Antonio Morillo in Kate Webb's Stellar Syncopations

Jackie Sajewski, Courtesy Verb Ballets

Verb Ballets' Antonio Morillo Launched His Career While He Was Still a College Student

This is one of a series of stories on recent graduates' on-campus experiences—and the connections they made that jump-started their dance careers. Antonio Morillo graduated from the University of South Florida with a BFA in ballet performance in 2017.

For Antonio Morillo, company life started before he had his diploma. During his senior year at the University of South Florida, he was offered a contract with Verb Ballets near Cleveland, Ohio, and finished his degree remotely. For his final production credit, he choreographed a piece on his fellow company members. It was later chosen to be performed as part of the Martha Graham Studio Series' NEXT@Graham event in 2017. "It was wild," says Morillo.


Discovering his passion: He initially started college studying vocal performance at Seminole State College and then musical theater at Point Park University. There, a pivotal class taught by a former Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre dancer helped him realize that he wanted to shift his focus to ballet. "I fell in love with the art," he says. Morillo then earned an associate's in dance from Valencia College before he transferred to USF to earn his BFA in ballet performance.

Antonio \u200bMorillo, in a tuxedo, does an assembl\u00e9, while six women in pastel dresses and pointe shoes stand behind him in tendu derri\u00e8re.

Antonio Morillo in performance with Verb Ballets

Bill Naiman, Courtesy Verb Ballets

Growth and versatility: Morillo was exposed to a wide range of styles at USF, including Russian and Cuban ballet techniques, improvisation and release-based methods. "The close-knit community collaboration between the teachers allowed me to become much more versatile than I was when I arrived," he says, "and it's helped me to this day."

A man of many hats: Verb Ballets' repertoire, which ranges from classical ballet to Graham to works created by company members, requires Morillo to change styles and performance qualities at the flip of a coin. "I knew I wanted to be in a diverse repertory company," he says. "It's very challenging, but it's very rewarding. Not many places have that kind of 'best of both worlds' approach."

\u200bAntonio \u200bMorillo partners a female dancer, lifting her to shoulder height as she extends her front leg forward and arches her torso back.

Antonio Morillo in performance with Verb Ballets

Courtesy Verb Ballets

Cuban collaboration: Morillo has been deeply inspired by Verb Ballets' long-term partnership with Laura Alonso's ProDanza in Havana, Cuba. "I've had two chances to perform in internationally renowned theaters, and the dancers are the most humble and inspiring people. I'm a Cuban American and my dad was born in Cuba, so I even had the chance to take pictures of his old family home."

Advice for dancers considering college: "Look at programs that have styles, techniques or educational classes you haven't done before. Try to use your college education as a chance to be exposed to new things. You may not want to do them in the long term, but they will inform your creative potential and options as a dancer."

Latest Posts


Left to right: Dance Theatre of Harlem's Daphne Lee, Amanda Smith, Lindsey Donnell and Alexandra Hutchinson in a scene from Dancing Through Harlem. Derek Brockington, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem

Dancers Share Their Key Takeaways After a Year of Dancing on Film

Creating dances specifically for film has become one of the most effective ways that ballet companies have connected with audiences and kept dancers employed during the pandemic. Around the world, dance organizations are finding opportunities through digital seasons, whether conceiving cinematic, site-specific pieces or filming works within a traditional theater. And while there is a consistent sentiment that nothing will ever substitute the thrill of a live show, dancers are embracing this new way of performing.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

#TBT: Mikhail Baryshnikov in "Fancy Free" (1981)

In Jerome Robbins's 1944 ballet Fancy Free, three sailors on leave spend the day at a bar, attempting to woo two young women by out-dancing and out-charming one another. In this clip from 1981, Mikhail Baryshnikov, who was then both the artistic director of American Ballet Theatre and a leading performer with the company, pulls out all the stops to win the ladies' affections.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Bethany Kirby, Courtesy Tulsa Ballet

An Infectious-Disease Physician on What Vaccines Mean for Ballet

As the coronavirus pandemic grinds into its second year, the toll on ballet companies—and dancers—has been steep. How long before dancers can rehearse and perform as they once did?

Like most things, the return to normal for ballet seems to hinge on vaccinations. Just over 22 percent of people in the U.S. are now vaccinated, a way from the estimated 70 to 85 percent experts believe can bring back something similar to pre-pandemic life.

But what would it mean for 100 percent of a ballet company to be vaccinated? Tulsa Ballet artistic director Marcello Angelini is about to find out—and hopes it brings the return of big ballets on the big stage.

"I don't think companies like ours can survive doing work for eight dancers in masks," Angelini says. "If we want to work, dance, and be in front of an audience consistently and with the large works that pay the bills, immunization is the only road that leads there."

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks