov I auditioned for the Joffrey Ballet's Summer Intensive in Chicago and received a letter I had been accepted in to their year round Trainee program. Since Joffrey was a company I always aspired to and their program had strong contemporary training as well as ballet, I decided to attend there my last year of school. With Facebook and other forms of social media, it has been fairly easy to keep in contact with my friends from BACF as well as the other schools I attended.

 Meredith with fellow classmates at the 
Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington, D.C.

You have been a member of several companies - describe some of the differences between the companies. How was a "typical day" different from each company?
After being a Trainee with Joffrey and BalletMet and a company member at State Street Ballet, I've had several different experiences of company life. All three companies are the same in that we start the day with a technique class, followed by a short break and then about four to five hours of rehearsal. Because I was a trainee at the first two companies rehearsals usually involved a lot of understudying and learning from the back, which was sometimes more stressful since you had to be prepared to step into any spot at any given time. Joffrey and BalletMet were also larger in numbers and therefore there would be some rehearsal periods you weren't called to. State Street only has about twenty company members including apprentices, so were usually being used at all times and there aren't enough people for understudies, or even a second cast. It allows for a lot of opportunities and stage time I might not have received at a larger company.

How were the cultures/daily life of the cities different or the same?
The cultures of each city I've lived in have been very different. Chicago (my personal favorite) allowed for a city life, but with a midwest attitude. There was always something going on and a lot of dance and art to experience. If you weren't performing there was always another company that was. The dance community was also very connected there, so there was a good chance you would know someone in the performance. Columbus was a bit of a slower pace. Once I settled in and found my way around it had some really awesome areas, and things to see. Now I live in a total change of scenery in Santa Barbara, CA. It's about as close to paradise as you can get, but we are one of very few dance companies in the area, so you have to keep yourself motivated and inspired and not get too lost in the laid back lifestyle.

Meredith with her father, Don Harrill, in Chicago

What did you learn from the Ballet Academy of Central Florida that has helped you as a professional dancer at these professional companies?
One of the most important things I learned at BACF that has helped with my professional career is proper etiquette and demeanor in class. The determination to stay focused and work on bettering yourself will get you farther in a company than you might think. The way rehearsals were run is similar to how it is in company life and those long Satudays and Sundays, were a great preparation for what was to come in the future. I remember there was one time when I was worried I wasn't ready for a competition and I wanted more time to rehearse and Vasile told me it didn't matter how much rehearsal I had, if I was confident in my technique I should be able to perform anything the day I learn it. I still think of that whenever we're learning a new piece of rep. It's a great reminder, especially now when we typically have about three weeks to learn and clean a ballet before opening.

What is a typical day like at State Street Ballet?
My typical day begins with arriving to the studio at 8:30am to warm up for 9:00am class. We have a fifteen minute break after class and then a two hour rehearsal period followed by another half hour break and two more hours of rehearsal. I'm currently working on five different pieces of choreography for some of the students in our school, so recently I've been in the studio a bit more.

Meredith performed the Doll in
 State Street Ballet's 2015 Nutcracker production

What have been some of your favorites roles/productions/experiences with State Street Ballet?
My favorite productions at State Street thus far have been Tango Rain, Scheherezade, and Common Ground. Tango Rain by William Soleau was my first opportunity to have a pas de deux at State Street and Bill's choreography is always so fulfilling to perform. Scheherezade is one of my favorite scores and we had to opportunity to work with Autumn Eckman, which made it an extra special experience. Common Ground closed our season last year and it opened with another one of William Soleaus pieces, which was made of three different pas de deuxs each one representing a different relationship. It was a technical and artistic challenge and made me develop a new idea of storytelling and interacting onstage. The other part of the program, a contemporary piece by Edgar Zendejas, was a collaboration with two other companies and experimented with our physical limits.

Meredith performing with the State Street Ballet

Have you started any wedding planning?
I haven't started any actual wedding planning, we're going to take our time and enjoy being engaged, but I haven't been able to help myself from browsing wedding dress sites.

 Meredith with fiancé Kyle Peete

What is the next performance you are working on and what can we expect from you in the future?

We're about to start working on Don Quixote, which has always been one of my favorite ballets and will be very exciting. Recently I've been choreographing a lot more and have some exciting endeavors coming up involving both choreography and dancing. Currently, I'm just focusing on improving and continuing to push myself to develop every aspect of my dancing.

*For information on classes at the Ballet Academy of Central Florida, please visit or call 407.849.9942 ext 10.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Guest Artists Announced for 15th Anniversary “Nutcracker” Production

Photo by Marshall Ellis Photography © 2014

The Central Florida Ballet has announced a stellar line-up for its 15th Anniversary Nutcracker production taking center stage in Linda Chapin Theater at the Orange County Convention Center on December 12 at 2pm & 7:30pm, and December 13 at 2pm. The full-length, professional production will feature guest artists:

Nayara Lopes                  Dance Theatre of Harlem
Jonathan Batista             Cincinnati Ballet
Christye Alan                  Metropolis Productions
Lorenna Calheiros          Cia Jovem Balletarrj Escola de Dança of Brazil
Davi Chagas                    Cia Jovem Balletarrj Escola de Dança of Brazil

*Ms. Lopes, Mr. Bastista, Ms. Calheiros, and Mr. Chagas are winners of the Annual World Ballet Competition, held in Orlando, and produced by the Central Florida Ballet. 

While staying true to the traditional classic Nutcracker, the Central Florida Ballet's production is unique to the nation for its: thrilling pyrotechnics, fiber-optic special effects, and aerial acrobatics.

Photo by Marshall Ellis Photography © 2014

Two popular events complementing the ‘Nutcracker experience’ are: The Nutcracker Boutique filled with popular gift items. The second event, the Nutcracker Raffle and Silent Auction, will return for two days this year to raise funds for the 2015/16 season and offering unique, last-minute holiday gift opportunities for family and friends. Both will be open forty-five minutes before each performance and during intermission.

Tickets are priced at $80 for “VIP” package, $64 for “Gold Circle”, $48 for Section A, $38 for Section B and $24 for Section C.

For a limited time only, tickets are 50% OFF at Use code: HALFOFF at checkout.

For more information about the Central Florida Ballet please call 407-849-9948 or visit http///

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Holiday Gift Ideas

The holiday season has officially arrived and we bet you are searching for the perfect gift for your friends and family. From gift cards to electronics, the holiday gift giving list can be endless! So to make your search a bit easier, we gathered some unique gift ideas to delight those you care about this holiday season.

#1 Tickets to Central Florida Ballet's The Nutcracker
The Central Florida Ballet's unique Nutcracker production offers mini-pyrotechnic explosions, aerial acrobatics, and fiber optic special effects, unlike any other in the area. This year the Central Florida Ballet celebrates the 15th Anniversary presentation of its Nutcracker. Performances will be held December 12-13 at the Orange County Convention Center.

Price: Tickets range from $24-80.  
How to Buy: Buy online at or call the Box Office at 407.849.9948 ext 10. Use Code: Dance15 to get 50% OFF your ticket order!
Best part: Wonderful memories to remember for years to come! An experience at the Central Florida Ballet's Nutcracker is unlike anything else.

#2 Nutcracker Raffle and Silent Auction
Discover and battle Nutcracker style for the best gifts - vacation getaways, theme park tickets, jewelry, sports memorabilia, and much more. Your generosity benefits the Central Florida Ballet's 2015/16 Season and the unique gift will bring sheer delight to your recipient.
Price: $10-700
How to buy: The Raffle and Silent Auction will be held in the lobby right beside the Linda Chapin Theater, starting 1 hour before each Nutcracker performance from December 12-13.
Best part: Finding the perfect gift for your loved one and generously supporting the Central Florida Ballet's 2015/16 Season at the same time! It's a win-win!

# 3 Nutcracker Boutique Gift Shop
The Nutcracker Boutique is held in the lobby right beside the Linda Chapin Theater and is open 45 minutes before each performance and during intermission. The search is on for your most-wanted item, which makes a great souvenir from the show.
Price: $5-40 an assortment of items will be offered 
How to buy: The Nutcracker boutique will be held in the lobby right beside the Linda Chapin Theater before, during, and after the performances on Saturday, December 12 and Sunday, December 13.  
Best part: From wooden Nutcrackers to delicate ornaments to exquisite jewelry, the Nutcracker boutique is sure to bring great stocking stuffers!

#4 Gift Certificate to the Central Florida Ballet's Academy
Ballet is not just for The Nutcracker. Share the joy of dance with your friends with a gift certificate to use towards classes at the Central Florida Ballet's Academy.
Price: $Any Amount
How to buy: Please call the Central Florida Ballet Academy at 407.849.9948 ext 10 to purchase a gift certificate.
Best part: Keep ballet coming all year long.

For more information on the Central Florida Ballet, please visit or call 407.849.9948.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Nutcracker Excerpts presented at the Downtown Orlando Library

Come watch the Central Florida Ballet's Studio Company perform Excerpts from the beloved holiday classic, The Nutcracker at the Orlando Public Library! Address: 101 East Central Boulevard, Orlando, FL 32801.

Free performances will be given at 11am and 2pm on Saturday, November 14, 2015.

*Arrive early to find parking, there is a Veteran's Day Parade held in front of the Library from 11am-1pm. Roads around the library will be closed from 10am-3pm.

The Central Florida Ballet’s Nutcracker is performed each December at the Orange County Convention Center and was featured as “one of the five outstanding Nutcracker productions in the country” on CNN Headline News.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Adult Students Share Stories and Insight

In the past couple of weeks, we have received many questions on our OPEN BALLET CLASSES held at the Ballet Academy of Central Florida (CFB's Official School). These classes are offered for adults from the beginner to advanced levels.

We took this opportunity to chat with some of our adult students about their experience at BACF and asked them to share their thoughts. Check out their stories below!


Lori poses for a picture with Ryan Dean Weston

How did you hear about BACF and how long have you been taking the adult classes?
I heard about the adult classes through Ms. Kate who teaches the beginner class. I tried to do aerial arts but needed some exercise to strengthen my body first. She recommended Pilates and ballet. I've been taking ballet now for 3.5 years.

Did you study dance before BACF, where and for how long?
I had no prior experience with ballet. I'm grateful to see how much I have improved over the years. I was an overweight woman with some significant balancing issues. I couldn't even do basic tendus to the back without falling over. Same with pique turns. Now I can do these and have a much better awareness of my body movement and its awareness in space.

What BACF classes do you take?
Beginner/Intermediate Adult Ballet on Mondays at Noon

What is the best part about the classes?
It's very relaxed but a complete instruction of beginner ballet.

Who teaches your classes and what is your favorite part about their teaching style? 
Kate explains the moves very well and it's a very easy to follow class. Fun too! I've learned that ballet is hard work but so beautiful to watch.

What have you learned during your time at BACF?
I recently had the chance to watch the advanced ballet class taught by Vladimir Bykov. I could see how many of the moves I learned in my beginner class were used in a more complex way which was so beautiful and very inspiring to watch. I realized how important it was to get your basics perfected before you could move to a higher level.

Do you do any other physical activities? How does ballet compare to them?
Yes, in addition to ballet, I do Aerial Tissu, Pilates, Spanish Web, and have done flying trapeze for a year. The ballet has certainly helped me become more graceful when I performing in student showcases.

Would you recommend BACF’s adult classes to others?
I would highly recommend anyone to come and try beginner ballet class at BACF whether you have no experience, little experience or used to do when you were younger.


Megan (in blue) poses for a picture with fellow classmates!

How did you hear about BACF and how long have you been taking the adult classes?
My first knowledge of BACF was through an article in the Orlando Sentinel. The new studio was very near my house and I began taking classes in 2002.

Did you study dance before BACF, where and for how long?
I started taking ballet classes in Green Bay Wisconsin when I was 5 years old.

What BACF classes do you take?
 I take the adult Intermediate/Advanced Ballet classes.

What is the best part about the classes? 
There are so many best parts, the instruction, the music, the people. Ballet exercises your mind and your muscles and improves your flexibility- which are all very important as you get older. 

Who teaches your classes and what is your favorite part about their teaching style? 
Vladimir Bykov, he is the BEST ballet teacher! His classes are very fast paced and challenging so it is an amazing workout and it's never dull or repetitive.
What have you learned during your time at BACF? 
When I came to BACF I had not taken a ballet class in 18 years, so I learned everything all over again but with much more emphasis on the proper technique. Through the classes at BACF I renewed my love for dance and wish I had never quit when I did.

Do you do any other physical activities? How does ballet compare to them?
I walk and bike a lot but ballet class at BACF is definitely my favorite work out. There is a group of us that have been taking classes together at BACF for many years, we are all different ages and come from different backgrounds but have become good friends through class.

Would you recommend BACF’s adult classes to others? 

Do you have any interesting stories to tell about the adult classes?
It's always fun to see who will be in class. We see BACF alumni, Broadway performers, Cirque du Soleil performers and other professional ballerinas, it's amazing to see the talent!

Want to try an Adult Class?
Or give us a call at 407-849-9942 ext 10.

**Plus there is no registration fee for adult students and you can attend 
the Open Adult Ballet Classes anytime!

Our studios are located at 3306 Maggie Blvd, Suite B, Orlando, FL.
Minutes away from Holy Land and I4 Conroy Exit!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Interview with Arielle Martin

Photo by Isaac Aoki

Arielle Martin received her early and pre-professional ballet training from the Ballet Academy of Central Florida under direction of Vasile Petrutiu, Vladimir Bykov, and Heather Sanders-Fryxell. She also studied with scholarships at Boston Ballet, Washington Ballet, and Miami City Ballet. In 2009, she received the Silver Medal in the Pre-Professional Category (ages 14-17) at the World Ballet Competition in Orlando, Florida.

In 2010, Arielle was the only American dancer to represent Florida at the International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi. After her participation she joined the Professional Division of Pacific Northwest Ballet on full scholarship until her graduation. Arielle performed in many productions such as Don Quixote, A Midsummer's Night Dream, and Nutcracker with the company. After graduation she joined the Teatrul de Balet Sibiu in Sibiu, Romania and also performed as a guest apprentice in Dresden Semperopera Ballet (Germany) in La Bayadere and Harmensdamen. She then joined the Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada for the following season and is currently in her 2nd season with the Friedrichstadt-Palast Berlin in Germany.

We caught up with Arielle where she reminisced on her past and gave insight into life as a professional dancer.
At what age did you start training at the Ballet Academy of Central Florida (BACF)?
6 years old

Who were your primary teachers during your years training at BACF? 

Vladimir Bykov, Vasile Petrutiu, and Heather Fryxell

You won several prestigious awards in competitions, what tips do you give to dancers to be successful in competitions?
Try to find a good head space, have fun, and don't stop striving for the top.

 Arielle performs a contemporary solo at the 2009 World Ballet Competition in Orlando, where she received the Silver Medal in the Pre-Professional Category. Photo by Virginia Trudeau and Deedee Sherman

What performances did you enjoy dancing the most with the Central Florida Ballet and why?
Butterfly in Nutcracker, because it was a challenge but yet such a beautiful part.
How was the transition from BACF to Pacific Northwest Ballet? Was it tough to leave your family and friends? How did you keep in contact with them?  
The transition was exciting and scary but ended up being a great time and I learned so much. I missed my family but thank god for Skype.   

 Arielle at the Pacific Northwest Ballet. Photo by Isaac Aoki.

You have been a member of several companies - describe some of the differences between the companies.     
In each company you start in the morning with classes and continue with rehearsals. The difference between each company was the repertoire and also the city in size and development. But Berlin is the best place I have ever lived and do not see myself leaving anytime soon. 

Arielle performs with the Teatrul de Ballet Sibiu in Romania. 

   Arielle poses with fellow company members at the Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada

 What did you learn from the Ballet Academy of Central Florida that has helped you as a professional dancer?
I learned to always work hard and try to be the best dancer I can be.

*For information on classes at the Ballet Academy of Central Florida, please visit or call 407.849.9942 ext 10.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Summer Vacation Pics: Academy Students

From sightseeing in Europe to Disney adventures, our Academy students and alumni took the world by storm!

 Academy Students: Taimane Tevaga, Tua Tevaga, and Jasmine Jasper strike a pose in Arizona!

CFB Alumna, Meredith Harrill, stuns with a high-flying leap at the Shenjing Theatre in China!

Academy Student, Elizabeth Petrutiu, takes a trip to Disney's Animal Kingdom.

CFB Alumna, JoAnna Schmidt, runs through fields in Europe!

 CFB Alumna, Arielle Martin (right) takes a majestic leap in Marjorca, Spain.

Academy Student, Jasmine Jasper, finds and adds to art in Arizona.

CFB Alumna, Annette Rivera, at La Cueva Del indio en Arecibo in Puerto Rico.

Academy Student, Ellexis Hatch, exemplifies grace in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Academy Student, Ashton Gordon (2nd from right) stands in front of a Museum in Canada.

Academy Student, Aurora Naatjes, gets buried in the sand.

Academy Student, Desiree Nguyen, takes a daring pose in Vienna, Austria.

 Gabriella Costa creatively sight-sees in Washington, DC.

Remember, Fall Academy Classes begin August 17, 2015! For details on registering. please call 407.849.9948 ext 10 or visit

Central Florida Ballet's Studios are located at 3306 Maggie Blvd., Suite B, Orlando, FL 32811. Just minutes away from Holy Land and I4 Conroy Exit.