Miami City Ballet's Simone Messmer seeks constant growth.
After dancing with American Ballet Theatre and then one season with San Francisco Ballet, you took a year off. How did you grow during that break?
I was really burnt-out. Taking a year off was invaluable to me. I went back to New York and started working with teacher Willy Burmann, who I have great trust in. He provided mental support, tough love and guidance, and got me back to thinking straight and feeling confident about my dancing.
Now that you're a principal at Miami City Ballet, which roles are you hoping to dance?
I'm excited to sink my teeth into all the Balanchine work—especially coming from artistic director Lourdes Lopez, who worked with him. We're working on his A Midsummer Night's Dream, and I've really fallen in love with Titania. And Serenade has always been my dream ballet.
To whom would you attribute your success?
Probably my mother. I used to be a competitive swimmer. At one point my dance teacher said, “You have to pick one or the other. You don't have time to be great at both." So my mother made me sit down and write my goals for swimming and my goals for ballet. And it says, “Join ABT by 16, get promoted, guest with different companies." She guided me and allowed those things to happen.
What advice would you give younger dancers on asking for what they want out of their career?
Don't ask for things too soon. Dancers demand very quickly when they get into companies. I was guilty of that when I joined ABT. I wanted, I wanted, I wanted until I took a step back and realized where I was and how things worked. Take a couple years to pace yourself and to learn from those with more experience.
If you weren't a dancer, what would you be?
Probably a writer. When I have a conversation, things don't necessarily come out exactly as I'd like. But when you write, you can go back and tweak it.
What would you take with you to a desert island?
A fire starter! I watch way too much “Naked and Afraid." Every time they don't bring a fire starter, they go hungry for weeks!
Of what accomplishment are you most proud?
I'm proud that I'm still growing and changing as an artist. I don't feel stagnant, I don't feel antsy, I don't feel stuck—I think that I'm continually moving forward.