Leta Biasucci’s passion for dance is obvious as she flies through the air in a grand jeté. Her jump is perfectly placed, pointed and strong, and yet it soars with a sense of abandon. She stretches every bit of her tiny five-foot three-inch body to the max, eating up space and demonstrating incredible command. Even though Leta is just 19, she tackles each class and role with the confidence of a seasoned pro: You’d never guess she just joined the ranks of Oregon Ballet Theatre in her first professional gig!
Christopher Stowell, artistic director of OBT, praises the new company member. “Leta has attack in her movements,” he says. “She uses her upper body generously and has an acute musical sense. She also pays attention to detail, like presenting the feet and punctuating phrases with flair.”
Leta attributes these qualities to years of performing experience at the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet in Carlisle, PA, where she trained for seven years. While there, Leta danced difficult roles like Swanilda in Coppélia (by the time she was 15!) and the Sugarplum Fairy in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker at 16. “CPYB offered me such a fantastic foundation for technique,” she says. “And on top of that, to get as much stage time at such a young age gave me a good base.”
Though her experience at CPYB was phenomenal, Leta left Carlisle when she was 16 to attend San Francisco Ballet School’s trainee program. There she danced as the “Waltz” girl in Serenade for the student showcase and earned rave reviews for her performance. A critic from the San Francisco Chronicle even commented on her “robust passion.”
Despite this early success, Leta still faces some personal challenges. “Being in a field where you’re always being criticized is difficult,” she confesses. “When you feel that everything can always be better, it’s easy to lose your bearings. You’ve got to keep your wits about you.”
Leta also fights against being typecast in “short girl” roles, so it’s a good thing Stowell looks beyond height when sizing up a dancer. “Physical traits can influence a career,” he says, “but the qualities that have the biggest impact are a good attitude, reliability, taking personal responsibility, making the most of opportunities and being fun to work with. Beyond that, dance big and make things your own. Be irreplaceable!”
To handle the obstacle of height, Leta also finds inspiration in fantastic dancers—of all sizes! She thinks petite and powerful Tina LeBlanc of SFB, another CPYB alumna, is a fantastic role model. “Tina has such effervescence,” Leta sighs. “She’s so beautiful.” Plus, the dancers at OBT motivate Leta. Although she was offered jobs elsewhere, she decided on the company in Portland because the dancers are hardworking and humble, creating an atmosphere that appeals to Leta’s strong work ethic.
So what’s next for this petite brunette with spiral curls and a modest demeanor? Leta looks forward to doing everything possible. “I want to be introduced to contemporary things, to be able to dance Forsythe-esque sort of stuff,” she says. “I want to do all the full-lengths. Swan Lake has always been one of my favorites. And Giselle!” To get there, she’ll keep working hard. “I think it’s important to dance everything, even in class, not just go through the motions,” she says. Given her enormous potential, Leta’s dreams of doing it all might be realized sooner than she thinks.
Photo: Roslyn Barnfield
There are dancers and then there are DANCERS! Whitney Jensen, soloist at Norwegian National Ballet, is the latter. The former Boston Ballet principal can do it all. From contemporary to the classics this prima has the technical talent most bunheads dream about. Need proof? Look no further.
Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's dance inducing hit, "Despacito," is so catchy it should probably come with a disclaimer that warns people of an uncontrollable itch to tap your feet or bob your head. Some might even feel inclined to go all out and break it down. Niana Guerrero is a prime example of "Despacito's" uncanny ability to unleash the red dressed emoji dancer within. 💃🏽 💃🏽
Guys, we all knew this was coming—"World of Dance" was eventually going to eliminate someone. But man, is it brutal to watch these talented dancers give their all, only to be sent home. It's the name of the game, though, and after last night's episode, only two dancers per division remain. (At least Misty Copeland guest-judging was a silver lining!) Here's what went down last night:
They've impressed the judges, now it's time for the Top 100 dancers to enroll at The Academy—and to impress the All-Stars. Welcome to So You Think You Can Dance Academy!
The 100 dancers who made it through auditions in NYC or L.A. are now at The Academy, which is basically a beautiful building with floor-to-ceiling windows. The show opens with that Mandy Moore-choreographed Academy routine which, even after watching it 12 times and trying to learn all the choreography at home, is still delightful.
This Nationals season, Dance Spirit followed four talented dancers from The Dance Awards, NYCDA, Showstopper, and Starpower for an inside look at everything that goes into the biggest competitions of the year. First up: Isabella Torres from Mid-Atlantic Center for the Performing Arts in Baltimore, MD, who competed at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals for the first time this year. (All photos courtesy Shannon Torres.)
Merritt Moore is a ballerina who just so happens to be graduating from Oxford University with a PhD in quantum physics. Is she even human? The jury is still out on that - but the 29-year-old, who earned her undergrad degree from Harvard, has actually found dance to be a powerful tool that assists her in her studies.
Happy #WorldEmojiDay, dance friends! 🎉 👯 🎉 👯
Because it's just the cutest, we thought we'd share the emoji challenge the Royal Opera House is currently hosting on Twitter. They've retold a series of ballets (and operas, for that crowd) in emoji form. If you correctly guess the name of a ballet, you'll be entered for a chance to win two tickets to a ROH production.