I turned up one morning to watch Eddie Villella’s company class at Miami City Ballet, as I do most mornings when I’m in Miami, and there at the barre was a dancer I’d never seen before—a ravishingly beautiful girl with immense natural charm who was working as hard, or harder, than anyone else in the room. After watching her for 10 minutes I sidled over to Villella and whispered, “Who is that girl? She’s a star! Give her everything!”

 

He’s used to tolerating my enthusiasms, but it was also clear that he didn’t totally disagree, even though he wasn’t going to say so. Her name was Patricia Delgado, he told me. She was 17, and she was an apprentice at the company, where Villella is artistic director. When later in the day I said more or less the same thing to Linda Villella, Eddie’s wife, who runs the company’s school, she just laughed and said, “Wait till you see her sister, Jeanette. She’s just as good!” I didn’t believe it—until I saw Jeanette in action when she came along two years later.

 

The Delgado sisters are not only extraordinary dancers, they’re extraordinary young women: ballerinas without a trace of pretension, self-satisfaction or opportunism. The reason isn’t hard to find, once you know their parents. Millie (Migdalia) is a psychologist with a PhD from the University of Miami; Zeke (Ezequiel), with a bachelor’s of science in industrial engineering and a master’s in education, is a math teacher. Like their daughters, they’re both completely grounded—as far from traditional ballet parents as it’s possible to get. When Patricia said she wanted to go to ballet school, that was fine with them—and it would have been just as fine if she’d wanted to take up water-skiing or raise chickens.

 

The senior Delgados saw, and see, their job as being there to support and advise their girls (when asked). At a crucial moment when Patricia had to decide whether to focus on dancing or to pursue an academic path (she was always at the top of her class), they helped clarify her choices and stood back. Luckily, Patricia knew that deep down she wanted to dance–not to be a ballerina, not to be a star, but to dance. And Jeanette wanted to do whatever her big sister was doing–never in a spirit of competition but in emulation. “I’m so lucky,” she says, “to have my older sister as my best friend.”

 

Millie’s family emigrated to Miami from Cuba soon after Castro came to power, when some family property was nationalized. They never regretted it; there’s none of that nostalgia for the old days. The girls, of course, are Miami-born and bred, went to Miami public schools, and led normal young American lives—with friends, activities and, in Jeanette’s case, dates. Patricia’s first and only date was with Matthew, a boy she met in high school, and that was that—a year ago they were married.

 

There have been only two major obstacles in Patricia’s professional life. One was a serious injury that kept her offstage, her foot in a boot, for an entire season. The other was worrying whether Matt, who had a good job in New York, could find an equally good job back in Miami. The alternative was too painful to consider, but Patricia—the realistic daughter of realistic parents—had to consider it. Everyone breathed a lot easier when the job came through.

 

Leaving Miami City Ballet would have been an emotional disaster for Patricia (not a professional one; any ballet company would be happy to have her). “I feel like a deep-rooted part of Edward’s company, of the creativity here, of the family environment. This is my place.” Villella returns the feeling: “She’s a total dancer,” he says. “She can grow in every direction. And apart from her extraordinary abilities, she’s such a delightful personality—she lights up any room she’s in, be it class, rehearsal or onstage.”

 

Observing her progress these past 10 years, I’ve noticed that even other dancers who might be envious of what she’s achieved have nothing negative to say about her as a person, although for a while there were remarks about her “weak” feet. Needless to say, she worked on them obsessively, and a year ago had a difficult operation to relieve her of almost constant pain: A small extra bone—it’s called an os trigonum—was removed from her ankle. For the first time, she now feels absolutely free to dance full-out, to stretch her technique without fear of hurting herself. You could see the difference this past season: She was not only radiant, but at 27, she was finally fully secure.

 

Her range is already large. How many dancers go effortlessly from the “Man I Love” pas de deux in  Who Cares? to “Sanguinic” in The Four Temperaments to In the Upper Room? She’s classical—Swanilda, Kitri, eventually Giselle—and she’s down and dirty: the sexy lead in Paul Taylor’s Piazzolla Caldera. And surely she’ll be one of the Juliets in the company’s upcoming production of the John Cranko version of the ballet. She also hopes to push herself in the direction of the pyrotechnical Balanchine ballets like Ballo della Regina and Ballet Imperial—in a way, Jeanette’s turf. Usually, it doesn’t serve sisters well to work in the same company, but the Delgados’ dance temperaments are so different that there’s no problem. Jeanette has a thrillingly blithe propulsiveness and rock-solid technique. It’s Patricia’s refinement, repose and allure that instantly grab the audience’s attention, and hold it. In Miami City Ballet, there’s room for them both.

Although Patricia is such an integral part of the repertoire now, she remains eager and modest. “I’ve never thought of what I do as ‘a career.’ I’ve always only wanted to dance wonderful roles. And one of the great things about Miami is that we don’t perform anything but the best choreography: Balanchine, Taylor, Tharp (we had a fabulous time with her when she was down here creating Nightspot on us), Robbins, the classics. I just go on working on my feet, on my line, hoping like everyone else that I’ll be cast.”

 

As for Villella, he sees Patricia Delgado as a perfect example of how the institution he founded 25 years ago can function. “She comes from Miami. She came through our school. She quickly made a wonderful impression on us and on our audience—she was so appealing we almost had to hold her back. She never makes problems. She’s always ready, willing and more than able. If every ballerina had her talent, her temperament and her looks, the lives of artistic directors like me would be a cakewalk!”


Robert Gottlieb, former editor-in-chief of Simon & Schuster, Alfred A. Knopf and The New Yorker, is the author of George Balanchine: The Ballet Maker and is currently the dance critic for The New York Observer.

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Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's 'The Nutcracker.' Photo by Rich Sofranko

Catching a performance of The Nutcracker has long been a holiday tradition for many families. And now, more and more companies are adding sensory-friendly elements to specific shows in an effort to make the classic ballet inclusive to children and adults with special needs.

While the accommodations vary depending on the company, many are presenting shorter versions of the ballet with more relaxed theater rules. Additionally, lower sound and stage light levels during the performance, as well as trained staff on hand, make The Nutcracker more accessible for those on the autism spectrum and others with special needs.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's performance will take place on Tuesday, December 26th, and they are one of the pioneer companies in presenting sensory-friendly performances of The Nutcracker (their first production was in 2013). PBT also offers sensory-friendly versions of Jorden Morris' Peter Pan and Lew Christensen's Beauty and the Beast throughout the year.

See our list of sensory-friendly performances, and check out each site for all of the details regarding their offerings.

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Your Best Body
Pilates hundred intermediate set-up, modeled by Jordan Miller. Photo by Emily Giacalone.

The Pilates hundred is a popular exercise used by many dancers for conditioning and warming up, but it's also one of the most misunderstood. Pumping your arms for 100 counts sounds simple enough, but it requires coordinated breathwork, a leg position that suits your abilities and proper alignment. Marimba Gold-Watts, who works with New York City Ballet dancers at her Pilates studio, Articulating Body, breaks down this surprisingly hard exercise. When done correctly, the benefits are threefold: "If you're doing it before class," she says, "the hundred is a great way to get your blood flowing and work on breath control and abdominal support all at once."

To Start

Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor. Nod your chin toward the front of your throat, and reach your fingertips long.

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Pointe Stars

At just 16 years old, the Bolshoi Ballet's Maria Alexandrova already had the makings of a great artist. In this variation from Coppélia, she portrays the carefree Swanilda with blithe, youthful ease.

When she bounds on stage in her perky pink tutu, you immediately notice her legs–they just go on forever. In the first sequence of steps she keeps her jetés and développés low, but then the phrase repeats and she lets her gorgeous extensions fly. She sails through Italian fouettés and whirls around in piqués en manège that get faster and faster. While she nails all the virtuosic movement, Alexandrova also pays beautiful attention to detail throughout the variation. Even the simplest steps become something exciting, like her precise pas de bourrées beginning at 1:03 that sing with musicality.

Swanilda has been one of Alexandrova's signature roles throughout her career. For a fun side by side, watch her perform the same variation almost 20 years later in this video. Although Alexandrova formally retired from the Bolshoi in February, she still performs frequently in Moscow and internationally as a guest artist. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!


Pointe Stars
Ingrid Silva and her dog, Frida Kahlo. Photo by Nathan Sayers for Pointe.

You're probably already following your favorite dancers on Instagram, but did you know that you can follow many of their dogs, too? We rounded up some of our favorite dog-centered accounts and hashtags to keep you pawsitively entertained (sorry, we can't help ourselves).

Cora and Maya (American Ballet Theatre's Sarah Lane and Luis Ribagorda)

Sarah Lane and Luis Ribagorda's pups Cora and Maya update their profile pretty frequently. Often accompanying Lane to the ABT studios, they can also be seen using tutus or piles of pink tights as dog beds.

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Pointe Stars
Vladislav Lantritov and Ekaterina Krysanova in "Taming of the Shrew." Photo by Alice Blangero, Courtesy Bolshoi Ballet.

If you haven't checked your local movie listings yet for this weekend, hop to it. The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema series and Fathom Events is broadcasting a performance of Jean-Christophe Maillot's The Taming of the Shrew to theaters nationwide on Sunday, November 19. (To see if it's playing near you and to purchase tickets, click here.) While the rest of the Bolshoi's cinema season features 19th- and 20th-century classics, The Taming of the Shrew gives audiences a chance to see the revered Moscow company in a thoroughly modern, 21st-century take on Shakespeare's famous play.

Aside from a limited run in New York City this July, American audiences have had little exposure to Maillot's 2014 production. To learn more, check out these two exclusive, behind-the-scenes webisodes below. Principal dancer Ekaterina Krysanova, who stars as the hotheaded Katharina, gives an intimate play-by-play of two major scenes in Act I. The first is her fiery rejection of three potential suitors (who all would prefer to marry Katharina's younger sister Bianca).

The second scene breaks down Katharina's first encounter with Petruchio (danced by the larger-than-life Vladislav Lantritov), the only man who seems to be able to challenge her. Here, too, we see the shrew's heart start to soften. (Don't miss her time-stopping attitude turn at 4:27.)

The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Series continues through June; for more details on upcoming screenings, click here.

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Smuin Ballet dancers Erica Felsch, Rex Wheeler, Mengjun Chen and Tessa Barbour in "White Christmas," choreographed by dancers Ben Needham-Wood and Michael Smuin. Photo by Keith Sutter, Courtesy Smuin Ballet.

Nutcracker-ed out? Or just can't get enough holiday ballets? These unique Nutcracker interpretations and non-Nutcracker productions will make your season bright.


The Hip Hop Nutcracker

Through December 30

Tchaikovsky's masterful Nutcracker score isn't just for classical ballet…

Hip Hop + a live DJ + an electric violinist unite in The Hip Hop Nutcracker, currently touring the U.S.

Familiar characters such Drosselmeyer, the Nutcracker, Mouse King and Marie (here called Maria-Clara) dance through an updated New York City storyline with choreography by Jennifer Weber, artistic director of the Brooklyn-based theatrical hip hop company Decadancetheatre.

Premiered in 2014, The Hip Hop Nutcracker is produced by New Jersey Performing Arts Center.

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