BELLA, BALLET & BOSTON
By: Hal de Becker
‘Bella’ is a shortened version of the name Isabella and, in Italian, the word means ‘beautiful.’ As a beautiful ballet dancer Isabella Schleiker can claim both meanings.
The 16 year old ballerina is presently a full time live-in scholarship student at the renowned Boston Ballet School. In addition to all facets of classical dance, including ballet, character and pas de deux, she has a full academic schedule being one of only eleven students selected to attend the company’s NU Vision School.
Bella is a native Las Vegan and attended Roger Bryan Elementary School, Clifford Lawrence Junior High, where music was one of her subjects, and Las Vegas Academy of the Arts where, not surprisingly, her major was dance. She was AB Honor Roll student and recipient of the Outstanding Academic Excellence Award.
It is not unusual for an accomplished young ballet student to also be a good learner academically. Attention and self-discipline are a must for ballet and as a result many students develop a strong learning technique along with the ballet one.
Both of Bella’s parents have a musical background, and her brother majors in music at LVA. Being from an artistic family, Bella’s dance talents were recognized early. At age three she was enrolled in ballet classes at the Academy of Nevada Ballet Theatre and studied there for nearly a decade.
Under the watchful eyes of NBT’s superb teachers, including Monika Rostomian and Ella Gourkova, her progress was swift. Beginning in 2005 she performed in the professional company’s annual ‘Nutcracker’ productions and was later awarded scholarships from NBT, the Kirov Academy in Washington D.C. and the Liberace Foundation.
In 2008, NBT selected Bella and her brother Zach to portray Clara and Fritz the lead child roles in ‘Nutcracker.’ It was the first time NBT had a real-life brother and sister portraying the on-stage siblings.
In 2009 she joined the Las Vegas Ballet Company, a youth troupe founded by two former NBT principals, Kyudong Kwak and his wife Yoomi Lee. Bella began studying with the duo at the Kwak Ballet Academy while undertaking soloist roles in the company’s ‘Sleeping Beauty,’ ‘Giselle’ and again as Clara in ‘Nutcracker.’
Between 2010 and 2013 she received three scholarships for American Ballet Theatre’s national training program in New York and began coming to the attention of prominent teachers, dancers and choreographers.
In 2013 she resumed her training with Ella Gourkova who, with her husband Sergei Popov – both former principals with NBT -- had recently opened the Nevada School of Dance.
Earlier this year, Bella auditioned with approximately 150 others for one of the few available year-round scholarships at Boston Ballet and was accepted. One of her instructors there was Christina Ghiardi who, co-incidentally, is now dancing with NBT.
Ms. Ghiardi recently made an impressive debut as Hippolyta in NBT’s splendid performance of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at The Smith Center. She told me that “…teaching Bella over the summer was a delight. She was a diligent worker and it was rewarding to watch her continuously improve throughout the five weeks.”
Bella has indeed worked tirelessly to achieve her goal of dancing in a world class ballet company and just a few days ago she was notified by Boston Ballet that she had been cast as First Regiment Soldier in that company’s upcoming ‘Nutcracker’ ballet.
Bella’s mother said to me recently, “Bella has been lucky.” But in reality, it takes more than ‘luck.’ Behind successful performers one often discovers parents like Bella’s who throughout the years have always been supportive and encouraging, soothed the occasional disappointment, and dried the inevitable young tears.