I grew up as a competition kid in Maryland. My mom put me in a dance class at two and a half years old because I was painfully shy—yes, hard to believe, I know. My best childhood memories are being onstage performing every style of dance imaginable, creating close friendships, and simply dancing itself. The one downfall was that I had to take ballet classes, which I absolutely hated. Once we moved to Virginia, my competition days were fewer and fewer. My mom drove me three hours one way on the weekends to get to my classes, which became very hard to maintain. The only way for me to dance was to begrudgingly attend a local ballet school. Little did I know that a fire inside would soon be ignited.
At the age of 14, my mom enrolled me in a master class series at the Kennedy Center, in which we took ballet technique classes with different company directors and then got to watch a company performance. My life changed that night. Sitting in the audience next to my mom, I watched the curtain open on a tall girl from Miami City Ballet who came barreling down the stage with such command and strength in Balanchine’s Rubies. I was blown away at that moment, and was mesmerized throughout the rest of the show. I turned to my mom and said, “I am going to do that one day!”.
The power, confidence, beauty and effortlessness I witnessed that night was incredible, and I knew there was much work to do. I was so far behind. I did not have consistent ballet technique growing up, having to take a year off from ballet my freshman year of high school, and then dealing with a growth spurt my junior year. My tall, long body was a struggle to work with, and still is today. Trying to strengthen my hyper-mobility is a never ending process for me, but I would not have wanted another path. I thrived on working as hard as I could, pushing myself to the max. Somehow I was accepted into the Professional Division program at Pacific Northwest Ballet, and two years later I joined the company. With the love and support of my family, close friends, and of course, my husband Karel Cruz, I became a principal dancer. This has allowed me to perform roles I never thought I would, work with choreographers I have admired for years, and dance next to my talented colleagues. It has been a hard, long journey, filled with sacrifice, tears, injuries and defeat. However, I have been able to survive with passion, strength, confidence and my love for this art form. I can honestly say I feel so fulfilled and blessed with my career.
The most beautiful gift I could have ever received was becoming a Mama. Being a dancer and running my own business has meant I struggle with many moments of guilt being away from my son, just like every parent. But I try to remind myself that Koan will one day see all this and hopefully learn that if he puts his mind to it, he can do anything, as long as he is determined, passionate, humble, grateful, appreciative and works hard. He is my whole world, and everything I do is for him. My mom and family sacrificed so much for me so I could live my dreams and actually become that tall girl in Rubies, and I can’t wait to do that for my son—to watch him fulfill his dreams and be right by his side every step of the way.