Former Bolshoi students join Butler Ballet


Whether this is your first or your fourth year on Butler’s campus, you’ve most likely discovered by now that the dance program is quite impressive. In fact, Butler Ballet has been a fully accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Dance (NASD) since 1992. NASD is composed of schools who represent the highest traditions and aims in the education of dance students.

The unique mixture of a strong education and a strong arts program is one of the reasons that Butler Ballet appeals to so many prospective students. Students can be part of an environment that allows them to train professionally in dance while enjoying the “college experience.”

This is why first-year students Reyna Carrillo and Katie Ripley chose Butler. Carillo and Ripley had never thought of going to college until recently. They had been prepared to continue training at one of the most prestigious ballet schools in the world: Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow, Russia.

Carrillo and Ripley attended the Bolshoi summer intensives in New York City and both accepted an invitation to train in Moscow in 2017. They spent nine and five months, respectively, in Russia, enduring grueling yet rewarding training at the renowned school.

Photo courtesy of Reyna Carillo.

“I felt like I was in military ballet,” Carrillo said. “I loved it so much and I was so passionate and honored to be at such a high level of ballet training that I was willing to take everything in. I knew this was such a unique experience and I wanted to be able to make the most out of it.”

Bolshoi first began dance classes in 1773, after being established as an orphanage by Catherine II in 1763. Since then, it has consistently educated some of the most celebrated ballet figures of the past two centuries.

“The Russia program is more selective; they’re careful because it’s more competitive and not for everyone,” Ripley said. “They push you immediately and it’s hard, but it’s worth it. In my opinion, Russia makes stars, and they’re still making stars today. That was the place I wanted to be.”

For dancers training at this high of a level, the idea of going to college is almost nonexistent. This manner of thinking was no different for Carrillo and Ripley, who expressed irritation as their parents began to increasingly mention college during the past year. Ripley initially felt insulted at her parent’s request; did they not have faith she could make it into a company?

“The thought of college made me embarrassed; if I go to college, I’ll never be a dancer.” Carrillo said.

In October 2017, Ripley discovered Butler. She applied and immediately received word that she had been admitted. She dismissed all other applications and was set on coming to Butler the following fall semester.


Photo courtesy of Katie Ripley.

“I need to find a program that has a good education and good ballet so I can keep both up,” Ripley said. “Out of all of the classical ballet schools, Butler is the only one that has great education and ballet as well, both top ranked. The universe made this for us.”

Carrillo, on the other hand, had not yet figured out her plans for next year. That is, until Ripley began telling her about Butler. This is how she found herself applying in February with only four days left until the deadline. The dancers quickly understood that Butler was a way to fit all of their needs.

Although they still had apprehensions about the ballet program when arriving on campus, it’s apparent that they were quick to fall in love with the school.

“It’s only been a week, but I feel like my life has changed,” Carrillo said. “I think it’s going to be a great experience that’s going to mark my life in a positive way.”

Both Carrillo and Ripley were ecstatic to discover that they could easily maintain and expand upon their dance skills, but also study other areas as well. Carrillo is declaring a second major in psychology and Ripley has declared a minor in mathematics.

“I’ve learned from Butler that there is more than ballet, and I’m not just in this little shell,” Ripley said. “Here, everyone is so supportive. You can do both.”

While Carrillo and Ripley were anxious to see if Butler Ballet would push them as intensely as Bolshoi Ballet did, other incoming dance majors were anxious to know that a few of their classmates had trained extensively in Moscow.

Brent Shelton, a first-year dance performance major as well, had already met Ripley at a Bolshoi summer intensive program in New York City in 2016, but he admitted that some of the new class was a little tense to have dancers from such a prestigious school in their midst.

“It’s intimidating because all of us obviously know Moscow and the level at which they trained, so I think initially we’re all pretty nervous,” Shelton said. “But once they got to know Katie [Ripley] and Reyna [Carrillo], although they’re really talented, they don’t bring the attitude that the Russians carry for ballet here. They’re very open-minded and sweet and really talented dancers. So I think any fear of competition or sabotage which goes with Russian ballet culture was not brought to Butler.”

For those who want to follow Ripley and Carrillo’s journey at Butler, the dancers of Butler Ballet have an annual performance of The Nutcracker in late November.


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