Month: November 2017

5 Cary Dancers to Study Ballet Across the Country

Cary, NC — Next week will be bittersweet for Cary’s International Ballet Academy. Five of their star pupils are moving to ballet placements around the nation, some as far away as Seattle.

As Far Away as Seattle

Cy Doherty, the only young man in the group, will be traveling to practice and learn at the Harid Conservatory in Boca Raton, Florida. Madeline Clark and Savannah Raynor will live in Pittsburgh to practice with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater School.

Nikki Fanney will study at Houston Ballet Academy, and Anissa Bailis joins the Pacific North West Ballet in Seattle in their professional division program.

The dancers will train at these schools, many of which are associated with professional ballet companies, in hopes of gaining a spot within the corps. If that doesn’t work out, these schools can also connect them to other professional companies where they may be hired to dance.

Cary’s International Ballet Academy, or IBA, formed just over five years ago. As they start their sixth year, owner Christina Fanney, who is also Nikki’s mother, is thrilled to send off five of their students to advance to the next level in their dance careers.


I asked the dancers how they managed to gain these positions.

Nikki, Cy and Anissa received offers while performing at a national level competition. Savannah attended winter auditions and was offered a position at the full-time school. Madeline attended a summer program, and, from that experience, was offered to take classes at the Pittsburgh school in April. That shaped her decision to go there to study full-time.

Anissa’s professional program prefers dancers to be done with high school, because they will be in ballet classes during the day and follow that with rehearsal, so there’s no time for school. The program provides a great transition between the school and the company.

The amount of work is like having a job, “Except that you don’t get paid. In fact, you pay to go,” or have a scholarship arrangement where tuition for classes are covered.

Transitional Step

Anissa said this step in her career is a great transition from high school to joining a company. The other students are all considered high school seniors and will be either taking class with their ballet schools or taking classes online.

Of the five, Cy is the only one currently attending a traditional Wake County school – the rest have been home-schooled and are familiar with taking online classes.

National Recognition

If some of these names sound familiar, it’s because we have written about these students’ performances in the recent YAGP dance competition.

Anissa, Cy and Nikki placed very well in the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) semi-finals in New York this past January and went on to the finals in April.

Madeline also danced in this competition in the past. Each student received bids and offers for scholarships which will help offset the costs associated with studying at these schools.

The students are all 17-18 years old, and, while several have traveled for summer intensive programs, this will be the first time that each of them will truly live away from home for a whole year. What will they miss? Cy said, “It will be sad to be away from family and friends. But it’s a new experience. It’s good for us.”

Holidays & Time-Off?

All will be working right through Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years as they perform in each of their company’s Nutcracker holiday performances.

Anissa told me that, “There’s a rehearsal for the Nutcracker the day before Thanksgiving, then you have Thanksgiving off, and the next day’s the show.”

Madeline added, “Families like to do something together and then go to the Nutcracker on Christmas, so performing is our job.”

Spring break is also booked with performances that allow the dancers only four days off. “Unfortunately,” said Savannah, “With such a distance, it’s just not worth flying home for such a short time.” Madeline explained that, “We will get to return home for two weeks in January.”

Until then, we wish them the best of luck in their new endeavors.


Story and photo by Lindsey Chester.

Local Dancer Gets Trainee Offer at Famous Ballet Company

Cary, NC – The Triangle area has long had a reputation for the arts and ones of its residents has been selected by one of the most famous ballerinas in the world to be a trainee at the Washington Ballet

Lifelong Dream

Payton Anderson is a dancer in the International Ballet Academy on Davis Drive in Cary. She said she has wanted to be a ballerina ever since she was four, even standing up for her dream when she was in her elementary school’s Career Day.

“Ballerina wasn’t on the sheet of careers we were given. The teacher told me that wasn’t a real job,” Anderson said. “And I said, ‘Oh, yes it is.’”

Anderson was selected to go to the nation’s capital by the Washington Ballet’s Artistic Director Julie Kent. Kent is a big name in ballet, serving as the principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre for more than a decade. She is also the only American ballerina to win the Prix Benois de la Danse from the International Dance Association.

“To people who don’t know dance, I always refer to her as the Beyoncé or Justin Beiber of the ballet world,” Anderson said. “And to think that she hand-picked me is amazing.”

Kent started as artistic director this year, making Anderson’s trainee offer her first.

Peyton Anderson, performing the lead role in Paquita with Bryce Mitchell, a student at the Boston Ballet Academy.

Peyton Anderson, performing the lead role in Paquita with Bryce Mitchell, a student at the Boston Ballet Academy.

Triumphant Return

Anderson’s path to this trainee position has not always been a clear one. Last May, she had surgery on her hip joints and could only resume practicing in October.

“I was so amazed when I got the offer because I went through all my recovery,” she said. “There was a point where I couldn’t walk for months.”

As a ballerina, Anderson said her favorite ballet is Sleeping Beauty, which was first performed in 1890 with music by the legendary composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky who also composed music for Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. At her first competition, Anderson did the parts of Aurora, the sleeping princess. She added that she has watched the Washington Ballet perform Sleeping Beauty on the famous Kennedy Center stage.

“This is where kings and queens and presidents have gone to speak,” she said. “And now, it’s where I will be performing.”

Story by Michael PapichPhotos by Christine Prisk.