This Dancer Refused to Let a Hurricane Get In the Way of Her Ballet Training

Iris Rocío Dávila in class at San Francisco Ballet School (Photo by Jessica Christian via San Francisco Chronicle)

16-year-old ballerina Iris Rocío Dávila is from San Juan, Puerto Rico. When Hurricane Maria hit last September, Iris' ballet dreams seemed to be destroyed along with everything else on the island. But a few months later, she showed up as a new student at the San Francisco Ballet School. And the story of how it all came to be is pretty incredible.


It started years ago, when Iris discovered ballet at age 11, through a program at her public school. Last year, she attended San Francisco Ballet School's summer intensive, thanks to a GoFundMe campaign that covered the costs. At the end of the summer, though, she wasn't asked to stay and train full-time, so she headed back to San Juan and kept studying diligently at Escuela Especializada en Ballet Julián E. Blanco high school and Conservatorio de Ballet Concierto de Puerto Rico dance school.

After the hurricane last fall, things looked bleak. Like most of the island, Iris' home had no power or running water. Two months later her school reopened, only to immediately close after losing power again. Her ballet training was put on hold and lots of her dance friends started trying to transfer to programs in Florida.

Then she had an idea. Iris started hand-writing a letter to the SFB school, hoping that through some miracle she might be able to transfer there. "It seemed like a crazy idea," Iris told the San Francisco Chronicle. Her mom drove 45 minutes to San Juan just to mail it. But when weeks went by and she never got a response, she assumed her letter had gotten lost along the way.

Luckily for her, though, it ended up straight in the hands of the school's director, Patrick Armand. "I had been following the drama in Puerto Rico on TV and all of a sudden I got a letter from this girl," Armand told the San Francisco Chronicle. "She was so eager to continue her training, and she was really suffering. If she didn't come here it would have been six or eight months until the ballet school (in San Juan) was rebuilt. Ballet is a job that takes training every day."

He emailed her back and let her know that she had been accepted and given a full scholarship to cover her tuition. "I did a flip in the car," Iris said. "I was crying and going crazy."

And after 105 days without power, Iris boarded a plane in January and headed to San Francisco, where she'll perform in the student showcase this May. Talk about dedication.

Read more about her incredible story, and see how she's liking life in California, over at the San Francisco Chronicle.

Iris Rocío Dávila in class at SFB (Photo by Jessica Christian via San Francisco Chronicle)

Related Articles Around the Web
    From Your Site Articles
    Dance News
    Ralph Lauren

    🌈 It's almost Pride month, dance friends! 🌈

    Ralph Lauren is kicking off the celebration bright and early with a gender-neutral capsule collection featuring a rainbow version (naturally) of its pony logo. And the brand chose a bunch of influential LGBTQIA+ community members to model the looks—including our favorite danseur in heels, Houston Ballet soloist Harper Watters.

    Keep Reading Show less
    Dance Fashion
    School of American Ballet students (Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy SAB)

    Do you have a "Strictly Ballet"–sized hole in your heart? Good news: The upcoming docuseries "On Pointe" just might fill it.

    The School of American Ballet is teaming up with Imagine Documentaries and DCTV for the project. Though it's not yet clear where "On Pointe" will air, we do know that it'll follow talented SAB students preparing for professional ballet careers—much as Teen Vogue's popular "Strictly Ballet" web series did back in the day. But "On Pointe" marks the first time documentary filmmakers have been allowed access to the school, and it sounds like it'll paint an even more complete picture of the dancers' lives inside and outside the studio.

    Keep Reading Show less
    Dance News
    Including, of course, "Single Ladies" (Vevo)

    Choreographer Bob Fosse's signature style—with its jazz hands, inverted knees, and slouched shoulders—is still a huge influence in the dance world (and, thanks to the gloriously dancy FX series "Fosse/Verdon," the TV world). But while you know to expect plenty of Fosse-isms during a stage performance of Chicago or Sweet Charity, Fosse's legacy has also seeped into pop music culture, inspiring the likes of Beyoncé and Lady Gaga. Here are just six of the many music videos that reference Fosse's iconic works.

    Keep Reading Show less
    Dance Videos

    Video

    mailbox

    Get Dance Spirit in your inbox

    Giveaways