Unique Nutcracker Performance Designed for Special-Needs Children

Cary, NC – Seeing “The Nutcracker” ballet is a Christmas tradition for many, but for children with special needs and their families, it can be difficult to make it to a performance. This weekend, Cary’s International Ballet Academy is bringing back their sensory-friendly Nutcracker, with these audiences in mind.


Sensory-Friendly Performance

For the second year, the International Ballet Academy will be holding its sensory-friendly Nutcracker on Sunday, December 10, 2017 at 1 PM. Christina Fanney, International Ballet Academy’s owner, said this free show has been changed in certain ways to be more accommodating.

“The lighting is not a complete blackout and the music is not as loud,” Fanney said. “It’s only a 40 minute show so the battle with the rat queen is cut out. It starts with the snowfall and then into the treats and the sugarplum fairy.”


But Fanney said the most important component is how the audience, dancers and organizers will all be understanding.

“If your kids clap or say out loud ‘Wow, that’s pretty’ or get up and walk around, everyone will understand and no one is judging. You don’t have to leave the show,” Fanney said. “And with these changes, you still get a taste of the Nutcracker.”

The show is free, though Fanney still asks that people reserve seats online so the International Ballet Academy can know how many people are coming. Tickets will still be available at the door for people who did not reserve in advance. Last year when the sensory-friendly show was first put on, there were 40 families in attendance.

“This year, we already have 350 seats reserved so it’s obviously grown,” Fanney said.


Making It To The Show

Fanney said the idea behind the sensory-friendly Nutcracker performance came out of the International Ballet Academy’s Abilities Dance program for special-needs children, started by dancer Caroline Lee when she was in high school. This program spurred Fanney and the entire ballet school to think about how they can better work with special-needs children.

“For a lot of families, it’s hard to go out to a show as a family. They either split up or they’re worried about disruption,” she said. “I’ve had parents come to me and say ‘If it weren’t for you, we wouldn’t be able to go as a family.’”

Through the Abilities Dance program, Fanney said she has also seen “tremendous growth” in the participating children’s ability to learn.

“They express their love of dance in a not-so-strucutured environment and we see the joy on the parents’ faces,” she said.


Event Details

The Nutcracker – Sensory-friendly Performance (free)

Sunday, December 10, 2017

1 PM

Cary Academy, 1500 N Harrison Ave.

There will also be a traditional performance of the Nutcracker on Saturday, December 9, 2017 at 2 and 7 PM, also at Cary Academy.


Story by Michael Papich. Photos courtesy of International Ballet Academy.

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.

IBA Wins Accolades at World Ballet Competition

June 23, 2011 | Story by: Lindsey Chester

Cary, NC- International Ballet Academy (IBA) took nine dancers on their first trip to the World Ballet Competition in Orlando, Florida earlier this month.

The studio opened a year ago with hopes of sending some of their students to this international competition and then on to professional ballet careers. Artistic Director Miguel Campaneria’s had high hopes also for his male dancers, several of whom moved here with him from Hartford, CT last summer. They did not disappoint.

The Road to Compete

In January, each dancer sent audition videotapes of themselves performing.  By early February, IBA knew they were preparing to take nine dancers on the road for the week long competition. Each student prepared 1-3 pieces of classical ballet chosen from list of dances, and was allowed to choreograph their own contemporary piece.

During the short time from February to May 30, the dancers had to perfect their routines, and have costumes created by Mary Baylus and Diane Schaubach. All this, while still rehearsing the studio’s own Spring recital of Don Quiote.

The rigor involved was not for everyone, and the dancers that were chosen by the studio, had to be able to handle this additional workload.

Competing Against Pros

I asked Miguel about his expectations for the group: He said knew that Nikki Fanney would be well prepared to compete in her age level (11-12). The difficulty came with the older dancers who (aged 15-17), it turned out, were competing against professionals aged up to 22 years old.

He said the three couples he sent to compete in the Pas De Duex (duets) were well prepared and he had a lot of faith in their talents, but, he added, they were lacking competition experience, and were nervous. This first experience has opened many doors for them and they plan to return next year.

Next Year Even Better

“Hopefully the kids that went, will have had this experience and will be able to control their nerves” and perform against these pros.” He mentioned that many of the other dancers had been 3-4 times to this World competition.

The studio won the praises not only of the judges but of many  coaches from other ballet schools. And the rewards are many:

  • Nikki Fanney won the Silver Medal in the Introductory Division, Preston Chamblee received a full scholarship to Central Florida Ballet for summer 2012, Paul Branco and Xavier Nunez received full scholarships to Orlando Ballet for summer 2012.
  • Robert Hill, the artistic director of Orlando Ballet gave high praise to the group and said the group are all admitted to Orlando Ballet Summer Program in 2012 without any need for auditions.

The Competitors:

  • Preston Chamblee (competed in Pre-Professional Category ages 14-17)
  • Paul Branco and Kelsey Yoquelet (competed in Pas de Deux Category ages 14-22)
  • Preston Chamblee and Regan Kucera (competed in Pas de Deux Category ages 14-22)
  • Xavier Nunez and Kathryn Manger (competed in Pas de Deux Category ages 14-22)
  • Anissa Bailis (competed in Preparatory Category ages 12-13)
  • Victoria Wong (competed in Preparatory Category ages 12-13)
  • Nicole Fanney (competed in Introductory Category ages 11-12)

No Time To Relax

The pre-professional program does not stop because it is summer vacation. In fact summer means MORE dance. The older dancers will be heading to New York and San Francisco for their summer training next week, while the younger students are studying this summer with Haydée Gutierrez, Roberto Munoz, Melinda Roy at IBA.

IBA Adds Spice to Caribbean Festival

Cary, NC – Salsa Dancers from International Ballet Academy (IBA) added some new spice to the third annual Cary Caribbean Festival last Saturday, Sept 24. Dancers in the photo are Thalia Hernandez and Xavier Nunez.

This 3rd annual festival was held at the Herb Young Community Center in Downtown Cary. It featured food, activities for the children, dancing, handcrafts and cultural information.

Cary’s Caribbean Festival was co-sponsored by the Town of Cary and the Asociatcion de Peurtorriquenos Unidos de NC.

This is the first year the ballet academy participated in the festival. IBA’s artistic director Miguel Campanera specially choreographed a salsa dance en pointe that will become part of their repertoire for the winter performance in December at NC State’s Thompson Hall.

Harold’s Blog: A Lot of Late Nights

March 19, 2012 | Story by: Harold Weinbrecht | Categories: Featured, Harold’s Blog, News, Opinion

From the blog of Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht, covering the week through March 18, 2012. Photo courtesy of IBA.

Cary, NC – This was a busy week for me with a lot of events and a lot of late nights.

International Ballet Company and the Philharmonic Association

Sunday afternoon I attended the spectacular performance of the International Ballet Company and the Philharmonic Association. This ballet company is putting Cary on the map by winning national competitions and giving these wonderful performances. The ballet company is run by some of the best teachers in the county and lead by world renowned Miguel Campaneria. We are blessed to have them here in Cary.

Cary’s IBA Scores Big in National Ballet Competition

January 22, 2015 | Story by:  | Categories: DanceFeaturedNews

Cary, NC — The International Ballet Academy (IBA) opened five short years ago, but they are already making their mark on the national ballet scene.

The Grand Prix

In January 2015, the school sent seven of their top dancers to the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) semi-finals in Tampa, Florida. Two of the students won the top awards in their category. The greatest honor that can bestowed on a dancer at this competition is called the Grand Prix and, this year, that was awarded to Nicole Fanney, 15, who danced in the women’s senior division.

Her classmate, Anissa Bailis, 17, placed in the top 12 dancers in that division. Parker Garison, 11, won the Hope Award–the top award in the Pre-Competitive age group.

This was the fourth time that the school has competed in this prestigious international competition and, of the seven dancers that made the trip, four were invited to the Finals competition that takes place April 10-16, 2015 in New York City. The school itself was recognized with the Outstanding School Award. IBA managing director, Christina Fanney, says:

“It’s a huge honor to receive this award from YAGP, as it reflects the caliber of training the students are receiving at IBA.”

A Surreal Experience for IBA

Christina Fanney remarked, “It was a surreal experience, a perfect storm where everything was the right timing.” She went on to say, “IBA is very grateful to Larissa Saveliev, Gennadi Saveliev, and the entire Youth America Grand Prix organization for providing these wonderful opportunities for our students.”

Her daughter, Nicole, who won the Grand Prix award and who was invited to perform in “Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow Gala,” has competed in Tampa previously. Nicole’s growth as a dancer is due to the hours of training that she has received at IBA.

She added that, “For whatever reason, this year, the culmination of many factors created a good moment for her [Nicole]. It was the best performance I’ve ever seen her do.” Christina then stated that:

“Since the school has been coming to the competition the last few years, the people backstage were now rooting for them to perform well. It made them feel more relaxed. The judges have been watching the progress of the little school from Cary.”

After the awards, the dancers and their families went to a nearby restaurant to catch their breath and celebrate. While there, one of the judges, Bruce Marks, came over to their table and took a few moments to not only congratulate them on their artistry “but also to make sure they understood how lucky they were to have these teachers who helped them achieve.” He was impressed with the consistency that all the dancers from the studio exhibited.

YAGP Semi-Finalists

Four IBA dancers, Anissa Bailis, Cy Doherty, Nicole Fannéy and Parker Garrison will move on to the next round of competitions in New York City during the week of April 10-16, 2015. The Youth America Grand Prix finals require a dancer to have scored a 95 out of 100 to be invited to compete. For IBA to send four dancers is quite an accomplishment!

For the final round, they will be competing against ballet dancers not only from the USA but from around the globe. About three hundred dancers who have been selected by YAGP from their respective semi-finals will converge in New York City to see how they stack up.

During that week, dancers take intense classes with instructors from professional ballet schools. This exposure can lead to scholarships and even job placement for the students who are ready to take that next step.

We wish them all luck on their journey.