Cupcakes & conversation with Monica Pelfrey, Los Angeles Ballet
What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ?
I love the idea that I have a new beautiful day ahead of me. I love the challenge of working on new things and improving myself every day. I feel that no one can inspire you like yourself.
Why ballet ?
I started dancing when I was two years old, and even after quitting dance for a year in college, I realize now that I have a talent that I cannot waste.
What are you looking forward to dancing in the new season ?
I’m very excited for our Balanchine program in March. Balanchine’s ballets are always such a joy to learn and perform.
Who would you most like to dance with & what would you dance ?
I’ve always been inspired by my colleagues. I wish I had an opportunity to dance with former Los Angeles Ballet dancer Andrew Brader, he is such an inspiring artist. And there are so many wonderful dancers out there that I don’t know who to begin to choose. I’m inspired by Lucia Lacarra and Marianela Nuñez. To be in their presence would be a gift. I loved performing as principal stomper girl in Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room at Corella Ballet, and I would love to get a chance to dance that again.
If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance ?
I love touring in general. I would love to get a chance to dance in my hometown in Galicia in Spain, or in the bay area.
How do you prepare your pointe shoes ?
I usually cut them to a 3/4 shank. I step on the box as well as stepping on the box upside down to really break it in. I also put water on the box when I’m first breaking them in to make them softer.
What is your daily routine at the moment ?
I am not a morning person, but I usually get up around 8:15 am, eat breakfast while I’m half-awake, warm up before company class at 9:30. Then I usually rehearse until around 4 or sometimes 6. I live in LA. I can’t complain about how beautiful the weather is each day. I’m never bored.
You can ask six famous people to dinner – who would you invite ?
Lucia Lacarra, Marianela Nunez, writers of LOST, JK Rowling, Joel Mchale, and Dwight Shrute
What would surprise people about you ?
I love to cook. I can peel potatoes with a knife. I love to write poetry. I love scary movies. I’m half Spanish (my mother is from Spain), and my first language was Spanish, which I speak fluently. I have a younger brother and a twin brother. I graduated from the University of San Diego with a double major in Psychology and English with an award of Summa Cum Laude. And I definitely never thought I would be a professional dancer.
Who inspired you to dance ?
I had so many wonderful and supportive teachers growing up. I always had teachers who really inspired me to dance with and from my emotions. I am blessed that I learned very early that ballet is not just about technique. I’ve always wanted the opportunity to thank my mom. She has made everything possible for me in my life. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for her.
What is your best piece of advice ?
Stay positive. Everything happens for a reason.
How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?
I usually put on my makeup a good while before the half hour call, and I like to warm up or just listen to music to relax. I get very nervous before performing so I try and focus on relaxing, knowing that I can do this, that this moment is what I live for.
Which role has tested you the most & how ?
In my first season with the Los Angeles Ballet last year, I was given the incredible opportunity to dance First Ballerina in Balanchine’s Piano Concerto No.2. It was some of the most beautiful and exhilarating choreography I have ever danced. My director, Colleen Neary, described this ballet as being a full-length ballet condensed into 20 minutes. Once I started, I never got my breath back for the rest of the ballet. I remember being so nervous before each show that I couldn’t help crying. But I loved it. I loved it and hated it all at once. It was the most rewarding feeling as the curtain was going down at the end and I was sitting on my partner’s shoulder, knowing I had made it. At the end, I was so out of breath that I no longer knew if I was crying or laughing.
If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create ?
I like something simple. Even something like a white-leotard ballet would be inspiring. As inspiration from Balanchine’s Serenade, I would love to have the girls dance with their hair down.
What do you look for in a dance partner ?
Strength, communication, and passion.
What is your favourite quote ?
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Do you have a ‘signature step’ – one that comes naturally to you ?
I love to jump, and I love anything in an arabesque.
A phrase I use far too often is … ?
What’s been your best on-stage moment so far ?
Every moment I have on stage is a treasure for me. One moment I especially loved was performing in Travis Wall’s contemporary piece at the end of the season with Los Angeles Ballet. I felt the character he created for me was actually me, and his piece really spoke to my life personally. There was a moment at the end where I walk into the light, and I open my closed fist on the last note, signifying that I let go of everything. Every time I danced his piece, it was healing, and I never wanted it to end.
Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about ?
I have special telepathy powers because I am a twin.
In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now ?
In ballet, you can’t think too far ahead. I love taking a step back every day and realizing how blessed I am to just be dancing right now. I like to live in the moment. That’s why I’m dancing