Ilaria Guerra only joined Alonzo King LINES Ballet in January, but she's already a towering presence in the San Francisco company—and not just because she's 6' tall. Guerra employs her seemingly infinite limbs with luscious fluidity and propulsive power, instinctive musicality and a self-assured presence. And as exquisitely as she embodies King's choreography, she also makes it entirely her own.
Guerra in Alonzo King's Sutra. Photo by Chris Hardy, Courtesy Mona Baroudi
Company: Alonzo King LINES Ballet
Hometown: Born in Turin, Italy, and grew up in Palos Verdes Estates, California
Training: Lauridsen Ballet Centre in Torrance, California; BFA in dance from the LINES program at Dominican University of California and a minor in arts administration
Accolades: Shared a 2016 Isadora Duncan Dance Award with partner Alexander Vargas for in this moment, performed with her previous company, dawsondancesf
The defiant one: Classically trained since age 9, Guerra found her calling at 12. "One of our close family friends said, 'Ilaria, the odds of you becoming a ballet dancer are very slim. It's probably not going to happen.' In my mind I was like, 'I'm gonna show you.' "
Great heights: When Guerra reached 6' as a high school sophomore, her teachers encouraged her to switch to modern dance. "That's what they tell tall people," she says with a shrug. Soon after, she attended the LINES summer program—and finally felt like she fit in. "They knew how to train a body like mine," she recalls. "They thought it was great that I had so much to work with." Today she's the tallest woman in the company, whose dancers range from 5' 10" to 6' 4".
"Tons of people have skills, but it's what's behind those skills,
what is being said. To have a contributor like that is brilliant." —Alonzo King
Getting to yes: Guerra auditioned for LINES—and got rejected—three times in four years. "I wasn't willing to say, 'Oh well, it didn't work out.' I just kept trying." After her fourth audition this January, she's now a permanent company member.
Strong start: LINES tours 15 to 20 weeks a year, and Guerra gave one of her first performances at Théâtre National de la Danse Chaillot in Paris. She and Jeffrey Van Sciver danced an intense duet from The Propelled Heart, with Grammy-winning vocalist Lisa Fischer singing live. "It doesn't really get much better than that," she muses.
What King is saying: "Dancers dance who they are," he says. "She is absolutely an original."
Keeping it real: Guerra responds viscerally to King's "very human" choreography. "It's real," she says. "Being my true self onstage, not trying to emulate or mimic anyone else, is the most honest way I can give to my audience."