On the Rise: Isabella DeVivo

June 30, 2014
Dynamic and musical, the new SFB corps member already has leading roles.

DeVivo in Myles Thatcher’s
Stone and Steel. Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB.

Few first-year corps members dance featured roles in ballets by Alexei Ratmansky and Liam Scarlett. But San Francisco Ballet’s 19-year-old Isabella DeVivo is the exception that proves the rule. In her first months with the company, the petite yet steely dancer found herself in a rehearsal learning the same parts as her idols Maria Kochetkova and Frances Chung. By season’s end, she’d step into their shoes in Ratmansky’s From Foreign Lands. “I was a little starstruck for a few days, and I couldn’t let myself relax and do a step,” she recalls. “Then I got a grip and said to myself, ‘I’m in here to rehearse this, not watch them rehearse this.’ ”

During her nine years in New York’s School of American Ballet, DeVivo appeared in children’s roles with New York City Ballet and spent several months playing Chita Rivera as a youngster in Rivera’s Broadway show The Dancer’s Life. Rivera took DeVivo under her wing and advised her to work hard and go after what she wanted, advice that DeVivo has taken to heart. It helped her when she had to perform the roles in the Ratmansky piece and Scarlett’s Hummingbird. Her authority came through in her crisp musical phrasing and confident attack.

“Isabella really steps up to a challenge if you give her one. She’s hungry for it.”

—Myles Thatcher

“I think there’s a big difference between hard work and smart work, and Isabella is definitely a smart worker,” says Myles Thatcher, a fellow corps member who cast her in his ballet Stone and Steel when DeVivo was a trainee with the company. “She has such a great understanding of dynamic—it’s the way she can inherently know how to use her body to fill out a phrase.”

DeVivo relishes every opportunity she gets. “I just want to improve,” she says. “When I wake up in the morning, I think: I just want to be better than yesterday.”