Lacey Escabar danced with an authority beyond her 16 years last spring at San Francisco Ballet School’s Student Showcase. With her Grace Kelly features and delicate arms and hands, she had an elegant stage presence. But what made Escabar stand out was her calm, unhurried musicality. Her movement seemed to breathe within the music.
“Lacey has an innate artistry,” says SF Ballet School associate director Lola de Avila. “She knows how to present herself. She’s a hard worker, very determined and clear. We see a future for her, though you never want to pressure your students.” De Avila personally selected Escabar at an open audition four years ago.
Escabar began dancing at her hometown studio in Fairfax, CA, at 3, and decided she wanted to be a professional dancer at 9 when her mother took her to see SFB’s Nutcracker. “I thought, ‘I don’t want to be in the audience one day thinking ‘I could have done that,’” she recalls.
At that time, she was already pursuing a demanding training schedule. She danced from 10 am to 7:30 pm six days a week, squeezing in schoolwork when she found an hour or two. Entering the prestigious SF Ballet School actually offered a more relaxed schedule. On weekdays, Escabar does schoolwork from 8 am to 11 am, then takes a technique class followed by pas de deux or pointe from12:30 to 3:40. On weekends, she has technique at 10 am, and in the spring, she has additional rehearsals afterwards.
Although the schedule is less grueling, Escabar says training at the SF Ballet School has pushed her harder. “At my old school, it was a more about quantity than quality,” she says. “Here, right away I had a lot of work to do on my turnout and getting deeper into plié for my jumps.” Escabar likes the range of teaching styles; Shannon Bresnahan is known to focus on mechanics, while Pascal Leroy gives classes that Escabar calls “more dancy.”
Escabar appreciates how each of the 18 students in her class receives equal attention. She says, “We’re all working together, striving to improve.”
She also likes having a wide range of principals to look up to in SFB, idolizing the dramatic Sarah Van Patten and the dainty Maria Kochetkova. Escabar hopes to be chosen for the school’s trainee program in her final year. Already she has performed as Clara in SFB’s Nutcracker twice, and as a little cupid in Don Quixote.
As for her hopes of being taken into SFB, Escabar is keeping her teacher’s words in mind. “ ‘Keep moving forward,’ ” Escabar says. “That’s Miss Shannon’s favorite saying. Coming here is the best decision I’ve made in my life.”
At a Glance
San Francisco Ballet School
Associate Director: Lola de Avila, who performed with Claude Giraud Ballet, the Royal Chamber Ballet of Spain, Ballet of Madrid and Teatro De La Zarzuela.
Technique Taught: Classical training adaptable to the demands of a stylistically wide repertoire.
Classes Offered: Technique, pointe, variations, pas de deux, character, music
Number Of Students: 325
Alumni: San Francisco Ballet, New York City Ballet, Boston Ballet, Houston Ballet, North Carolina Dance Theatre and many others
Focus: After a period of focus on Balanchine-style training under former associate director Gloria Govrin, under de Avila the San Francisco Ballet School has returned to a more international style of classicism that prepares dancers to perform a wide range of ballet styles. There is an emphasis on arms and épaulement, plus an unaffected classical way of moving.