Why I Dance: Allison DeBona
First soloist with Ballet West
DeBona didn't perform professionally until she was 24. Photo by Matthew Karas.
There is one thing you should know about me: I am the only person who can tell me what I can and cannot do. I have not followed the conventional path to becoming a ballerina. I quit dancing between the 8th and 11th grades because I wanted to be “normal.” It was 1997 and I was supposed to go to my first summer intensive, but I told my mom I’d rather be home for when my little sister was born. So I was a cheerleader, on the drill team and went to football games on Friday nights instead of ballet rehearsal. Then after I returned to ballet, I went to college instead of auditioning right out of high school. Yes, I did all of those things that young ballerinas are told not to do. To the shock of many, perhaps, I auditioned for ballet companies at 23, got my job at Ballet West and opened my first professional production the night of my 24th birthday. I am now 31 years old and a first soloist with Ballet West.
That’s not to say it was easy. Ballet technique requires dedication. It pushes our bodies physically and is the force behind starting every day at the barre. Technique is part of what binds us ballet dancers together. After all, it is what makes ballet an elite art form.
But despite my love of this challenge, it is not the reason why I returned to the barre. Rather, it has to do with what I learned at 6 years old: In class, my teacher asked us to pretend to walk across a field, pick a flower, smell it and place it in a basket in our arms. Even at a young age, I understood that this was more than a task. She was asking us to tell a story without words. It was the moment that I fell I love with dance, with being an artist.
I love coming to work knowing that I can help transform the stage into a place of magic and help the audience forget about their worries for a few hours. I am able to tell the stories of my triumphs and heartbreaks without saying a word, and let someone in the audience know that they are not alone. I may have had to work triple time to catch up to my peers technically, but it never held me back from trying. When you are given the gift to communicate through movement, it is meant to be shared. Dance was always much more than pirouettes and extensions, more than steps. I dance because it truly is the only universal language.
It's the end of a long rehearsal day for the dancers of Abraham.In.Motion. They're reviewing phrases of a new work, Dearest Home. It's a pretty typical rehearsal scene. Some dancers cluster around a laptop trying to piece together steps learned long ago. Others review choreography together, working to figure out who remembered which arms correctly.
What isn't typical: The company's director and choreographer, Kyle Abraham, is nowhere to be seen.
That's because while the company is based in New York City full-time, Abraham spends most of his year teaching at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he joined the faculty last September. It's an unconventional model for a single-choreographer–led troupe, almost functioning like a repertory company in which choreographers drop in for a week to set a piece, leaving it up to the rehearsal directors and dancers to keep the momentum going.
La Scala Ballet has a knack for snagging exceptional guest artists, and the company's rare West Coast appearance this weekend at Segerstrom Center for the Arts is no exception. Principal dancer étoile Roberto Bolle will partner both Misty Copeland and Marianela Nuñez in Giselle. And in an extra international twist, they'll be accompanied by the Mikhailovsky Orchestra for the engagement. July 28–30. scfta.org.
Serious dancers interested in musical theater face a difficult choice when applying to college: Should you major in dance or musical theater? "You can make a career following either pathway," says Lynne Formato, associate professor of performing arts at Elon University. If you choose to go the musical theater route, find a program that will challenge your dance technique:
The 2017 Princess Grace Award winners have just been announced! Over the years, the Princess Grace Foundation-USA has demonstrated a knack for picking out future stars in the dance world, so it should be no surprise that several of the honorees are familiar names.
It's well known that Robert Rauschenberg, one of the most famous American artists of the 20th century, made costumes and sets for Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor and Trisha Brown. What you may not know is that he also choreographed and danced in many performances of his own devising. You can see evidence of them among the vast amount of paintings, sculptures and collages at the exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art called Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends.