On the Rise: Delgado sisters

July 24, 2007
In Spanish, “delgado” can mean either slim or smart. Both connotations fit the Delgado sisters, Jeannette and Patricia, who dance with the Miami City Ballet. Trained in the MCB  School, they represent a new breed of home-grown talent, able to move from classical to neoclassical to contemporary roles. Both sisters claim mutual support for each other’s  careers and say their parents (Mom’s a psychologist, Dad a teacher and basketball coach) never compared the sisters or made competition an issue. “We’re always there for each other,” says Jeanette.
Jeanette Delgado

With her large, expressive eyes and beautifully proportioned body, Jeanette Delgado qualifies as a head-turner, even in Miami’s model-obsessed South Beach. But when she dances, it’s her steely technical strength wrapped in luscious lyricism that speaks so eloquently. Although she joined Miami’s corps de ballet just last year, she has already been singled out to dance solo roles.
“When she dances, her body sings,” says Edward Villella, artistic director of MCB. “We can provide her with technique, style, understanding, and attack, but Jeanette is a talent with unusual awareness and control. She’s a natural dancer.”
At age 9, Delgado entered the MCB School, where former American Ballet Theatre dancer Nancy Raffa served as Delgado’s primary teacher and coach, emphasizing a balance of technique and artistry. In the school performances, Delgado demonstrated precocious skill, dancing the “White Swan” pas de deux, as well as excerpts from
and Balanchine’s Who Cares?
She entered the company after a year’s apprenticeship—and her career took flight. First off, former Paul Taylor dancer Francie Huber chose Jeanette to perform her steamy principal female role as the worldly outsider in Taylor’s charcoal-fiery
Piazzola Caldera
—not an easy task for a 19-year-old. “I just wanted to do exactly what she was doing,” says Delgado. “Her movements were so amazing.” Trey McIntyre also plucked her for his new ballet. Meanwhile, Delgado nailed two demanding variations from Balanchine’s Divertimento No. 15, then stepped in for an injured dancer in the fiendish solo role of Ballet Imperial—also referred to as “Ballet Impossible.” “That was tough stamina-wise, very puffy” she says, although you’d never know it from her smooth rendition of the part.
Perhaps the role most emblematic of Delgado’s gifts is the Dewdrop in Balanchine’s
The Nutcracker
. A study in coordination, musicality, and graciousness, she blends effortless turns with silky phrasing that reminds everyone why ballet can be so joyful. 

—Joseph Carman
Patricia Delgado

Of course, there’s her smile—the hallmark of a radiant disposition. But, when Patricia Delgado dances with MCB, an expressive glow holds wider dominion. It comes through the high-noon energy animating her every move. Her pointes spark; her arms rise as if unveiling sculpture; and, when her leg swings out into a forthright arabesque, it’s like a candid remark from the young, the bright, and the beautiful.
Surprisingly, she confesses, “I wasn’t born to ballet.” Not that anyone would notice. Speed? She’s got it—managing, with growing aplomb, the hair-spin turns of Balanchine’s panoramic peaks. (No wonder Merrill Ashley cast her as the lead in
Ballo della Regina
while coaching the company.) Strength? Patricia’s always working at it—and that’s not just about punching out accents all the way to the finale. The force of intelligence also has to be there. She likes to quote Villella, saying, “Ballet has a mind-driven vitality.”
And drive it she does. MCB ballet mistress Roma Sosenko comments, “Even in
La Sonnambula
, which I first thought would be a stretch, she grew from rehearsal to rehearsal, doing a lot of the work herself.” Does she ever have to keep this 22-year-old Cuban American on task? “Please!” Sosenko says, laughing. “I have to throw her out of the studio!”
In that habitat, Delgado has thrived since joining MCB’s school as a pre-teen after training with other local teachers. She remembers how she’d be stretching in the hallway one moment and dreamily peeking in at the company rehearsals the next. In 2000 she joined an apprentice. After a summer intensive at ABT, she got to do
Stars and Stripes
for her first solo.
“I was taught all the steps by myself, so at the company rehearsal I felt thrown into it,” Delgado admits. “But nobody looked down at me. They helped me assimilate.”
Other challenges followed, including having to cope with an ankle injury, but last Christmas
The Nutcracker
worked its magic, clinching Delgado’s promotion to soloist. “I grew up physically and emotionally doing Sugar Plum,” she says. “Something that once seemed so out of reach became reality.”
Yet she keeps turning the pages of the fairy tale, which now include her Swanilda in
. “I’ve been given so many opportunities,” she says. “But there isn’t a principal role I wouldn’t want to do.” Those coming chapters promise to be equally spell-binding.
—Guillermo Perez