I have never known a life without dance. Born into a world of dancers, studios and theaters were my playground. I'm pretty sure I even listened to the scores of the ballet classics when I was still inside of my mother's belly. My mother and father often danced together, being in the same professional company.

Photo by Alexander Iziliaev

Today, they continue to work in the ballet world as teachers. My mother has her own school, which is where I started dancing. Even though at first I hated ballet, everyone predicted that I would eventually follow in their footsteps. They were right.


Ballet is my pursuit of expression, music and joy. But ballet also means something to me: sacrifice. I left my family in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, at 15 to join Miami City Ballet School, which had offered me a scholarship. I went to live on my own in a foreign country, not knowing the language, the culture, how to cook or even how to open a bank account.

Photo by Daniel Azoulay

I thought I understood a lot about ballet life, but moving to America proved there was so much out there that I was not aware of; it was like starting over. There were many tears and frustrations throughout the first few years in Miami because I couldn't communicate with people or even forge relationships due to language barriers.

It was my goal of becoming a ballerina with MCB that made the sacrifice worth it. But none of this would've been possible if it wasn't for my mother, who mentally prepared me and taught me to have discipline, strength and goals, all of which I bring into every single class and rehearsal. She told me "nothing comes easily if you don't give it your best every day, because that is what ballet is about—a pursuit of excellence."

Photo by Daniel Azoulay

Thinking back to when I started—knowing nothing about Balanchine, Robbins or Ratmansky—the Nathalia heading to America for the first time with her four giant suitcases would never have imagined dancing some of their major works, as well as learning directly from Balanchine-era ballerinas such as Lourdes Lopez, Roma Sosenko and Merrill Ashley.

She would never have imagined Ratmansky creating a role on her while she was still in the corps, the war girl from Symphonic Dances, and rehearsing it for Mikhail Baryshnikov (who even complimented her dancing) in the studio. These moments in my career have been surreal, from being on the cover of Pointe magazine (a magazine my mother has spent decades reading) to preparing to do Russian Girl in Serenade at the Koch Theater in New York City.

Photo by Alexander Iziliaev

For me to say I love ballet is not enough. Ballet has made me who I am. The most rewarding aspect of my career is hearing that my dancing can bring happiness to people who perhaps need it, because that reinforces my faith in ballet as a powerful art form. Life has proven to me that dreams can come true, and I will go on keeping what my mother has instilled in me every step of the way.