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."

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