Career Advice

Free and Open

María Riccetto’s second chapter

Riccetto in Don Quijote at Ballet Nacional Sodre. Photo by Santiago Barreiro, Courtesy BNS.

In a way, María Riccetto has had not one but two ballet careers. The first was as a hard-working soloist at American Ballet Theatre, the kind of dancer described, admiringly, by colleagues and critics as dependable, strong, consistent. And then, since 2012, as a prima ballerina at the Ballet Nacional Sodre in her native Uruguay, under the direction of her former ABT colleague, Julio Bocca. By stepping away from the center of the ballet world and returning home, Riccetto has given herself a second chance, opening the way to a series of dream roles that had once eluded her: Kitri, Nikiya, Odette/Odile and Juliet, in Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s venerable 1965 production.

At 36, when many dancers are beginning to wind down, Riccetto has acquired a new confidence onstage and in the studio. Her dancing has grown freer and bolder. Rehearsing in one of the studios in the company’s spacious new headquarters in Montevideo last July, she looked happy and engaged as she worked on a new ballet being created by the young Argentine-born Demis Volpi, resident choreographer at Stuttgart Ballet. She cheerfully threw herself into the tricky, off-kilter movements, allowing herself to be dragged, lifted and twisted around by five male partners while betraying not the least trepidation. Most of the time she seemed to end up perfectly where she wanted to be, on her leg, in control. But when, on occasion, something didn’t go as planned, she laughed it off and tried again or made a smart suggestion, putting everyone at ease. “I’m excited to try new ways of moving,” she said later, “I’m feeling open, like a sponge. I’m willing to try things without shame, accepting my own strengths and weaknesses.”

Riccetto grew up in Montevideo and attended the national ballet academy (the Escuela Nacional de Danza), leaving at 17 to complete her training at North Carolina School of the Arts. Unsure of what to do next, she decided to audition for a few big American companies, and was surprised, she says, to learn that she had been taken by American Ballet Theatre. Three years later, in 2002, she became a soloist there and began to be offered parts like the first-act pas de trois in Swan Lake, Amour in Don Quixote, the prelude in Les Sylphides and, eventually, in 2009, her first Giselle, alongside David Hallberg. But then the fast track seemed to stall. Riccetto learned the role of Juliet but never got the chance to dance it there. “I felt I had reached a ceiling; I was dancing these amazing parts, but I wanted to keep growing.”

Around the same time, in 2010, Julio Bocca had decided to try his hand at directing the Uruguayan national company, which had lost its home to a fire in 1971 but continued performing elsewhere. Armed with strong political backing, a brand-new building and his own hard-won international connections, Bocca launched into an ambitious overhaul of the company. What he needed, though, was a prima, a dancer who could lead by example. Though Riccetto had been guesting with the company, two years into his tenure he invited her to permanently fill that void: “For me, her coming here was incredible,” he said in his light-filled office last year. “The public loves her and her presence helps me to advance our aims.” Riccetto, naturally affable, gives frequent interviews and is active on social media; people recognize her in the streets.

The gamble paid off for Riccetto as well. “I knew Julio would look after me,” she says, “and I knew the quality of the productions he was bringing was very high.” (That repertoire includes Ronald Hynd’s The Merry Widow, Natalia Makarova’s La Bayadère, Anna-Marie Holmes’ Le Corsaire and Antony Tudor’s The Leaves are Fading.) The payoff has been not only the status of being crowned a principal dancer but also more time to prepare for these challenging new roles. “At ABT, I was spending eight hours rehearsing a ton of ballets, but here I can spend that time preparing for three or four roles. Every time I go onstage, I feel completely ready.”

Beyond her artistic aspirations, Riccetto has discovered that the slower pace of Montevideo and the proximity to her family suits her. Her private life has flourished. “In New York, after a performance,” she reminisced recently, “I used to take forever to get ready, because I knew no one was waiting for me. Now I have to rush, because there’s always someone to see, somewhere to go. It makes such a difference to know that my family is there, waiting.” 

The Conversation
News
Courtesy Ritzel

Capezio, Bloch, So Dança, Gaynor Minden.

At the top of the line, dancers have plenty of quality footwear options to choose from, and in most metropolitan areas, stores to go try them on. But for many of North America's most economically disadvantaged dance students, there has often been just one option for purchasing footwear in person: Payless ShoeSource.

Keep reading... Show less
Trending
Jayme Thornton

When Sonya Tayeh saw Moulin Rouge! for the first time, on opening night at a movie theater in Detroit, she remembers not only being inspired by the story, but noticing the way it was filmed.

"What struck me the most was the pace, and the erratic feeling it had," she says. The camera's quick shifts and angles reminded her of bodies in motion. "I was like, 'What is this movie? This is so insane and marvelous and excessive,' " she says. "And excessive is I think how I approach dance. I enjoy the challenge of swiftness, and the pushing of the body. I love piling on a lot of vocabulary and seeing what comes out."

Keep reading... Show less
Dancers Trending
Robbie Fairchild in a still from In This Life, directed by Bat-Sheva Guez. Photo courtesy Michelle Tabnick PR

Back when Robbie Fairchild graced the cover of the May 2018 issue of Dance Magazine, he mentioned an idea for a short dance film he was toying around with. That idea has now come to fruition: In This Life, starring Fairchild and directed by dance filmmaker Bat-Sheva Guez, is being screened at this year's Dance on Camera Festival.

While the film itself covers heavy material—specifically, how we deal with grief and loss—the making of it was anything but: "It was really weird to have so much fun filming a piece about grief!" Fairchild laughs. We caught up with him, Guez and Christopher Wheeldon (one of In This Life's five choreographers) to find out what went into creating the 11-minute short film.

Keep reading... Show less
The Creative Process
Terry Notary in a movement capture suit during the filming of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Photo by Sigtor Kildal, Courtesy Notary

When Hollywood needs to build a fantasy world populated with extraordinary creatures, they call Terry Notary.

The former gymnast and circus performer got his start in film in 2000 when Ron Howard asked him to teach the actors how to move like Whos for How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Notary has since served as a movement choreographer, stunt coordinator and performer via motion capture technology for everything from the Planet of the Apes series to The Hobbit trilogy, Avatar, Avengers: Endgame and this summer's The Lion King.

Since opening the Industry Dance Academy with his wife, Rhonda, and partners Maia and Richard Suckle, Notary also offers movement workshops for actors in Los Angeles.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get Dance Magazine in your inbox