I don’t think anyone who saw my first few months of ballet when I was four, could have ever imagined that I would make it my life’s pursuit. Shy, and not one for new experiences at the time, I cried as if the room was filled with monsters. I always loved the graceful movement and the meditative quality of barre, but the idea of taking this personal therapeutic activity and putting it on public display, seemed very unnatural at the time. Learning I had a shell, and how to open it, was the first of countless lessons this incredible art form has taught me.
Before it was my dream, it was my mother’s. She grew up dancing in Brazil and took hard work and passion as far as it could go. Life interrupted her ballet journey so she gift-wrapped her dream for me, my teacher and mentor. Ballet is as much the language we share as her native Portuguese.
My own ballet path has hardly been a straight line. I competed in Irish dance when I was younger, while my dad played the music. I dabbled in gymnastics, took four years of piano, and participated in several seasons of softball and soccer. I remember my father saying “Come on, you play like a magical prancing pixie horse!” and then offering me cash if I could get a yellow card. It sounds even worse when you consider he was the coach. I’m convinced that whatever time I may have lost in ballet class to these other activities, I’m actually a better dancer and person today for having done them.
Ballet was always there, my safe place. My mom and I went to see the San Francisco Ballet Nutcracker every year since I was two years old. By the age of ten, I knew that I wanted to give myself fully to the art, and from that point on all I would ever dream about was ballet.
As I seek to better develop my own artistic voice to bring to the characters I inhabit, I am inspired by professional dancers all around the world, such as Gillian Murphy, Marianela Nunez, Lorena Feijoo, and Alina Seminova, their artistry, inhuman technical skill and electric performances. I think to myself, what would her approach be? What would she do? I’m also inspired by many of my peers who are demonstrating incredible mastery at my age. I am aware that I have my own stories to tell; my life has been full of powerful transformative experiences to draw on.
I am very fortunate for the experiences I have had both at home and at dance. My parents are frugal, but very supportive. I attended Catholic primary school. You might think I’ve had it too easy. That may be true, but I try hard to not let it hold me back. I’ve also lost three grandparents who were close to me at a very young age, seen family anguish over immigration issues and help my dad with my disabled uncle. I know that just to get this far, took a great deal of luck too and I don’t take any of it for granted.
I’m grateful for all of it. I’m grateful for my little brother who pushes my buttons but is always there for me. Of course, I’m grateful for my friends who have given me so much support. I’m even grateful for my rivals and critics for they have all made me stronger. I’m grateful for every day I get to do this amazing art of human expression we call ballet.