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Xiomara Reyes racked up invaluable experience as a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre. Now, she's sharing that wisdom with students as head of The Washington School of Ballet. Pointe asked Reyes her best advice for dancers as they head back to class in 2017.

Reyes and Jared Nelson in TWB's production of Sleepy Hollow. Photo by Theo Kossenas, Courtesy TWB.

What's your goal for your students right now?

For me, the most important thing is that they get confident enough with their technique so they can move forward and incorporate their artistry.

 

How can dancers do that?

By following the music and trying to hear the differences in it. Like an adagio has a different kind of movement energy than a frappé. All the steps have their own energy.

 

What about students who feel like they're going through the motions at barre?

I was the kind of dancer who loved rehearsal, loved performing, but class was the hard part. So I completely understand. But I found that even when you are tired and burned out, if you are present in the moment and you try to feel the music in your body, it gives you new energy.

 

Reyes with a TWB student. Photo by Jim Lafferty, courtesy Dance Teacher.

Do you have any advice for the more timid dancers who stand at the back of the studio?

This may sound funny, but create a role, a persona that is not scared of being out there. But if you are really uncomfortable pushing your way forward, don't. Sometimes kids think they need to be in front, but when someone is really concentrating and focusing on getting better, the teacher can see them anywhere.

 

Any extra advice you'd offer to dancers going into 2017?

My main thing is whatever you do, enjoy it. Try to learn how to make that show. Sometimes we think, I’m going to smile bigger—that’s not necessarily what I’m talking about. I’m talking about really, truly enjoying something just because you love doing it. If we love dancing, it should show in a natural way. If you don’t feel comfortable with that, go back to the point of why you dance. Why are you spending so much time in the studio with the music and other people around? If you can enjoy that, all the time you are spending will make sense.

 

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Photo by Fabrizio Ferri, Courtesy TWB.

Just a year ago, Julie Kent and Xiomara Reyes took their final bows at American Ballet Theatre. Now, the two ABT stars will be working together even more closely. Kent, who was named artistic director of The Washington Ballet in March, announced today that she has appointed Reyes as head of The Washington School of Ballet, effective September 1. Reyes' husband, Rinat Imaev, a company teacher at ABT, will also join TWSB as senior faculty.

Outgoing school director Kee Juan Han announced his retirement in April, prompting a nationwide search. “I’ve always loved working with Julie at ABT, so I was very excited when she called and asked if we’d be interested in applying,” Reyes told Pointe in a phone interview. She and Imaev have been directing IBStage, a summer program in Barcelona, for four years, and the Cuban-born dancer is no stranger to Washington audiences: Last year she danced the role of Katrina Van Tassel  in the world premiere of Septime Webre’s Sleepy Hollow. Now, she’s getting better acquainted with the school’s workings. “Kee Juan has been amazing and very helpful in explaining everything that the position entails.”

Reyes and Jared Nelson in TWB's production of Sleepy Hollow. Photo by Theo Kassenas, Courtesy TWB.

As for any major changes, Reyes says that she and Kent want to focus on deepening the school’s relationship with TWB, “so that the school can nourish the company and so that the students can be inspired by the dancers.” There are no immediate plans to instill ABT’s National Training Curriculum. “It’s the kind of decision Julie and I need to talk about, because it’s a very big decision,” says Reyes. She is, however, excited to share aspects of her Cuban training with students. “I’m very influenced by what I call its ‘fearless approach,’” she says. “In Cuba, it was a wonderful way of making us work very hard and in friendly competition, but without putting people down. That’s one of the things I really cherish and that I look forward to implementing—that security of confidence in a dancer that allows you to be fearless.”

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