Assucena in Stanton Welch’s Maninyas. “It’s challenging, because I’m not a natural jumper,” she says. Photo by Cheryl Mann, courtesy Joffrey Ballet.
Her easy musicality and subtle mischief capture your attention first. Then comes Amanda Assucena’s effortless but impressive technique—the gyroscopic pirouettes and sustained balances. It’s no wonder the Joffrey Ballet dancer has quickly advanced into major roles. Since joining the company in 2013, she’s danced the lead in Krzysztof Pastor’s Romeo & Juliet and the Sugar Plum Fairy in Robert Joffrey’s Nutcracker. Now, she’s poised for stardom in the Windy City.
Company: Joffrey Ballet
Hometown: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Training: Centro de Danca Rio, Theatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro’s School of Dance, The Harid Conservatory, Joffrey Academy of Dance trainee
Accolades: First prize at Brazil’s Joinville dance competition
An independent spirit: “My teacher in Rio encouraged me to leave Brazil if I wanted a career in ballet, so I left home at 14 to study in Florida,” says Assucena. “I’m a pretty independent person. I knew ballet was not an easy world to be in, but I couldn’t stay away from it.”
Breakout moment: Shortly after getting her Joffrey contract, she danced the third variation in the Shades section of La Bayadère. “I thought I would just be doing one performance during the run, but then I was on the list for opening night.”
Branching out: “Classical ballet is my first love, but I’ve been learning to connect much more with contemporary work, especially since doing Romeo and Juliet. In many ways the modern works are so much more human.”
What Wheater is saying: “Amanda is remarkably mature as a person and an artist, and that was clear from the moment she entered our trainee program,” says Joffrey Ballet artistic director Ashley Wheater. “She was knowing, unafraid and very focused on her work, and in certain ways she reminded me of Alessandra Ferri.”
Dancemakers take note: “Choreographers like Christopher Wheeldon and Stanton Welch have very quickly spotted her,” Wheater says. Assucena danced the first-act pas de trois and cygnets pas de quatre in Wheeldon’s Swan Lake.
Dream roles: “Giselle is my favorite classical ballet ever. Meanwhile, I hope to have a chance to do Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella,” which the Joffrey will remount in spring 2016.