It was a memorable competition for two dancers with ties to Carmel-based Indianapolis Ballet Conservatory.
Julia Rust, 17, was one of two silver medalists in the junior female (ages 14-18) division at last month’s USA International Ballet competition in Jackson, Miss. Rust grew up in Noblesville and attended IBC for several years before leaving for The Washington School for Ballet in the summer of 2017. IBC student Alexandra Manuel, 14, Carmel, was among the 32 finalists in the same division.
Rust said the best part of the competition was “the performance experience, the exposure to ballet companies and artistic directors and meeting dancers from all over the world.”
During the competition, Rust received three job offers. She decided to accept a contract offer to be a company dancer with Joffrey Ballet in Chicago, starting July 23.
“I performed a total of six times prior to the medal ceremony,” Rust said. “I then got to perform an additional two times in the galas. I think each time I danced it was better than the time before. I danced for me and for the joy of sharing my love of Jesus rather than trying to win. By the time I performed in the galas, I felt very free and almost fearless. I went for more pirouettes and more of everything. I had fun.”
Rust, who is in the middle of her junior year, said she will be completing her academic education alongside her professional career.
Rust was joined by her twin sister Morgan at The Washington School of Ballet. Morgan, who was slowed by a bout of mononucleosis, will likely return to the Washington, D.C., school for the 2018-19 school year.
Julia Rust said artistry has been her biggest improvement.
“I have been told that I went from dancing like a student to dancing like a professional, and I can feel the difference,” she said.
Rust credits IBC Artistic Director Alyona Yakovleva-Randall and staff for providing the training to form the foundation she needed to now focus on her artistry.
“With solid technique, I can allow my body to sort of not think about every single movement and begin to let the emotion of what I’m feeling take over,” she said. “It’s given me the freedom to dance from my soul.”
Manuel said the entire experience was amazing.
“But I enjoyed being able to take classes with dancers who are already company members and seeing how they do various combinations,” Manuel said. “I also loved seeing friends from other competitions and meeting new people from Japan, Brazil, the Philippines and other places.”
Yakovleva-Randall said Manuel making it to the finals was an amazing accomplishment at her age.
“Having trained with us since she was just 8 years old, Alexandra’s technique and strength shows the quality of training at the Indiana Ballet Conservatory,” Yakovleva-Randall said. “Combined with her mental strength and focus, Alexandra was able to present herself with a very high technical and artistic quality.”
Manuel will continue her training the next four years at The Royal Ballet School in London, starting this fall.
“This year, I feel I’ve made the most progress in my artistry,” Manuel said. “From dancing the role of Sugar Plum in ‘The Nutcracker” to preparing for Jackson, my teachers really help me with developing the character and dancing with more emotion. I owe so much of this to IBC. Every teacher at IBC is so dedicated and committed to making sure we, as students, are receiving the best technique, learning how to be better artists and, in general, just good people who help each other out.”
Manuel is attending an intensive program on full scholarship at the School of American Ballet, the official school of New York City Ballet.