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. 

I have learned and improved more in the two years that I have been at Ballet 5:8 than in all of my other years of training. Ballet 5:8 is a positive environment that promotes growth in dancers as artists and as people.
— Torie Arrington
Former Ballet 5:8 Senior Apprentice Torie Arrington in Belteshazzar: A Perilous Tale

Former Ballet 5:8 Senior Apprentice Torie Arrington in Belteshazzar: A Perilous Tale



The Ballet 5:8 Trainee Program begins during the final two weeks of Ballet 5:8's Summer 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 7,000 square-foot studios in Frankfort, IL. Afternoons include company rehearsals, Trainee Program rehearsals, and a rotation of classes such as variations, repertoire, jazz, modern, improv, core strengthening, weights training, stretching, 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 outreach settings 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.

Trainees are evaluated twice each year by Trainee Program staff and receive detailed feedback on their progress within the program. The average length of study in the Trainee Program is two years. Trainees who successfully graduate from the program receive individual career counseling and assistance toward moving into career fields including professional performance, dance education, and other arts fields. Trainee graduates are also considered for apprenticeship positions in the Ballet 5:8 professional company as they become available.



Ballet 5:8’s Artistic Director and Resident Choreographer, Julianna Rubio Slager, is originally from Spring Arbor, Michigan. Slager studied under notable teachers from Ann Arbor Ballet Theater, New York City Ballet, the Vaganova Academy and Dance Theater of Harlem. She danced with Greater Lansing Ballet, Ballet Magnificat and as a freelance artist, teacher and choreographer in the Chicago area prior to the creation of Ballet 5:8. She is blessed to be married to Jeremy Slager, the Associate Pastor at St. Paul’s Bible Church, and she lives in south Chicago along with their sons Judah and Jacob. 

As an artist, Slager has a great desire to contribute to the marketplace of cultural, philosophical and religious dialogue that has shaped the course of society for centuries. For this reason, she often chooses subject matter from current social issues, great literature and religious writings. She believes that our society is in need of peaceful catalysts for discussions on the deep moral and ethical topics of our day. This is what she aspires to give to the audience, a thought-provoking performance, free from the constraints and prejudices of spoken language, in order to allow the inward significance of each issue to surface.

Ballet 5:8 Ballet Mistress Lauren Ader-Cumpston began her dance training at an early age in Conifer, Colorado. In 2004 she began to pursue training in classical ballet and studied under Nikoloz Makhateli and Anastasiya Buechele in Denver Colorado. In 2010, Lauren had the opportunity to train at the Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet in New York City and studied under teachers such as Gelsey Kirkland, Rinat Imaev, Karina Elver and Lyubov Fominich. While in New York, Lauren also performed with GKA’s Studio Company and danced in various demi-soloist and soloist roles in repertoire including The Nutcracker, La Sylphide, Paquita, “Cygnets” from Swan Lake, “Pas de Six” and “Ballabille” from Napoli, among others. Lauren moved to join Ballet 5:8 as a Company Artist with Ballet 5:8 in 2012 and was promoted to Lead Company Artist in 2014. With Ballet 5:8 Lauren has performed many principal roles including Job in The Story of Job, the Spring Soloist in Four Seasons of the Soul, Darius in Belteshazzar: A Perilous Tale, and The Human in Interplay.

Trainee Ballet Mistress Brette Benedict started dancing at a very young age but began to study ballet seriously under the direction of Mrs. Geiger after moving to Michigan at the age of 12. Her last two years of high school she moved to Philadelphia to study at the Rock School for Dance Education. Brette was then accepted to the Jacob’s School of Music at Indiana University and got her Bachelor of Science in Ballet. Upon graduation Brette received an apprenticeship with the Rochester City Ballet and was promoted to dancer in 2013. 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 principle 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 been a Company Artist with Ballet 5:8 since 2014 and was promoted to Solo Artist in 2016.


Antonio Fernández started dancing when he was fifteen at Ballet Hispanico. He went on to study at the prestigious Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet under Lyubov Fominich, Vera Soloveyva, and Nikolay Levitsky. Antonio graduated from the Academy and joined The Gelsey Kirkland Ballet (GKB) in 2013. He performed many demi-soloist, soloist, and principal roles in GKA's and GKB's performances. Antonio is also a Flamenco dancer who has gone to Spain to study the Andalusian art form. In 2014, Antonio won second place in the Flamenco Certmane Competition held in Lincoln Center, NYC. Antonio danced at Ballet Fantastique in Eugene, Oregon as a Soloist throughout the 2015/2016 season and also recently had the honor of performing with the Eugene Symphony at the Hult Center for the performing Arts in Eugene, Oregon. Antonio joined Ballet 5:8 in 2016 and is currently performing with Ballet 5:8 as a Company Artist. 


Samuel Opsal started dancing at the age of 16 in Pullman, WA. In 2014 he received a BFA in Dance from Cornish College of the Arts, graduating magna cum laude. While attending Cornish he was granted multiple awards for academic and artistic achievement. After college Samuel worked with Iyun Harrison’s Ashani Dances in Seattle and then moved to Pittsburgh to train in Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s Graduate Program. His performances include PBT’s Le CorsaireSleeping Beauty, and La Bayadere. As a guest artist he has performed principal roles in GiselleFirebird, and Swan Lake. In 2015 he also had the opportunity to choreograph a duet that was performed by PBT’s ensemble group. Samuel joined Ballet 5:8 in 2016 and is currently performing with Ballet 5:8 as a Senior Apprentice.


Summer Smith grew up in South Jersey, where she began dancing at a young age. In high school, Summer decided to begin her serious training at The Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia. During this time, she received scholarships to study at Orlando Ballet, and in New York, at American Ballet Theatre. Following highschool, Summer attended The University of the Arts for Ballet and Painting. At Uarts, she was selected to perform works by Ronen Koresh, Christine Cox and Anastasia Babeyeva. She also worked with Douglas Becker, of the original Frankfurt Ballet, for his staging of "The Vile Parody of Address" by William Forsythe. Summer joined Ballet 5:8 in 2014 and is currently performing with Ballet 5:8 as a Company Artist.


Dancers interested in attending the Trainee Program must first submit a video and completed application packet by the program audition deadline, March 1st. Selected dancers are invited to Ballet 5:8's studios for a second-round audition and interview. 


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, as faculty members offer instruction and coaching on not only the technical side of dancing, but also the emotional and artistic nuances of professional dancing.


Small Class Sizes

Offering small class sizes is one of the best ways to ensure that students don't slip through the cracks. Individual attention, and one-on-one advise about a range of ballet related topics gives students in Ballet 5:8’s Trainee Program 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

Ballet 5:8 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 and unique aspect of the program as trainees are challenged to find their voice as performers and a mature consistency in that performance quality.

Touring Experience

Many trainees are asked to tour with the professional company each season, offering 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 little family. The community of dancers is an important part of the experience at Ballet 5:8 and gives much needed support to dancers that are away from home for the first time.

Teacher Training

Trainees have the opportunity to serve 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 are awarded a ranking in their acceptance letter after second round auditions, though 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 past Trainee Program graduates are now dancing with the professional company (Summer Smith, Company Artist, and Laura Peterman, Apprentice). 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 wiling 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.