Ballet 5:8's Trainee Program is a dynamic two-year experience that challenges aspiring professional dancers to put the finishing touches on their training while dancing alongside the Ballet 5:8 professional company.

As Trainees, dancers take advantage of an intensive schedule of classes and performances opportunities within the Trainee Program, with Ballet 5:8 School of the Arts, and alongside the Ballet 5:8 Professional Company, both in Chicago and on tour. 

Open by audition only to dancers ages 18-24 with a solid background in classical ballet, the Trainee Program prepares promising students for careers with Ballet 5:8, with other professional dance companies, and in a range of dance-related fields. 


""If I picked a word to describe the impact of the two years I spent in Ballet 5:8’s Trainee Program, I would choose 'growth.' I grew stronger as a dancer and as a person...and made some lifetime friendships as well!""

Kaitlyn King, Trainee Graduate


"I will forever be thankful for the Ballet 5:8 trainee program and all of its staff, who are so invested in all of their students. The trainee program is like a pressure cooker for ballet technique, strength, and endurance! With all of the hours of dancing and cross training, I got stronger than I even knew I could and it truly shaped me into dancer I am now. Thanks to teachers who led me, pushed me to and past my limits, and who saw beyond what I could see for myself, I graduated from the program feeling ready and excited for whatever came next.”

Valerie Linsner, Trainee Graduate




The Ballet 5:8 Trainee Program begins during the final two weeks of Ballet 5:8's Collegiate Intensive in July and runs through mid-May. Dancers attend ballet technique and pointe daily, Monday - Friday, often alongside the professional company at Ballet 5:8's brand new 12,000 square-foot studios in Orland Park, IL. Ballet technique and pointe classes are foundational to the program. In addition, trainees often participate in company rehearsals, Trainee Program rehearsals, and a rotation of classes such as women’s and men’s variations, repertoire, jazz, modern, improv, weight training, Yoga, Pilates, Progressing Ballet Technique, acting and mime, port de bras, men's classes, and partnering (classes vary depending on the semester and trainee placement). Additional academic classes include dance history, music theory, anatomy, and injury prevention.

Ballet 5:8 Trainees perform frequently, allowing dancers to hone performance and artistry skills beyond what is typically possible in student settings. Performance opportunities vary depending on Trainee ranking but include those in settings with the Ballet 5:8 Studio Company, and in Ballet 5:8 School of the Arts two full-length classical ballets each year. Dancers also have the opportunity to vie for performance opportunities as understudies and in selected roles alongside the Ballet 5:8 Professional Company in Chicago and on Ballet 5:8 national tours.

Trainees are evaluated twice each year and receive detailed feedback on their progress within the program. The average length of study in the Trainee Program is two years. Trainees receive mentoring throughout the year to move toward with their future goals; graduates may also vie for positions with the Ballet 5:8 professional company.


“Ballet 5:8's Trainee Program gave me the finishing touches I needed to take my career to the next step. The small classes, individual corrections, numerous performance opportunities, intense schedule, and chances to go on tour with the company grew and stretched me as both a dancer and a person. I recommend it to serious dancers looking for growth, deep friendships, and meaningful dance.”

-Laura Peterman, Trainee Graduate




Ballet 5:8 Trainee Program faculty are all current or former professional dancers. They bring ample technical knowledge and professional performing experience to the program, challenging and enabling dancers to make the technical and artistic leap from student to professional.


Full Time Faculty


Julianna Rubio Slager
Ballet 5:8 Artistic Director, Co-Founder and Resident Choreographer

As a dancer, Mrs. Slager studied under notable teachers from Ann Arbor Ballet Theater, New York City Ballet, the Vaganova Academy and Puerto Rican National Ballet. Slager enjoyed performing under Barbara Smith at Greater Lansing Ballet during her training, and also under Kathy Thibodeaux and Sol Maisonet at Ballet Magnificat. Beginning in 2014, Ballet 5:8 began touring nationally, bringing Slager's critically acclaimed ballets such as The Space in Between, Scarlet, Compass, and The Stor(ies) of You and Me to audiences across the nation. Over the past seven years, Slager has also enjoyed of watching her students be accepted into many prestigious summer intensive, trainee and year-round programs, including the Kirov Academy, Pittsburg Ballet Theater, Houston Ballet, Washington Ballet, Joffrey Ballet Trainee Program, Alonzo King Lines Ballet, Oklahoma City Ballet, Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet, American Ballet Theater, Ellison Ballet, School of American Ballet, and others. Mrs. Slager is one of the few Mexican-American Artistic Directors and Resident Choreographers of professional ballet companies in the world, and she hopes that her leadership and creative work at Ballet 5:8 will pave the way for other women and minorities in professional ballet.


Brette Benedict
Trainee Program Director & Ballet 5:8 Lead Artist

Ms. Benedict studied at Rock School for Dance Education and was accepted to the Jacob’s School of Music at Indiana University, where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Ballet. She received an apprenticeship with the Rochester City Ballet and was promoted to dancer in 2013. Ms. Benedict joined Ballet 5:8 in 2014 as a Company Artist and was promoted to Lead Artist in 2017. Brette also holds a RYT-200 certification in Yoga. Throughout her ballet career she has had the privilege of performing in many ballets including: soloist roles in Balanchine’s Serenade, Western Symphony, Raymonda, Who Cares?, and principal roles in Agnes DeMille’s Rodeo as the Rancher’s Daughter, Anthony Tudor’s Lilac Garden as Caroline as well as Twyla Tharp’s Noir. Brette has also performed many soloist and principal roles in Ballet 5:8's repertoire, including Hester Prynne in Scarlet - reviews of her performance have noted that: "Her footwork is as precise as it is mesmerizing," and that she "shifts between the graceful melancholy of her solitude and the tour de force exuberance we hoped for her character."


Lorianne Barclay

Ballet 5:8 Lead ARtist


Sam Opsal

Ballet 5:8 Company Artist


Beth Patterson

Ballet 5:8 Company Artist


Amy Kozol Sanderson

Former professional dancer and Ballet 5:8 Artist; Ballet 5:8 Executive Director


Adjunct Faculty

Kim Sagami

Brandon and Hannah Welch

Emma Santschi

Guest Faculty from the Joffrey Ballet and Hubbard Street Dance




Ballet 5:8 Trainee Program graduates receive first consideration for open positions with the Ballet 5:8 professional company, as well as individual career & audition counseling.


Graduates Include

Annika Grasman
Abigail Gray Gardner
Emma Jones
Kaitlyn King
Brianna Klein
Morgan Kelly
Valerie Linsner
Melanie Rodrigues


Currently Dancing with Ballet 5:8


During my time as a trainee at Ballet 5:8, God worked to form me into the woman I am today. The program taught me not only what it meant to be a professional dancer, but also what it meant to be a follower of Jesus and worship Him in everything I do. I will be forever grateful to all the staff and mentors that poured into me during that time and helped equip my future. I am so thankful God has kept me as a part of this ministry I hold so dear to my heart, and gave me the opportunity to share the knowledge that was given to me to the upcoming generation of dancers.

-Abigail Gray Gardner, Trainee Graduate


Currently Working with Ballet 5:8


Abigail Gray Gardner

Ballet 5:8 School of the Arts Studio Manager & Senior Instructor



Click below to learn more about the Trainee Program audition process.

First-round applications are accepted via video through March 1 or in person at a Spring Season Master Class.
A second-round audition at Ballet 5:8 studios is by invitation only.


What Makes Ballet 5:8's Trainee Program Unique?


Experienced Instructors

All of our Trainee Program faculty are current or retired professional dancers. This offers a unique perspective in the classroom. Faculty members offer instruction and coaching on not only the technical side of dancing, but also the emotional and artistic nuances of professional performance.

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Small Class Sizes

Offering small class sizes is one of the best ways to ensure that students don't slip through the cracks. In addition to attending classes and rehearsals alongside the Ballet 5:8 Professional Company, Trainees receive individual attention in Trainee Program classes and one-on-one advice about a range of ballet related topics, providing a personalized training experience.

Technical Training

Ballet 5:8's Trainee Program Vaganova-based curriculum and class schedule is challenging and rigorous. The demanding schedule and high technical expectations teach stamina, perseverance and allow dancers to explore and improve every area of their technique.

Performing Experience

Trainees perform not just occasionally, but constantly throughout the season in a variety of traditional and nontraditional, classical and contemporary, formal and informal settings. These ongoing and frequent opportunities to gain performing experience make for a very important aspect of the program, challenging dancers to find their voice as performers and a mature consistency in performance quality.

Touring Experience

Trainee II's may be asked to tour with the professional company. This provides extremely valuable touring experience for dancers looking to pursue a career in dance. Trainees are given the opportunity to learn from the professional dancers by watching and observing the different aspects of touring.


Ballet 5:8’s trainees are like a family. The community of dancers is an important part of the experience at Ballet 5:8 and gives much needed support to dancers who may be away from home for the first time.

Teacher Training

Trainees have the opportunity to work as Teacher’s Assistants at Ballet 5:8 School of the Arts. This time of training offers insight into the creative practices of our teaching staff and prepares dancers for jobs as dance teachers. Trainees who successfully graduate from teacher training during their time in the Trainee Program can apply for available teaching positions at Ballet 5:8 School of the Arts.




Q. Are there rankings within the Trainee Program?

A. Yes, the Trainee Program has two rankings: Trainee I and Trainee II. Class schedules and performances vary depending on placement. Trainees may be awarded a ranking in their acceptance letter after second round auditions, or may be placed during the first two weeks of the program during the Collegiate Intensive. Placement is always subject to change based on the decision of Trainee Program staff.

Q. Do Trainees eventually take on positions with the professional company?

A. Yes, some Ballet 5:8 Trainee Program graduates are now dancing with the professional company. Other graduates have gone on to perform with companies around the U.S.

Q. Is housing provided as part of the Trainee Program?

A. Trainees are responsible for their own housing. Trainees typically live in area houses and apartments with other trainees and/or Ballet 5:8 company dancers as roommates. Ballet 5:8 staff is able to recommend potential roommates to new dancers who request housing. Trainees are not allowed to live alone and must have their housing approved by Ballet 5:8 staff.

Q. Can trainees work?

A. Yes, trainees often hold paying jobs outside of their class and performance schedules in order to cover the cost of their living expenses. Trainees can work on weeknights and on weekends when there are no performances scheduled. One important thing to keep in mind is that trainee schedules are sometimes inconsistent during heavy performance seasons. Finding an employer who is understanding and willing to schedule around performances is crucial.

Q. Can trainees get out of certain classes if they need to work?

A. No, trainees are required to attend all scheduled classes, rehearsals and performances. Trainees who do not fulfill this requirement may not be able to successfully graduate from the Trainee Program.

Q. Can trainees support themselves?

A. Yes, trainees can work to support themselves financially during their time in the program. Nonetheless, we do recommend that trainees arrange for some support from family or friends to assist with trainee tuition and/or living expenses if at all possible. Because working hours available outside of the trainee program can vary throughout the year, being at least partially supported can greatly reduce stress and exhaustion during the program and can result in an experience that is much more positive and productive overall.

Q. Can trainees attend college classes?

A. Yes, some trainees choose to attend night and distance learning college courses outside of their class and performance schedules. Ballet 5:8's trainee program is not accredited at this time, so trainees interested in attending college classes need to apply to a separate academic institution.

Q. What are the tuition costs?

The tuition ranges from $2850 - $4000 for a full year of training. Tuition varies based upon placement and fundraising. Tuition costs have been subsidized by the generosity of Ballet 5:8’s donors.

Q. What if I have questions that aren’t on this list?

Contact Us!