Cupcakes & Conversation with Sasha De Sola, Soloist, San Francisco Ballet

ballet dancer backstage
halloween cupcake
Primrose Bakery supports Ballet News

Cupcakes & Conversation with Sasha De Sola, Soloist, San Francisco Ballet

ballet dancer headshot
Photograph by David Allen

What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ?

My husband Josh! He is always there to love and encourage me and I am so grateful for that. I am also motivated by the prospect of working on any of the ballets that are scheduled for that week. I love the process of working on a ballet and finding ways to make it my own or concentrate on things I need to improve on.

Congratulations on your promotion. How does it feel & was it a surprise?

Thank you! It really feels wonderful to see that one’s hard work and dedication has been recognized. It was definitely a surprise because it happened during the intermission of a performance while on tour in London. Helgi Tomasson approached me with the news right after I had just finished dancing the first movement principal in his ballet Trio and I still had to dance in another piece after that. Needless to say, it was hard not to have a huge grin on my face for the rest of the performance! I like to say that I got one of the best souvenirs from London!

Why ballet ?

Growing up I was very shy…painfully shy. But the first time I got on stage it was like I had been set free. I fell in love with performing. I was always attracted to ballet because it is so challenging. Even as a little girl, I knew that I would never reach a point where I would feel just comfortable. There is always something to work on and improve upon.

What are you looking forward to dancing during 2012/13 & what are the big challenges likely to be for you ?

I’m excited to start out the season with Suite en Blanc. I am learning a few roles in the ballet and it will be a challenge to work on each one since it is such stylized yet technically demanding choreography. I am also looking forward to dancing Symphony in Three Movements. Whether it is Divertimento No. 15 or Symphony in Three Movements, I have always loved performing Balanchine ballets. They always are very challenging but equally rewarding. Finally, I am very excited to see Christopher Wheeldon’s new Cinderella come together. It is an honor to be a part of the ballet and to be able to experience the creation process.

ballet dancer on pointe
Divertimento Photograph : Erik Tomasson

Who would you most like to dance with & what would you dance ?

I would love to dance Romeo and Juliet one day with my husband Joshua Reynolds.

If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance ?

I have had a childhood dream of dancing at the Palais Garnier. It is so stunning and there is so much history there – it would be absolutely incredible to realize that dream.

How do you prepare your pointe shoes ?

I still wear the same Freed stock shoes I wore when I was in school and I don’t do too much to prepare them. I sew my ribbons and elastic and remove the suede that is in the sole of the shoe. Afterwards, I remove ¼ of the shank with a box cutter and use cloth tape in the sole to make it more comfortable on the arches of my feet. The last thing I do is spray alcohol on the box where my demi-pointe is to make the shoe a little softer to roll through.

What is your daily routine at the moment ?

Class starts at 10 am so I like to get up at about 8:15 to get ready for the day. After class I usually have six hours of rehearsals. I like to break up the routine with little projects I like working on – currently I’ve been busy redecorating the house.

What do you eat during the course of a typical working day ?

I like to start the day off with an egg, juice and coffee for breakfast – I find that it gives me exactly what I need to start the day off with energy that lasts throughout the day. It is hard to dance with a full stomach so I usually graze throughout the day either on a high protein energy bar or almonds. Sometimes I will have a plain Greek yogurt with granola and fruit. When I get home, I like to have lots of veggies and fish, chicken or turkey for dinner. Finally, I like to treat myself to a little bit of gummy candies, jelly beans or ice cream! 

ballet dancer backstage
Sasha backstage Photograph : Erik Tomasson

You can ask six famous people to dinner – who would you invite ?

Woody Allen, Ron Swanson (the character from my favorite show Parks and Recreation), Benjamin Franklin, Joan of Arc, Frederic Chopin and Margot Fonteyn.

What would surprise people about you ?

I’m obsessed with my two dogs, Sadie and Tilly.

Who inspired you to dance ?

There wasn’t one particular person who inspired me to dance. I’m lucky that I have been surrounded by inspiration my entire life. I was blessed with a wonderful family that gave me the confidence to know I could do anything I set my mind to. I would say my biggest inspiration to dance was the opportunity to perform and express myself through movement.

What is your best piece of advice ?

One of the hardest things in life is to achieve balance. Live to strive for that balance and love and laugh a lot along the way! Don’t be afraid of perseverance.

How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?

At SFB we usually have rehearsals until two or three hours before a performance so my number one priority is to rest. I don’t like to be ready too early so usually I will start doing my hair and makeup about an hour and a half before the performance while either chatting or listening to music. Sometimes I like to take a hot shower after I’ve finished my makeup and hair to get my warm up process started. About 20 minutes before I go onstage I get my pointe shoes and my costume on. During those final moments before going on stage, I like to be quiet and concentrate on what I’m about to dance.

ballet dancer on pointe
Sasha in Trio Photograph : Erik Tomasson

How do you deal with the stress of performing ?

If I feel stressed about performing I like to remind myself what a blessing each performance is. This career is so short! Sometimes one can easily forget how lucky it is to be doing what one loves for a living.

Which role has tested you the most & how ?

It is hard to pick just one. Each role has tested me and pushed me in different ways. Sometimes I have thought that my most challenging roles have been when dancing in the corps because there is less room for individuality. At the same time, dancing a role like Queen of the Driads in Don Quixote was a completely different challenge. The variation or the character doesn’t play to what I feel are my obvious strengths so it tested me and it was a process to feel more comfortable performing it.

If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create ?

When I watch ballets, I tend to prefer minimal costumes, like a leotard, that show the body and the line that only a ballet dancer can create. However, I have to say that I am partial to the classic tutu. There is something to be said about feeling “pretty” for a ballet and a tutu always does the trick for me.

What do you look for in a dance partner ?

I look for someone who is willing to work on things with a good attitude. It is also wonderful to work with someone who you have a connection with and will look at you in the eye and make something more out of the choreography with you than just the movement itself.

What is your favourite quote ?

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

balleet dancer lifted on stage
Sasha in Trio Photograph : Erik Tomasson

Do you have a ‘signature step’ – one that comes naturally to you ?

Before I began ballet, I started off as a competitive jazz dancer so I would say that I always was pushed to do “tricks”. I think that is the reason why pirouettes might be my ‘signature step’. I love anything from fouettés to turns a la seconde to chaînés.

A phrase I use far too often is … ?

I asked my husband this one and he said, “I know.” Apparently I’m a bit of a know-it-all….

What’s been your best on-stage moment so far ?

Every time I get lost in what I am doing. Nothing is better than being completely engrossed in your art.

Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about ?

Most people don’t know that Spanish was my first language. Both of my parents are from Venezuela but I was born in the United States. I learned English when I started going to school.

In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now ?

I would love to be in a similar place where I am now – healthy, happy, progressing and working hard. I would love the opportunity to challenge myself in a more dramatic role soon.

What is your exit strategy, for the time when you stop dancing, and how did you plan it ?

I still don’t know exactly what I would like to do when I am done dancing but I’m taking steps to explore what I am interested in right now. I am a student enrolled in the LEAP program and I am almost finished earning my Bachelor of the Arts in Performing Arts at St. Mary’s College. Sometimes I think that after I stop dancing I would go into a completely different field and discover what it has to offer, but honestly it is hard to consider ever leaving my greatest passion.