In June of 2015, Ballet East (under the direction of Chelsea Nasby) student Madison Russo, attended the Indianapolis International Ballet Competition in Indianapolis, Indiana. At this event, she was awarded the Jury Award for Contemporary, and was approached by the former director of the Houston Ballet Academy, Shelly Power, who extended an invitation for her to visit their training facility. During this visit, Russo was offered a full merit scholarship to attend the Houston Ballet Academy in the fall.

Acceptance of this incredible offer, meant moving away from family and friends to train at Houston Ballet’s $46.6 million Center for Dance. “Moving away from home at 15 was much harder than I thought it would be. I missed my friends and especially my mom and dad when times were tough”, states Madison. “I just kept telling myself it was going to be worth it.” After six months, Russo was promoted to trainee with Houston Ballet II, the second company to Houston Ballet. Over the last year Madison has performed alongside the main company, participated in Houston Ballet public relations events and appeared on the cover of Leapin Leotards 2017 catalog. 

In January of 2017, Russo was approached by Houston Ballet Academy to represent the school at the prestigious Jacob’s Pillow Festival to be held this summer in Becket, Massachusetts. Upon auditioning via video submission, Madison was one of twenty-two ballet dancers chosen worldwide to participate, and in addition, granted a scholarship. Jacob’s Pillow was founded by dance pioneer, Ted Shawn and has trained many of the world’s most distinguished dance artists. Located on 220 acres, Jacob’s Pillow is a National Historic Landmark. While there, Russo premiered a new work by choreographer, Bruce Wells and participated alongside nationally acclaimed companies celebrating the 85th anniversary of the Pillow.

Additionally, in February of 2017, perseverance and dedication landed Russo with a full contract to Houston Ballet II for next season. Being a contracted employee will entail more company participation, touring and community performances. Excited for the future, Russo stays focused on one day receiving a contract with Houston Ballet, America’s 5th largest ballet company. Russo’s debut performance with Houston Ballet II hits the stage September 22 – 24, 2017 in the production of ballet legend Sir Kenneth MacMillan's Mayerling. “The Houston Ballet being such a diverse company with both its repertory and its dancers, is a place I dream of being one day,” says Miss Russo. “I am incredibly thankful for the support of my family, and especially the wonderful training I received while at Ballet East. I know I would not be where I am today without them!”

Ballet East is now accepting students as young as 2.5 years – Pre-Professional for the 2017/2018 Season. Please contact Ballet East to inquire how to sign up your aspiring dancer. Inquires accepted at 561.683.0096,,

Photos © Brooke Trisolini, taken at Jacob's Pillow, Becket, MA. 


Ballet East Seeks Top Talent to Attend the 2017 Summer Intensive

One of South Florida's finest training schools, Ballet East seeks top talent for the 2017 Summer Intensive. This season marks 46th anniversary of the school's existence. Ballet East is known for providing top quality training to students in South Florida. Recent graduates of the program (ages 14-17) went on to attend outstanding finishing schools such as Houston Ballet Academy, School of American Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Miami City Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theater. International success can be found with Alum Alex Anderson who was recently offered a contract with Nederlands Dans Theatre 1 after preforming with NDT2 company for several years.     

The current list of world-renown instructors that will be teaching during the intensive received their training/experience from the following: Marcie Bowers-Russo, USA; Doreen Cafarella, USA; Elena Kiyanenko-Chiet, Russia; Oxana Kiyanenko, Austria/Russia; Andréa Mafra Gregori, Brazil; Bree Nasby, USA; Chelsea Nasby, USA, Alla Nikitina, Ukraine; Olivier Pardina, France.

The program will run for advanced students from July 17th - August 11th, 2017. Two audition options are available Saturday February 25th and Saturday March 11th ages 9+. For more information please visit

Classes will include Ballet, Pre-Pointe, Pointe, Variations, Pas de Deux, Contemporary, Character, Pilates, Yoga, Strength and Stretch and Rhythmic Gymnastic disciplines. Additional classes are offered to enhance dance education and include Dance History, Costuming, Nutrition and Repwork.  

Select advanced students attending 4-Week Program (July 17th - August 11th) or the 2-Week Option 2 (July 31st - August 11th) will be invited to perform contemporary works on camera by award winning Ballet East Director Chelsea Nasby.

Advanced Students auditioning will be eligible for select scholarships. Students auditioning will also be considered for the Ballet East Pre-Professional Program and Accelerated Training Program for the 2017-2018 Season.

Ballet East Sudents Receive Top Honors at Universal Ballet Competition

Students of Ballet East were honored at the 4th Annual Universal Ballet Competition that took place February 18th – 19th in Miramar, FL. Among the top finishers were Ballet East students Shea Siben, who took the 3rd place in the junior contemporary competitive category and Daisia Pulz took 3rd place in the senior contemporary competitive category.

In addition, multiple Ballet East Students were honored with Top 15 achievements in both classical and contemporary categories. Students Erica Borden, Junior Division (4th), Isabella Tome, Junior Division (10th), Andrea Mish, Senior Division (5th), Olivia Capasso, Senior Division (11th), Evelyn Borden, Senior Division (12th) placed among the top finishers the classical competitive ballet division. In the competitive contemporary division, students Erica Borden, Junior Division (6th), Isabella Tome, Junior Division (7th), Olivia Capasso Senior Competitive (4th), Andrea Mish, Senior Division (7th) and Alexis Genzone, Senior Competitive (9th) were among those to received top honors.  

In the junior competitive ensemble division, Ballet East piece titled Don Giovanni, choreographed by Chelsea placed 1st and was awarded a $100 Capezio Award of Excellence. In addition, ensemble piece titled Tyll choreographed by Chelsea Nasby took 3rd place in the junior competitive ensemble division.

In addition to the high achievements, Ballet East students Parker Geraghty, Shea Siben, Angelina Sierra were granted acceptance into the Sarasota Ballet Summer Intensive. A 50% Scholarship to Move the Initiative were awarded to Olivia Capasso and Daisia Pulz.  Olivia Capasso and Angelina Sierra were also awarded with a 50% Scholarship to Modas Dance Summer Intensive. 

Universal Ballet Competition’s (UBC) vision is to be recognized as the nation’s premier ballet competition bridging exceptionally talented dancers of all racial, ethnic, and economic backgrounds with quality dance education, opportunities in dance, and professional careers.

Ballet East is now accepting students from ages 2.5-pre-professional for their summer sessions. Auditions for the Ballet East Summer Intensive will take place on February 25th and March 11th, 2017 (click here for more info). In addition, Ballet East Youth Ensemble Members will participate in the premier production of Coppélia June 16th and 17th, 2017 held at the Eissey Campus Theatre. For more information please contact Ballet East at 561.683.0096 or

Ballet East Students Receive Top Honors at Intenational Ballet Competition

Ballet East Student Nicole Alfaro performing Kitri from Don Quixote at American Dance Competition.

Ballet East Student Nicole Alfaro performing Kitri from Don Quixote at American Dance Competition.

Students of Ballet East were honored at the 10th Annual American Dance Competition-International Ballet Competition (ADC-IBC) that took place March 17th – 22nd in Daytona Beach, FL. Among the top finishers were Ballet East students Jules Mabie, who the Gold Medal (1st place) in both classical and contemporary in the junior men’s category. Nicole Alfaro took the Bronze Medal and Carley Anderson received the Gold Medal in the junior women’s contemporary category. Student Madison Russo was also honored with the Gold Medal in the senior women’s classical category.

In addition, multiple Ballet East Students were honored with Top 20 achievements in both classical and contemporary categories. Students Nicole Alfaro (5th Place), Carley Anderson (4th Place), Erica Borden (top 15), Tara Brigham (top 20) and Paige Lewis (Top 15) placed amongst the top finishers the classical ballet division. In the contemporary division, students Erica Borden (Top 15), Evelyn Borden (Top 20), Tara Brigham (Top 20), Paige Lewis (Top 15) and Madison Russo (5th Place) were amongst those to received top honors.  

In the ensemble division, Ballet East piece titled Falling Gently, Floating Down, choreographed by Chelsea and Bree Nasby placed 1st and was awarded 1k for this achievement. In addition, ensemble piece titled Four to Tango choreographed by Doreen Cafarella took 5th place in the ensemble division.

Director Chelsea Nasby was honored with the Outstanding Choreographer award for the many pieces she choreographed for her students that were presented at the ADC-IBC Competition.

In addition to the high achievements, Ballet East outstanding scholarships and offers were granted to Nicole Alfaro: Houston Ballet, Modas Dance; Carley Anderson: Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, The Art of Movement, Modas Dance; Evelyn Borden: International Ballet Academy, Modas Dance, Tara Brigham: Modas Dance, Paige Lewis: Texas Ballet Theatre, Modas Dance, Jules Mabie: The Harid Conservatory, Houston Ballet, Boston Ballet; Reese Rengstl: Modas Dance; and Madison Russo Boston Ballet Trainee Program, Modas Dance.

ADC-IBC is a pre-professional International Ballet Competition for all nationalities, ages 7-21, with an aim not simply to reveal, but shape exceptional future talents of the dance world. ADC-IBC pursues this objective by employing a more pedagogical approach, than competitive. The team of coaches and esteemed panel work individually with the candidates, and is a unique experience, with a timelessly rich, ethical atmosphere, where the art of dance is the focus. With each candidate required to undergo a more rigorous evaluation system, ADC-IBC has a distinct ability to discover potential, and to offer educational opportunities to leading ballet programs, in addition to invaluable professional exposure to world-renowned dance professionals.

Ballet East is now accepting students from ages 3-pre-professional for their summer sessions. In addition, Ballet East Youth Ensemble Members will participate in the premier production of The Secret Garden June 19th and 20th, 2015 held at the Eissey Campus Theatre. For more information please contact Ballet East at 561.683.0096 or

BE Student Madison Russo Performing Kitri from Don Quixote at American Dance Competition.

BE Student Madison Russo Performing Kitri from Don Quixote at American Dance Competition.


The Making of Kitri for Don Quixote

There are many elements that help ballerinas transform into majestic princesses, delicate swans and international beauties. The dancer spends countless hours perfecting the technical and artistic details to fully embody each character. Much like the dancer, the costume and set designers spend hundreds of painstaking hours poring over each detail to capture the spirit of the characters and create the ambiance of the Ballet.

On average, it requires very skilled hands, 100+ hours of labor and depending on the crystals, applique and materials used, upwards of a thousand dollars to make a single tutu.

Designer/seamstress Kristi Medlin constructed the costume for the role of the fiery Kitri for the Ballet Don Quixote. Here are her thoughts on the process:  

“For a bit of inspiration we looked to the lush and vibrant costumes of American Ballet Theater's production of Don Quixote. The role of Kitri was originally played by American Ballet icon Gelsey Kirkland who danced opposite of legendary Mikhail Baryshnikov for the company premier in 1978. The costumes for this production were designed by award winning Santo Loquasto. (Pictured above, ABT principal dancer Polina Semionova as Kitri.)”

There were several reasons why we pulled from this design for inspiration. The dancer, Madison Russo approached costume designer Kristi Medlin with several requests. It was important that the color be an orange or peach hue, the dancer wanted the more unique look as opposed to the typically red costume. The dancer also expressed interest in having the back of the costume dip down slightly to show off the back, she also requested a sweetheart shaped bodice to complete the look.”

After several discussions, measurements were taken and Kristi Medlin traveled back to her in-home shop to bring the role of Kitri come to life!

The Bodice.jpg

Bodice Photos 1 & 2
"I start with a basic pattern so I don't have to labor over beginning from scratch. After I have the proper pattern I cut it out in coutile to make a mockup for sizing. Coutile is a very dense material that is ideal for using on the back of decorative fabric to hold the shape. It is also 100% cotton to absorb the moisture from the dancer."

"I pinned the mockup to the dress form with the dancer's measurements. Then I used a pencil for the top line of the bodice. The dancer wanted a low back. The front will have an under bodice to cover the center of the sweetheart shape. The bottom edge will be determined when I have the skirt prepared to see exactly how they lay."

Bodice Photos 3 & 4
"I then use my mockup to cut the decorative fabric and serge the fabric together."

Bodice Photo 5
"I stitch all of the pieces together and make adjustments to be sure that the bodice has a snug fit on the form. A bodice is like a second skin but you do not want it so tight that it will affect the dancing! Because I am designing a costume that will be worn by other dancers, I will need to take into consideration different proportions of dancers that may be wearing this costume in the future. To help with fitting different sizes, I leave a bit of fabric near the back enclosure so that additional hooks an eyes may be added."

Bodice Photos 6, 7 & 8
"I adjusted the neckline again and now get to do a bit of fun decorating! Anything goes...just remember, usually less is more. It is important that the costume does not overpower the dancer, the costume should add to the performance, not distract from the performance."

Bodice Photo 9
"I used 1/4" silk ribbon and gathered a 3 & 1/4" section on the edge. I added a small decorative bead and a bit of green ribbon and presto! I now have delicate silk flowers to adorn the top of the bodice."

Bodice Photos 10 & 11
"I add boning casing to the seams of the front of the bodice. I usually add 5 to 6 casing per bodice. For this design, I did not need to add boning to the back because it dipped lower and due to all of the dancing that calls for an arched back."

Bodice Photo 12
"I add hooks on the back of the bodice and sew by machine to make the process faster!"

Bodice Photo 13
"This picture shows the finished edge and the inside of the bodice. After all the machine work is completed I sew the inside edges down so that the bodice lays flat."

Bodice Photos 14, 15 & 16
"I hand sewed beads down the center of the bodice and the flowers to the top to complete the look."

Bodice Photo 17
"I added elastic to the bodice but do not sew the back of the elastic down until the dancer has a fitting and the fit is comfortable while dancing."

Bodice Photo 18
"I hand sewed buttons to the bodice for the buttonhole elastic that will be attached to the skit to help hold the bodice and skirt together."

Completed bodice for American Ballet Theater

Completed bodice for American Ballet Theater

Completed bodice for Ballet East

Completed bodice for Ballet East


Skirt Photo 1
"I used my math skills to make the pattern for 4 tiers of flounces for the skit. I hope they still work!"

Skirt Photos 2 & 3
"I cut out all of the circles, surged the material together to make a full circle and then surged the edges where the material was cut. I don't do any hemming on this tutu as I want it to be as light as possible."

Skirt Photos 4 & 5
Here is a close up on the surger. The surger is a bit different than a normal sewing machine.

Skirt Photos 6, 7 & 8
"After I surge the edges and the material together to make complete circles I am ready to sew the 4 tiers to the bottom trim. These layers will be the top flounces of the skirt." 

Skirt Photos 9, 10, 11 & 12
"I stitched the four skirt quarters together with a single layer of netting for strength. I put the netting on the outside so that it is not rough on the dancer's skin. This also helps with preserving the delicate tights that the dancer may wear. The complete circle will be attached to the basque. Each seam is stitched down on the skirt for stability. From there, I measure for length and stitch three rows for flounce placement."

"The forth flounce will be at the basque level. Starting at the bottom stitching placement, I pined the first flounce row."

Skirt Photo 13
"I cut on the bias tons and tons of 1 and 1/2" strips of organza. I will gather this material and use it  for the trim of the four tiered skirt."

Skirt Photos 14 & 15
"I placed the strips of organza through a ruffler. This is a sewing machine attachment that has been around for over 75 years! " 

Skirt Photos 16 & 17
Here are photos of the completed ruffles attached to the material that will make the top tiers of the skirt.

Skirt Photos 18 & 19
"Time to make the basque. The basque is located at the top of the skirt and lies against the dancer's waist and hips. I make one layer of decorative fabric and one layer of coutile for stability. I also add a top layer with 1" elastic. The bottom edges gets a bias binding and that is how the skit is attached!"

Skirt Photos 20 & 21
"I added the hooks by machine prior to adding the basque to the skirt because it is much easier to work with.

I sewed the buttonhole elastic the top elastic band of the basque. The buttonhole elastic will attached to the buttons sewn on the bodice to keep the costume held tightly in the proper place on the dancer."

Skirt Photos 22, 23 & 24
"I made a pantie like I would for a classical tutu that will be attached to the skirt to keep it in place. No need for pantie ruffles on this one due to it being a longer skirt rather than a classical or bell shaped tutu. I dyed the skirt the first time and the color was way off! I then added a bit more red to the dye and the color turned out perfectly. After the pantie dried I attached it to the skirt after I attached the last flounce row."

The process of the skirt

Madison Russo in the completed Kitri Costume.

Madison Russo in the completed Kitri Costume.

Madison in rehearsal with Olivier Pardina testing out the movement of the skirt.