Melissa Chapski - January 2016 Judges' Choice
I've been dancing with intent to become a professional for four years. I studied at Ellison Ballet Professional Training Program in New York City and began dancing with Dutch National Ballet's Junior Company in August 2015. I would like to acknowledge my director, Ernst Meisner, who offered me a contract while I was competing with this variation from Raymonda. Transitioning to a company can be very difficult, but coming to HNB's junior company and receiving the guidance of Ernst has been so incredibly helpful. I've grown so much as a dancer during my time here which has only been 6 months so far. I'm also really thankful for my wonderful teachers in school, Mr. Ellison and Ms. Forrest. They taught me so much about everything and I will keep it with me for the rest of my life. 
We also dance a lot of neoclassical and contemporary works here at Dutch National Ballet. Although classical ballet has always been my favorite, I've recently been cast for a pas de deux by Hans van Manen, a legendary Dutch choreographer, which has been incredible to work on. I love the style and message that he wants to convey. I will be performing this pas de deux with my partner, Giovanni Princic, in the interlude at the 44th Annual Prix de Lausanne next week :). 

The variation on my video was my baby while I was in school. I worked on that variation for 15 months straight. It began by choosing to dance that variation for our exams in March of 2014. Mr. Ellison really liked it and we decided that I would dance it for the Spring Showcase in May 2014. We kept working on it, and it improved a lot. After continuing work, we decided that I would compete with it at YAGP in February 2015 so I danced it again at Winter Showcase for Ellison Ballet in 2014. I won the gold medal at YAGP regionals in Boston with it, and advanced on to New York Finals. After more work, it improved more and I placed top twelve with it at New York Finals and was offered a contract to Dutch National Ballet's Junior Company as well as an apprenticeship to Dresden SemperOper Ballett. After seeing how well YAGP went, I decided to compete in Indianapolis International Ballet Competition that summer of 2015. I ended up winning the gold medal at this competition as well which was one of the happiest moments of my life. I knew that after dancing in IIBC, Raymonda would be officially finished and it was strange to let go of something that had been a 15 month project, but I learned so much from dancing that variation. If I hadn't danced it, I wouldn't be anywhere close to the dancer I am today. 

My advice about competitions -- the first thing I would say is that a dancer should never enter a competition expecting to "win" something from it. Whether it be a medal, or money, or a job offer. When I entered my first competition I was going for two reasons; I wanted more stage experience, and I knew that if I worked hard enough I would make drastic improvements. By starting the process with this in mind, it was inevitable that I would be happy with my results as long as I put the work into it. I ended up winning two contracts, two gold medals, and a substantial cash award, but I'm mostly proud of all the improvement I made during this time. I don't know if I would've been offered to join HNB's junior company if it weren't for all these changes that I made, especially during 2015. Competing was so good for me because I learned about how to manage my nerves, how to stand out on stage, how to work hard, how to search for the details, and how to fully immerse myself in my work. You need a good mindset to survive in the ballet world and competing opened my eyes to how I should be mentally. Determined, honest, humble, happy, organized, and hard-working. 
If my body allows, after a difficult eleven month season with Dutch National Ballet, I am going to attend Ellison Ballet's Summer Intensive for a couple weeks. My goals are to improve how I use my turnout and to get a stronger jump.

So many things inspire me to dance. I love watching all the stars on YouTube in my dream roles. I also love coming to work every day and peeking into the main company's rehearsals and watching some of my favorite dancers at Dutch National. Sometimes during the week we have company class and dancing alongside company members like Sasha Mukhamedov, Igone de Jongh and Maia Makhateli is so inspiring. I'm also inspired to dance by the feeling I get from performing and even rehearsing too. Whenever I'm at ballet, I'm so happy and I love what I do so much, I don't know what I would do without it. 

My future plans... as of now, I can't see myself anywhere else besides Dutch National Ballet. I enjoy exploring and would like to visit other companies to take class this spring just because I haven't seen many others and I'm in Europe, so why not! But, I love everything about where I am right now and would love to stay here for a while or maybe even my whole career. One of my dreams was always to dance with the Mariinsky Ballet in Russia, however I'm not sure it's the place for me right now. I plan to stay here at HNB and get super strong. I also want to become more versatile which is almost inevitable by being here (with hard work of course). One of my main goals is to become so solid that next time the company does Les Sylphides I will be able to do one of the soloist girls. That would be a dream. 

Thanks again!