Juliet Doherty looking out from the Radio City Music Hall stage
A list of Clara alumnae from Radio City's Christmas Spectacular reads like a star-studded, international gala program: Tiler Peck and Brittany Pollack of New York City Ballet (and Broadway), Meaghan Grace Hinkis of The Royal Ballet, Whitney Jensen of Norwegian National Ballet and more. Madison Square Garden's casting requirements for the role are simple: The dancer should be 4' 10" and under, appear to be 14 years old or younger and have strong ballet technique and pointework.
The unspoken requisite? They need abundant tenacity at a very young age.
The PNB corps member has more than a hint of bravura.
Late fall afternoons at Seattle’s Pacific Northwest Ballet mean Nutcracker rehearsals, and Angelica Generosa throws herself into the choreography. Despite the fast directional changes, rapid turns and shifting patterns that make up choreographer Kent Stowell’s steps for Snowflakes and Flowers, her port de bras remains crisp and she looks unflustered. This clarity has become a Generosa hallmark—serenity with just a hint of bravura neatly tucked away.
Right: Generosa with principal Jonathan Porretta in Andrew Bartee’s arms that work. Photo by Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB.
At 20 years old, Generosa has emerged as a PNB corps member to watch, and choreographers working with the company—like Twyla Tharp—have begun to take note. But even as a student, she stood out. Artistic director Peter Boal remembers her performance at a School of American Ballet annual workshop (he subsequently invited her to join PNB as an apprentice). “She took the stage as a last-minute fill-in for Stars and Stripes at age 15,” says Boal. “She was not only fearless but technically accomplished, and she won a lot of hearts with her darling stage presence. She’s all that and more now.”
Generosa, whose parents come from the Philippines, started dancing at age 4 in South River, New Jersey, when they put her in dance class as a way to channel her energy. Soon she was studying ballet, tap, jazz and lyrical. Her first big opportunity came at 12, when she performed the role of Clara in The Radio City Christmas Spectacular. It was then that she realized she would have to decide, she says, whether to be a “Broadway jazz kid” or a ballerina. After a summer at SAB, and an invitation to stay year-round, ballet won out. She commuted from South River to SAB for four years, receiving the school’s prestigious Mae L. Wien Award upon graduation.
When Boal offered Generosa a PNB apprenticeship, he suggested she spend a few months in the PNB School’s professional division to help her adapt to the company’s style. She had never even visited Seattle, but, ready for something new, she came and gave it her all. A year after her apprenticeship started, she joined the corps. That season, she was chosen for a small featured role in choreographer Alexei Ratmansky’s Don Quixote.
Though it’s only her second year as a company member, this season may well represent a breakthrough for Generosa. For one, she caught the attention of Twyla Tharp, who featured her in the premiere of Waiting at the Station in the company’s all-Tharp season opener. Generosa cites her experience with Tharp as formative. The combination of Tharp’s “positive vibe and criticism” appealed to her, and Tharp’s notably high expectations pushed Generosa into new territories of movement. Originating a Tharp role also helped her grow in a creative sense. “Twyla likes to let personality shine through a dancer,” says Generosa. “Of course, she wants what she wants, but she allows us to express ourselves through her steps.”
Though she relished the contemporary quality of Tharp’s movement, Generosa sees herself as “a virtuoso classical dancer,” a lover of big jumps and technical feats. This comes as no surprise given her assured stage presence, and the way her upper body retains its ease no matter what her feet do. PNB has a varied repertoire, however, and with her well-rounded training, she has the potential to shine in a range of roles.
Shuffling between classical and contemporary is becoming the new norm for Generosa. In addition to learning the Gold and Silver variations for The Sleeping Beauty, she will learn Molissa Fenley’s State of Darkness, a 34-minute solo set to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring which is on the company’s lineup for March. Generosa is hungry for new experiences, and Boal is confident in her ability. “Her technique is so secure that she doesn’t need to worry about it; she’s free to focus on musical phrasing and interacting with her partners and her audience,” he says. On top of that, “her presence literally jumps over the footlights. She’s on the cusp of a brilliant future.”
Anna Waller lives in Seattle, Washington, where she performs, teaches and writes about dance and edits for seattledances.com.