Hi Sasha, Happy New Year! You’ve just come off dancing The Nutcracker, tell us a little more about how you became the Sugar Plum Fairy?
I grew up in Florida to two parents who immigrated to the United States from Venezuela. I grew up in an immigrant family and always felt a little bit different from the rest of my American friends which influenced me to not only work hard to find my place in this country but also remain proud of my roots and my heritage.
I started dancing when I was 2 years old. My mom put me in dance because I was so shy. I was just a baby but I fell in love with it. There was something about the freedom and the physical expression that was really was attractive to me. I just knew that’s what I wanted to do since I was 10 years old. So I went to a boarding school In Washington, DC called the Kirov Academy of Ballet to further my training and be exposed to other dancers from all around the world. When I was 16, I got my job with the San Francisco Ballet.
That’s very young! You must have been very proud of yourself.
On a basic level, I’m really proud to have made it in this field. It’s a super competitive world where there aren’t many openings for professional dancers. You really have to excel and I’m also very proud to be a part of the San Francisco Ballet which is a world class company. Every day I’m surrounded by extremely talented artists and I feel very grateful to be around them. I feel like I’ve been so blessed to have had strong mentors as I was growing up and the support of family and friends.
Was there a role that you’ve always wanted and achieved?
As a little girl, you dream about dancing this or that, Let’s say the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker. You think about how it’s going to be “Oh once I get there, I will have made it and i’ll be so happy!” But in reality, it’s just a stepping stone where you’re so grateful you’ve gotten the role but with every step, it opens up your eyes to everything else you want to be. How you’ll grow as an artist, as a technician, as a human being.
A lot of times people forget that ballet dancers completely devote their lives to this art. The person you’re watching on stage, part of their soul is being displayed. It’s important to not only remember who you are as an artist but as a human being. As a woman or a man.
You said once you achieved your goals, you had to examine what your next goals were, what are they?
My goals when I was younger were very career based. I still have a lot of career goals but I also am interested so many aspects. Right now, I’m learning a lot more about investing. I want to get my hands in different pots and find out what other things I’m very passionate about. I’ve learned that I’m very work oriented and I’ve learned to value off time and relax. The times for relaxation, travel and being in the moment can be hard to do sometimes. Appreciating everything for what it is whether it’s a difficult time or a wonderful time in my life it’s about fully embracing that moment. That’s something I’m working on, but I’m not there yet.
Is there something you’re especially proud of outside of your career?
Going back to being a child of immigrants, I’m proud of my strength of identity. I know who i am and I think that comes from having strong parents who instilled a lot of pride in who we are.
Was there ever a moment where you felt discouraged?
Yes absolutely. Many times. I think one of the most challenging parts of this career is the constant self-doubt that you have. It’s a lot of psychological stress. When I talk about the moments of self-doubt, I guess I was wrong to say moments, it’s more like years. When you’re practising, you’re standing in front of a mirror for 8 hours a day and staring at yourself. Criticising yourself to make yourself better. It will take a toll on you. I was trying to find out who I am, what’s important to me and how I wanted to pursue this career that’s so important to me.
How did you power through it?
Life is filled with trials and I think it’s so important especially for women to just remain confident in themselves. Take a constructive, objective look at yourself and realise your strengths. When I first made the leap from being a student in ballet to having a job, it was a huge huge moment of self doubt for me because I was so young. All of a sudden I was thrust into this professional world that i wasn’t really sure how to navigate. I wasn’t sure if this was even what i was supposed to be doing. Did I make this leap too early? Was I ready for this? Was I good enough?
But the inner strength that we’ve been talking about really shines through when you really love something. If you’re passionate about it, you’ll do everything in your power to the best of your abilities to make it happen for yourself. Everyone can benefit from that inner strength.
How would you encourage other women to develop that? What superpower would you give them?
I would have to say objective confidence because I think a lot of women struggle with that. I would like to see a lot more of women supporting each other.
What’s an adventure you’ve been on?
I have been really blessed with travelling the world because of ballet. We went to China in October and this is my 2nd time there. It was amazing to retunn see how the country has changed. I don’t really love doing huge touristy things but I do love to walk around and eat the local food. I feel like you can really learn a lot about a culture through their food. But on our very first day, we took the subway completely blind and ended up a more ‘Western’ part of town where there’s a lot of embassies. My friends were really hungry so we had to find something to eat. Of couse the one place that we found was a Mexican restaurant. Of all the places in China to go, we found the ONE mexican restaurant. Typical Californians.
Yes, so typical. That’s funny. So to close off, what’s a note to self you’d like to be reminded of?
Be patient with yourself. Have faith in your abilities.
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