Petite and fine-boned, American Ballet Theatre's Rachel Richardson can look younger than her 21 years, vulnerable in a way that makes you want to give her a hug. That is, until she begins to move. Elegant and precise, with beautifully articulated legs and feet, Richardson radi- ates authority onstage, commanding attention rather than asking for it. There's a lot of power in that delicate frame.
A star of ABT's Studio Company, Richardson at first felt a bit awed by the big-pond environment of the main troupe, which she joined in 2015. "In the beginning, I was scared even to choose a spot in the center during class," she says. But early opportunities—particularly the Breadcrumb Fairy and the Gold Fairy in Alexei Ratmansky's Sleeping Beauty, roles she danced soon after becoming a full company member—helped her find her voice. "Those parts pushed me to acknowledge that I had valid things to say as a dancer and an artist," she says.
While her small stature makes her a natural fit for fairy roles, Richardson is eager to explore parts that go against type. "I'd like to dance things I can't immediately imagine myself doing," she says. "Something powerful would be fun—something mean. I'm sure I can do more than I think I can, and I want to start to see all the different sides of myself."