Sasha De Sola and Carlo Di Lanno in The Sleeping Beauty. Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB.

San Francisco Ballet Principal Sasha De Sola on Becoming Aurora

The first time I saw Sleeping Beauty was on video, the Kirov version with Larissa Lezhnina. The music for the first entrance gave me butterflies. Aurora comes out, and it captured my heart. Larissa coached me for my first season of Aurora, and just the fact that we were sharing the same studio—I couldn't get over it. One of the things she encouraged me to explore is after Aurora faints: You get back up, you look up at your parents and re-center yourself. For me, what feels natural is that you don't want anyone to worry. Maybe there is a moment where you get a little embarrassed. It's those small moments that make it feel very personal to me.


I always hear that Aurora is not a very dramatic role. I disagree—she has to go through a distinct transformation. To capture that 16-year-old essence, I think about when I was 16, which is when I started as an apprentice at SFB, and felt like a child acting like an adult. Aurora has moments of innocence and tenderness, but she finds her voice and her independence as a woman.

Doing my first Rose Adagio onstage, I was very, very nervous. I stepped up for the first attitude and I got super-scared, and I thought, You've done the work. You can do it. Then I trusted my body to do what I had to do. I ask my suitors to give me 10 minutes before the curtain goes up, and we try the attitude balances, the promenades and pirouettes. It's all about where they offer their hand—if it's in the wrong place, I just have to power through. But I try as much as possible to not have much weight on them at all, so that when I release the hand it's not a huge change.

Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB

What I've always loved about Sleeping Beauty is how closely the music is linked with the choreography. In Aurora's first-act variation, she goes through a series of hops on pointe, and at the end of the Rose Adagio there's an arpeggio when she does a series of bourrées to fifth position. That's her youth and exuberance, and then she reins it back in before the diagonal of pirouettes. In the second act there needs to be this ethereal, romantic quality in order to show her maturity, so the wedding will make sense. Creating that arc has been the biggest challenge.

I don't like to watch the Prologue—if I'm already drawn into the story, my entrance doesn't feel fresh. I stay in my own world up until the first act begins, and I visualize my birthday party. It's all about tricking yourself.

Regardless of what I'm dancing, I always take a clean, proper ballet class in the morning. I never skip that, ever. And every single class I practice my attitude balance.

TIP: "Eye contact is very empowering. In the Rose Adagio, eye contact helps me be present with my suitors, versus concentrated on what I have to do. Your energy gets into sync."

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Peter Mueller, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet

2020 Stars of the Corps: 10 Dancers Making Strides In and Out of the Spotlight

The corps de ballet make up the backbone of every company. In our Fall 2020 issue, we highlighted 10 ensemble standouts to keep your eye on. Click on their names to learn more!

Dara Holmes, Joffrey Ballet

A male dancer catches a female dancer in his right arm as she wraps her left arm around his shoulder and executes a high arabesque on pointe. Both wear white costumes and dance in front of a blue backdrop onstage.

Dara Holmes and Edson Barbosa in Myles Thatcher's Body of Your Dreams

Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Joffrey Ballet

Wanyue Qiao, American Ballet Theatre

Wearing a powder blue tutu, cropped light yellow top and feather tiara, Wanyue Qiao does a piqu\u00e9 retir\u00e9 on pointe on her left leg and pulls her right arm in towards her.

Wanyue Qiao as an Odalisque in Konstantin Sergeyev's Le Corsaire

Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT

Joshua Guillemot-Rodgerson, Houston Ballet

Three male dancers in tight-fitting, multicolored costumes stand in positions of ascending height from left to right. All extend their right arms out in front of them.

Joshua Guillemot-Rodgerson (far right) with Saul Newport and Austen Acevedo in Oliver Halkowich's Following

Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet

Leah McFadden, Colorado Ballet

Wearing a white pixie wig and a short light-pink tunic costume, a female ballet dancer poses in attitude front on pointe with her left arm bent across her ribs and her right hand held below her chin.

Leah McFadden as Amour in Colorado Ballet's production of Don Quixote

Mike Watson, Courtesy Colorado Ballet

Maria Coelho, Tulsa Ballet

Maria Coelho and Sasha Chernjavsky in Andy Blankenbuehler's Remember Our Song

Kate Lubar, Courtesy Tulsa Ballet

Alexander Reneff-Olson, San Francisco Ballet

A ballerina in a black feathered tutu stands triumphantly in sous-sus, holding the hand of a male dancer in a dark cloak with feathers underneath who raises his left hand in the air.

Alexander Reneff-Olson (right) as Von Rothbart with San Francisco Ballet principal Yuan Yuan Tan in Swan Lake

Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB

India Bradley, New York City Ballet

Wearing a blue dance dress with rhinestone embellishments and a sparkly tiara, India Bradley finishes a move with her arms out to the side and hands slightly flexed.

India Bradley practices backstage before a performance of Balanchine's Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2.

Erin Baiano, Courtesy NYCB

Bella Ureta, Cincinnati Ballet

Wearing a white dress with pink corset, Bella Ureta does a first arabesque on pointe in front of an onstage stone wall.

Bella Ureta performs the Act I Pas de Trois in Kirk Peterson's Swan Lake

Hiromi Platt, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet

Alejándro Gonzales, Oklahoma City Ballet

Dressed in a green bell-boy costume and hat, Alejandro Gonz\u00e1lez does a saut\u00e9 with his left leg in retir\u00e9 and his arms in a long diagonal from right to left. Other dancers in late 19-century period costumes watch him around the stage.

Alejandro González in Michael Pink's Dracula at Oklahoma City Ballet.

Kate Luber, Courtesy Oklahoma City Ballet

Nina Fernandes, Miami City Ballet

Wearing a long white tutu and crown, Nina Fernandes does a saut de chat in front of a wintery backdrop as snow falls from the top of the stage.

Nina Fernandes in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker

Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Miami City Ballet

#TBT: Lucia Lacarra and Cyril Pierre in "Thaïs Pas De Deux" (2008)

When Sir Frederick Ashton premiered Thaïs Pas de Deux, a duet set to the "Méditation" interlude from Jules Massenet's opera Thaïs, the ballet was immediately acclaimed as one of his masterpieces, despite the fact that it is only a few minutes long. In this clip from 2008, Lucia Lacarra and Cyril Pierre, then principals of the Bavarian State Ballet, give a tender, enchanting performance that is six-and-a-half minutes of pure beauty.

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Courtesy Carrie Gaerte, modeled by 2020 Butler University graduate Michela Semenza

Concussions Are More Than a Bump on the Head. Here's What Dancers Need to Know

Your partner accidentally drops you during a lift. You collide head-on with another dancer in rehearsal. Or you're hit in the face while you're spotting a turn. Even if you didn't lose consciousness, you may have a concussion, which can occur from a direct blow to the head or rotary force of the brain moving excessively or striking the skull.

As a dancer, your first instinct may be to keep going, but you shouldn't, says physical therapist and athletic trainer Carrie Gaerte, PT, DPT, ATC, who works with Butler University in Indianapolis and at Ascension St. Vincent Sports Performance. "What's really hard for dancers is admitting that maybe something isn't right," she says. "But the big thing about concussions is that your brain is not like your ankle, shoulder or knee. When your brain has an injury, that needs to take precedence over a role or a job."

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