Yasmine Naghdi in The Sleeping Beauty with Eric Underwood. Bill Cooper, Courtesy The Royal Ballet.

The Royal Ballet’s Yasmine Naghdi on Her Hardest Role, and the Importance of Hot Chocolate

What is the hardest role you've learned?

Swan Lake. You need so much endurance to get through it. Especially in Act III, when you're about to do the fouettés—I feel like I can't see, I'm so tired by that point. It's a battle of your own mind.

You've danced Aurora for The Royal Ballet and at San Francisco Ballet—how were they different?

In London it was my debut; it was 10 times harder dancing it for the first time. Revisiting it in San Francisco, I had so much more experience—it wasn't as hard as I remembered. Anytime you revisit a role, it becomes slightly less hard than the first time.


Yasmine Naghdi wearing a pale blue tutu stands in front of a group of women dressed in sheer blue dresses. She reaches towards the sky, standing in a back tendu. Behind her, Matthew Ball, dressed in white tights, a white shirt and a gold vest reaches towards her.

Naghdi in The Sleeping Beauty with Matthew Ball

Bill Cooper, Courtesy The Royal Ballet

Have you ever had a role that felt worse the more you performed it?

Never. That's unacceptable to me. I don't do worse. It's a pressure I put on myself. Every performance, I have to bring something new to the role, just for my own growth.

What was it like training at the Royal Ballet School?

I didn't get into the Lower School for the first year, at age 11. I got in the second year. It was tough joining later than my classmates. I had a hard time fitting in because all the friendship groups had already been formed. But I thrived on being pushed. Gailene Stock, the school director at the time, really believed in me. She gave me the confidence to believe in my own ability.

Yasmine and Naghdi are in a classic fish dive. They're both dressed in the Sleeping Beauty wedding attire. Naghdi wears a gold and white intricate tutu and Ball wears a gold vest, lace cravate and white tights.

Naghdi and Ball in The Sleeping Beauty

Bill Cooper, The Royal Ballet

What was especially challenging when you were a student?

I'm blessed with natural flexibility, and I've got hypermobile joints and swaybacked knees. But I had to work twice as hard as everyone else to gain the strength to control all of that.

What is the least glamorous part of being a dancer?

The way your muscles feel after a long day of rehearsal or after a heavy show—it makes me walk like I'm about 90 years old. I need a minimum of two full days off between Aurora shows.

Do you have a secret talent?

I love doing impressions of people and different accents. I'm also pretty good at doing impressions of animal sounds!

Do you have a pre-performance ritual?

I have a hot chocolate about 45 minutes before the show, because it gives me warmth, comfort and a quick sugar surge. I love to listen to reggaeton, or I sing in my changing room as it helps with breathing and calming nerves.

Latest Posts


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 and photos 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

Evelyn Cisneros-Legate. Photo by Beau Pearson, Courtesy Ballet West

Ballet West Academy's New Director on Dream Building During COVID-19

Evelyn Cisneros-Legate is bringing her hard-earned expertise to Ballet West. The former San Francisco Ballet star is taking over all four campuses of The Frederick Quinney Lawson Ballet West Academy as the school's new director.

Cisneros-Legate, whose mother put her in ballet classes in an attempt to help her overcome her shyness, trained at the San Francisco Ballet School and School of American Ballet before joining San Francisco Ballet as a full company member in 1977. She danced with the company for 23 years, breaking barriers as the first Mexican American to become a principal dancer in the U.S., and has graced the cover of Dance Magazine no fewer than three times.

As an educator, Cisneros-Legate has served as ballet coordinator at San Francisco Ballet, principal of Boston Ballet School's North Shore Studio and artistic director of after-school programming at the National Dance Institute (NDI). Dance Teacher spoke with her about her new position, her plans for the academy and leading in the time of COVID-19.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Complexions Contemporary Ballet's Tatiana Melendez Proves There's No One Way to Have a Ballet Career

This is Pointe's Fall 2020 cover story. Click here to purchase this issue.

Talk to anyone about rising contemporary ballerina Tatiana Melendez, and one word is bound to come up repeatedly: "Fierce." And fair enough, that's a perfectly apt way to describe the 20-year-old's stage presence, her technical prowess and her determination to succeed. But don't make the mistake of assuming that fierceness is Melendez's only (or even her most noteworthy) quality. At the core of her dancing is a beautiful versatility. She's just as much at ease when etching pure classical lines as she is when boldly throwing herself off-balance.

"Selfish choreographer that I am, I want Tatiana to stay with Complexions for all time," says her boss Dwight Rhoden, Complexions Contemporary Ballet's co-artistic director and resident choreographer. "She has a theatricality about her: When the music comes on, she gets swept away." Not too shabby for someone who thought just a few years ago that maybe ballet wasn't for her.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks