North County ballet dancers place in international competition


Young North County ballet dancers are gaining recognition as being some of the top in their class after they competed and placed in the World Ballet Art Competition Grand Prix in Escondido in late September.

The one male and seven female students, ranging from ages 10 through 16, from Ballet Arte in Solana Beach danced their way to positions ranging from fourth to first place at the competition Sept. 23 at the California Center for the Arts.

The dancers typically begin their season in the fall, so Sara Viale, co-director of Ballet Arte and former professional dancer, said she was extremely proud of them for working hard so early on.

“This competition was really hard for the kids because we worked them as much as we could,” she said. “We got to the competition, and they all did a great job.”

This was the first time the dancers competed in the World Ballet because it is usually held too far away, Viale said. Ballet Arte usually competes in events such as the Youth America Grand Prix, she added.

Dancers Marcus Taylor, Christine Marabella, Remy Loren, Alexis Marxer, Karaina Matic, Sophie Savas-Carsterns and Caitlyn Feddock each placed in contemporary and modern categories in their age groups.

In addition, the 14-year-old Ballet Arte studio as a whole was recognized as the best ensemble and best school in the competition. Viale’s co-director, Erlends Zierminch, a former professional dancer who performed in the Latvian National Opera and Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet, was also recognized as best teacher.

Students, ranging in age from 3 to adults, are taught discipline from the very start, which is a “quality that will help them throughout their life,” Viale said.

She said Ballet Arte stands out among other dance studios because she and Zierminch teach their students respect and love for the arts and mindfullness of others; prepare them for a professional career; and help them develop the neurological organization of the body to achieve the best possible coordination.

For adults, ballet can be a wonderful form of exercise and an outlet for stress and anxiety, Viale said.

“[We have] the desire to share our knowledge and most of all our passion with a younger generation,” she said. “In my opinion there is nothing like being on stage. To get there is hard, strenuous work, but the feeling of freedom and exhilarating joy that you get is hard to describe.”

The Ballet Arte dancers will compete in the World Ballet Art Competition finals in Niagara Falls on Nov. 11.

Viale said she is excited for what this could mean for her students’ careers.

“These are like our kids,” she said. “Most of them we’ve known since they were 5. We’re so happy for them because their dreams are coming true.”

Viale, who studied ballet at the Academia di Danza Teatro Nuovo Torino and Academie de la dance Princess Grace in Monte Carlo, said it is not easy to make it as a professional dancer.

She said watching her students fall in love with dance and dedicating themselves to the fullest is her favorite part of the job.

“As a teacher, when the kids fall in love with dance and dedicate themselves to the fullest because it’s what they love to do, it’s a great accomplishment,” Viale said. “To have some of our students join professional ballet schools like The School of American Ballet, San Francisco Ballet School, Joffrey Ballet, Miami City Ballet and more, it’s definitely a big plus.”

For more information about Ballet Arte, visit