In her early teens, Devon Teuscher performed the male jumping variation from Harald Lander's Études for her home studio, Vermont Ballet Theater and School. Her teacher, Alexander Nagiba, hadn't told her it was a men's variation, and Teuscher launched into the jetés with gusto and dedication. That, in short, represents the essence of Teuscher's spirit. A gifted American Ballet Theatre corps member with strong technique, unwavering discipline, and assured artistry, she has been entrusted with a growing number of soloist roles.
Statuesque—5' 7", with striking extensions that contribute to her commanding stage presence—Teuscher, 24, arrived at ABT with a precocious sense of maturity. Easy to spot with her swanlike neck and pure lines, she could be mistaken for a Russian ballerina, if it weren't for her very American versatility.
At 8, Teuscher (pronounced TOO-shur) began taking ballet with Deanna Doty in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. When her father was offered a job in Vermont, the family relocated, and she studied Vaganova technique at Vermont Ballet Theater. After summer intensives at Washington's Kirov Academy and Pacific Northwest Ballet School, she trained at ABT summer intensives for four years on scholarship.
In 2005, she earned a full scholarship to ABT's JKO School, eventually accepting an invitation to dance with the Studio Company. “Kirk Peterson, the director, was very strict in what he wanted," she says. “It prepared me for anything." A watershed moment came at 17, when she was cast as Caroline in Antony Tudor's Lilac Garden. She felt that she lacked the maturity to do the role justice. “Every step, every moment had a meaning." Despite her fears, she explored Caroline's complex sensitivities with imagination and clarity.
After apprenticing with the main company, Teuscher received a corps contract in 2008. She quickly found herself cast in technically tough soloist roles: a Flower Girl in Don Quixote; an Odalisque in Le Corsaire; the third Shade in La Bayadère; the pas de trois in Swan Lake. As Polyhymnia, Apollo's muse of pantomime, she danced with one finger pressed to her lips with finesse and charm.
Teuscher's blossoming has not gone unnoticed. “It's incredibly gratifying to see how Devon has developed since she was a student in JKO," says ABT artistic director Kevin McKenzie. “She has an ease of moving in a very full way."
Last year, Teuscher danced her first Myrtha. Once she conquered the steps, Teuscher says, “I built the character. Myrtha is a woman who's very angry at being betrayed—we've all been there."
She feels equally comfortable in contemporary repertoire, and particularly loved Merce Cunningham's Duets. An innately musical dancer, she took to the challenge of rehearsing without music and developing a rhythmic trust with her partner.
Eventually she hopes to dance more roles that dig deeply into character. “Right now I do lots that put on a good show of technique," she says. “I'd love parts that would allow me to develop my artistic side more."
For the last few years, Teuscher has been dating ABT soloist Alexandre Hammoudi. They're raising a pet brood that includes Leo, Hammoudi's Doberman Pinscher, and Teuscher's Cavapoo, Riley, that are welcome in the ABT studios.
Family means a lot to Teuscher; during her time off, she hangs with her parents in Vermont and her sister in Utah.
“People sometimes think I come off as very serious," says Teuscher. “But I'm extremely goofy and silly. It takes a while to get to know me, but once you do, you're kind of annoyed at how goofy I am."
However, her classical foundation remains her touchstone. “I learned very classical port de bras and I strive to keep it correct at all costs," she says. “My teachers told me: 'Don't let someone change your port de bras, because what you do is very natural.' " Here's hoping more opportunities to show her natural strengths come soon.