The American Dance Competition | International Ballet Competition, or “ADC|IBC” for short, held its 12th Annual Event for pre-professional dancers aged seven through 21 on March 25-30, in St. Petersburg, FL.
In total, 21 competitors received professional company opportunities, 150 were bestowed summer program scholarships (some being full rides that include tuition and boarding), and 39 were granted year-round scholarships to professional training programs.
Competitor Shaelynn Estrada, 17, of Ellison Ballet was named the 2017 Senior Division Grand Prize Winner. She was contracted to dance with Houston Ballet as an apprentice for the 2017-18 season.
On why Estrada is such a promising dancer, ADC|IBC Founder and President Audrianna Broad says there’s something “sincere and magnetic about her approach” to movement.
On Estrada’s performance at ADC|IBC in March, Broad recounts, “I was sitting there with the Panel tending to tasks, and Shaelynn enters the stage. The busyness of my mind completely quieted for those few minutes. She pulled me into her story, and I remember thinking, ‘Now that’s a performance!’”
Estrada’s love for ballet began early. After seeing a ballerina on TV when she was just two years old, she told her mom that she “had to do that.” Her studies really intensified at age nine when she started receiving private coaching.
Summer programs helped to further advance Estrada’s training, with her participating in intensives and workshops at Brandon Ballet, Orlando Ballet, José Carreño Dance Festival, Paris Opera Ballet, Dutch National Ballet, Irina and Maxim International Ballet Summer Intensive and so on.
When asked if there’s a saying a teacher once taught her that still influences her, Estrada shares, “One of my first ballet teachers, Yaima Franco, told me, ‘Once you are fearless, nothing can stop you, and the audience will feel that energy,’ and I have never forgotten that. It made total sense to me.”
She dreams of performing the classical roles of Gamzatti from La Bayadère or Kitri from Don Quixote, as “they are both such strong characters.” And if she could work with any 21st century choreographer? Jiří Kylián. “You can tell the music is what drives him, and his works are so artistic; they are the kinds of pieces that give you chills when you see them,” she expounds.
As a budding professional dancer, Estrada admires Russian prima ballerina Uliana Lopatkina of the Kirov Ballet/Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. “She is the most artistic dancer I have ever seen,” Estrada gushes. “When I watch her videos, it really doesn’t matter what it is, but she just always becomes exactly what or who the character is she is portraying. Her movement is so organic and free; it is unlike anything I have ever seen. She is so inspiring.”
Through all of her training, she says the hardest skill to acquire is how to navigate criticism and to discern what’s a healthy balance. “You have to be hard on yourself to get the job done, but it can get to a point where you can be so critical of yourself that you don’t see anything good anymore and it just becomes destructive. I think that the hardest thing to learn is how to find the perfect balance – not too critical, not too easygoing. I’m still struggling with this even now.”
So what advice would Estrada give to her 13-year-old self? “I would say that through everything, you need to be true to yourself. Do, say and wear whatever makes you happy because it really doesn’t matter what people have to say about you.”
Looking forward to her Houston Ballet apprenticeship, Estrada says she’s excited to learn the new repertoire and to further explore her movement while being in “such a reputable company with such strong dancers.” She’s grateful to ADC|IBC for giving her a platform to receive this opportunity, as well as many others.
Estrada says, “ADC|IBC has helped me put my name out there and be seen by all of these school directors since I was 11 years old. I have gotten so many scholarships at A