Patricia Zhou's haunting interpretation of Nacho Duato's Herrumbre is profound—her liquid movement and supernatural musicality reveal a maturity well beyond her 23 years. "It's emotionally draining to give so much onstage," she admits, "but every time I perform Herrumbre, I experience something new." Delicate yet daring, Zhou's dancing reshapes the classical mold at Staatsballett Berlin.

Zhou with Dominc Hodal and Alexander Akulov in Duato's Herrumbre Photo by Fernando Marcos, Courtesy Staatsballett Berlin


Zhou attributes her affinity with contemporary dance to early jazz and lyrical classes in her native Michigan. Though her training took a more classical route—she graduated from the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington, DC, participated in the Prix de Lausanne and completed a year's apprenticeship with The Royal Ballet in London in 2011—Berlin's eclectic repertoire has been the ideal fit for her. Whether sparkling in the trio of Balanchine's Emeralds, pushing her physical limit in Ohad Naharin's Secus or exploring new worlds in Duato works, both her versatility and emotional commitment shine every time she steps onstage.

Zhou, who is leaving Berlin to join L.A. Dance Project this fall, is still fine-tuning the balance between pushing and pacing herself. "Rehearsing and performing so many styles at once is exhausting," she explains. "But getting to explore new sides of myself onstage always makes the struggle worth it."

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