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This Houston Ballet Soloist Dances a Fiery Kitri and Geeks Out Over Bill Nye the Science Guy

Mónica Gómez overcame her shyness and performed a nuanced Kitri. Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

Mónica Gómez became Houston Ballet's newest It girl overnight after her sensational April performance of Kitri. All fire, but with ample doses of flash, Gómez brought her natural star power to the role's nuances. "I am a very shy person," says the soloist, "so I had to work on my sass." Her richly textured dancing, combined with her incredibly expressive eyes and virtuosity, created magic onstage.


Company: Houston Ballet

Hometown: Havana, Cuba

Training: Cuban National Ballet School

Age: 26

Accolades: International Ballet Competition in Havana (grand prix, gold for pas de deux)

Breakout role: Gómez danced Princess Stephanie in Sir Kenneth MacMillan's epic historical ballet Mayerling last September, only a month after the city was devastated by Hurricane Harvey. She was promoted to soloist during the run. "It was so dramatic and the first time I had to convey such suffering," she says.

Gómez and Charles Yoshiyama rehearsing for The Tempest. Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

Time well spent: Gómez built her powerhouse technique by putting in the hours with Ramona de Saa and her other Cuban teachers: Fernando, Alberto and Alicia Alonso; and Martha Iris Fernandez, Svetlana Ballester and Loipa Araújo. "It wasn't unusual for us to stay after hours," she says. "There's a lot of repetition in our training, which is why we are so strong. I love to turn and I'm not bad at it."

"I hope she will be a principal soon. That is her trajectory." —Stanton Welch

Havana to Houston: Coming to the U.S. was a choice for Gómez's artistic growth, and Houston Ballet was her first-pick company. "I've been able to dance so much work by other choreographers, and the company is so supportive. Everyone cheers for you. It's like a big family." Of course, being here has come at a cost. "I miss my family and my beautiful city so much."

What Stanton Welch is saying: "She is really lifting our game and helping us become an international company," says Houston Ballet's artistic director. "She's brave, fearless. Her dedication is extraordinary."

Biggest challenge so far: "Being a bird!" Gómez made her Odette/Odile debut in June in Welch's Swan Lake, showing off a stoic yet elegant Odette and a diabolical fierceness as Odile. "The role of Odette/Odile is so surreal. But in this version we also get to be a maiden, so that is more relatable."

Gómez and company artists rehearsing Serenade. Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

Life outside of the studio: On days off, Gómez bikes in the park, and she has taken to Houston's green spaces with verve. "I love nature," she says. "I also love TV like a normal person. 'Bill Nye the Science Guy' is my fave show."

What's on her bucket list: "I've always wanted to dance Manon and Giselle, of course."

Superpower: "I love salsa dancing! It's my passion. And lucky for me there are fabulous Houston social clubs to go to."

Broadway
Courtesy Macy's, Inc.

As you're prepping your Thanksgiving meal, why not throw in a dash of dance?

This year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is stuffed (pun intended) with performances from four stellar Broadway shows, the Radio City Rockettes and students from three New York City dance institutions.

Tune in to NBC November 28 from 9 am to noon (in all time zones), or catch the rebroadcast at 2 pm (also in all time zones). Here's what's in store:

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Sponsored by NYCDA
Ailey II artistic director Troy Powell teaching an Ailey Workshop at NYCDA. Courtesy NYCDA

Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.

"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."

Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.

Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:

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Rant & Rave
Sergei Polunin. Photo by British Broadcasting Corporation and Polunin Ltd., Courtesy Sundance Selects.

Last week, Variety reported that Sergei Polunin would reunite with the team behind Dancer for another documentary. "Where 'Dancer' looked at his whole life, family and influences," director Steven Cantor said, " 'Satori' will focus more squarely on his creative process as performer and, for the first time ever, choreographer." The title references a poorly received evening of work by the same name first presented by Polunin in 2017. (It recently toured to Moscow and St. Petersburg.)

I cannot be the only person wondering why we should care.

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Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
Left: Hurricane Harvey damage in Houston Ballet's Dance Lab; Courtesy Harlequin. Right: The Dance Lab pre-Harvey; Nic Lehoux, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.

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