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 Artist


"I have been deeply inspired by dancing alongside the company. In class the company members display dedication to excellence in their craft day in and out regardless of what circumstances may arise."

Miranda Rubio, Ballet 5:8 Trainee




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. Afternoons include company rehearsals, Trainee Program rehearsals, and a rotation of classes such as women’s and men’s variations, repertoire, jazz, modern, improv, weights 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 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 Trainee Program instructors and staff 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. 


Julianna Slager

Ballet 5:8 Artistic Director


Brette Benedict

Trainee Program Director and Ballet 5:8 Lead Artist


Antonio Rosario

Ballet Master and Ballet 5:8 Lead Artist


Stephanie Joe

Ballet 5:8 Lead Artist


Samuel Opsal

Ballet 5:8 Company Artist


Lorianne Barclay

Ballet 5:8 Solo Artist


Ricardo Moyano

Adjunct Faculty: Artistic Director, Co-Founder of DanceWest Ballet Company

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Kim Sagami

Former dancer with the Joffrey Ballet; Répétiteur, The Gerald Arpino Foundation


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. 


Emily Ratkos

Company Artist, Ballet 5:8 Professional Company


Libby Dennen

Senior Apprentice, Ballet 5:8 Professional Company


Olivia Lane

Apprentice, Ballet 5:8 Professional Company


Laura Peterman

Company Artist, Ballet 5:8 Professional Company


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.


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 e 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 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.