Stella DiPasquale. Courtesy Joy Jaworski.

This 11-Year-Old Isn't Letting Her Alopecia Stop Her From Dancing Marie in "The Nutcracker"

Eleven-year-old Stella DiPasquale is preparing to make her debut as Marie this weekend in Fadeyev Ballet's Nutcracker in Greenvale, New York. Decked out in curls and party frills onstage, she'll stand out as the lucky girl who is given a nutcracker doll on Christmas Eve. In rehearsals, however, she stands out for another reason, too: DiPasquale, who suffers from alopecia, has no hair.


A stage photo of Nutcracker of four young girls dressed in colorful party dresses and soft shoes. Stella DiPasquale wears a purple dress and a brown wig.

Stella DiPasquale (far left, in purple) as Marie's friend in Fadeyev Ballet's The Nutcracker last year. DiPasquale prefers to wear a wig onstage to be more fully in character.

Courtesy Fadeyev Ballet

Alopecia is an autoimmune skin disease that affects about 2 percent of the U.S. population, causing hair loss on some or all of the head or body. DiPasquale, a sixth-grader from Glen Head, NY, was diagnosed about a year ago. Her hair first fell out in patches, but within a few months, she had lost her hair completely.

Yet DiPasquale is hardly fazed by the trauma of the past year. "We bought a lot of wigs at first," she says, laughing. While she plans to wear a wig onstage to be fully in character as Marie, in rehearsals, class and everyday life, she prefers to go natural, finding it most comfortable without wigs or hats, especially in ballet class. DiPasquale, who's been dancing since she was two and also does gymnastics and aerial silks, couldn't abide by anything that got in the way of her flying through the air.

A black and white photo of Stella DiPasquale in a leotard, skirt and pointe shoes, crouched down. Stella has no hair.

Stella DiPasquale

Courtesy Joy Jaworski

DiPasquale admits that after she lost her hair, it was easier to feel like herself at ballet, rather than at school. "All my friends are at ballet and I talk to them a lot," she says. In the close-knit studio environment, everyone knew what she was going through, while at school most of the other students were confused about what could be wrong. DiPasquale decided to get in front of her classmates' questions. She gave a presentation for her entire school to explain the disease and encouraged everyone to participate in a fundraiser she had organized for Wigs for Kids, a charity that provides free wigs to kids in need.

DiPasquale has the natural drive to be a leader, and the transition she's gone through in the past year has only compelled her to do more. Fadeyev Ballet's artistic director Slava Fadeyev and ballet mistress Juliana Fadeyev say that DiPasquale's leadership qualities are why they were confident in selecting her to dance Marie this year. "Stella has the work ethic and determination to dance the role, and she is fearless in her approach to trying something new," says Juliana. This year is DiPasquale's sixth time dancing Nutcracker, and as she talks about all the roles she's danced—soldiers, tea, candy cane, party girl—it brings her easy confidence into focus. She speaks of her rehearsal process for Marie as challenging, but fun, knowing her hard work in preparation will make her performances more relaxed and satisfying. DiPasquale will also be dancing the lead mouse in Fadeyev Ballet's production with the school's youngest students, a role which she is looking forward to just as much as Marie.

Stella DiPasquale in Fadeyev Ballet's production of La Bayadère last summer. Stella is in front on the far right.

Courtesy Fadeyev Ballet

DiPasquale aspires to dance professionally one day and cites Misty Copeland as one of her inspirations. It's not hard to draw a parallel between Copeland's influence on the ballet world and the fact that DiPasquale doesn't give a second thought about looking different than most other dancers. For anyone doubting their ability to find a place in the ballet world, DiPasquale speaks up in defiance. "I would tell everyone it's okay to dance," she says. She also notes that her lack of hair does make her stand out, but it also helps her to grow as a dancer. And at the end of the day, that's what matters to DiPasquale. From starting pointe work to understudying new roles, she's hardly preoccupied with what's on her head, but with all that she is learning.

Latest Posts


Getty Images

How Can I Stay Motivated While Training at Home?

Ethan Ahuero was having a good year: he was in his first season dancing with Kansas City Ballet II and had been presented with the opportunity to choreograph on the second company. "The day before we shut down I had a rehearsal, and I was so happy," Ahuero says. "The piece was coming together and this was the first time I felt really proud of my creative process."

Suddenly, the coronavirus pandemic brought everything to a halt. With the company's season cut short and the studios closed, Ahuero found himself attempting to continue dancing from home, with his choreography project put on hold. Like many other dancers around the world, Ahuero is dealing with disappointment while struggling to stay motivated.

Keeping up with daily ballet classes may feel difficult right now; inspiration can seem hard to come by when you're following along on Zoom and short on space at home. Below are a few simple tips for finding new ways to stay motivated.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Courtesy Goh Academy

Pro-Pro Priorities: The Top Skills to Focus on During Your Final Training Years

As told to Rachel Caldwell

Finding the right pre-professional training program can be daunting. Then once you're there, what should you focus on in order to succeed? To shine some light on the topic, we talked to five leading teachers and directors who have seen scores of students move on to flourishing ballet careers. Here's what they suggested for young dancers on the pre-professional track.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Tulsa Ballet in Ma Cong's Tchaikovsky: The Man Behind the Music. Kate Luber Photography, Courtesy Tulsa Ballet.

Updated: Mark Your Calendars for These Online Ballet Performances

Updated on 5/21/2020

Since COVID-19 has forced ballet companies around the world to cancel performances—and even the remainder of their seasons—many are keeping their audiences engaged by streaming or posting pre-recorded performances onto their websites or social media channels. To help keep you inspired during these challenging times, we've put together a list of upcoming streaming events and digital performances.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks