On the Side: Allyssa Bross

Jazz helps the Los Angeles Ballet principal feel free onstage.
Published in the August/September 2012 issue.

Photo by Erich Koyama

“When a ballerina can move with sharpness and attack as well as lyricism, her dancing becomes far more powerful.” —Allyssa Bross

Jazz dance was Allyssa Bross’s first love. “I started studying it at a small studio, and by the time I was 5 I was competing in jazz pieces,” says the Los Angeles Ballet principal, who grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina. “I was only taking ballet classes a couple of times a week, but jazz was every day. I loved that it was so bold and high-energy.”

As a teenager, she was bitten by the ballet bug. She began training at the North Carolina Dance Theatre School of Dance—and watching NCDT company members rehearse contemporary works by Alonzo King and Dwight Rhoden. “Sitting in on company rehearsals, something clicked,” she remembers. “A lot of the choreography had a hard, jazzy edge to it, and I realized that I would be able to use jazz to make my ballet performances better. Ballet was teaching me discipline, but jazz had already taught me how to be free onstage.”

Today, L.A. Ballet’s schedule makes it difficult for Bross to squeeze in more than the occasional jazz class. But she’s still in touch with her jazzy side. “We’re doing works by Sonya Tayeh and Mandy Moore, choreographers who’ve made jazz and contemporary pieces for ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’” she says. “They want parallel positions, they want hard-hitting movement. It can be difficult for ballet dancers to make that switch, but it all feels familiar to me.”