Gabriella Stilo's ballet technique is beautifully polished: Her grands jetés seem to float through the air, her pirouettes are perfectly timed to the music and her endless extensions epitomize classical purity. But it's her artistic approach that convinces you she's on her way to true ballerina status. “I love ballet for the acting," says the 15-year-old. “I've been trained by Cubans my whole life, and that tradition focuses a lot on technique. But I really like to portray a character onstage and inhabit the role, too."
Gabriella lives in Tampa, FL, but trains at the Sarasota Cuban Ballet School in Sarasota, FL, an hour-long commute each way. She's homeschooled to accommodate her intense schedule, which consists of five to six hours of class each day—and that's when she doesn't have a competition on the horizon. “We do a mix of technique, pointe, variations and partnering, along with core strengthening," she says. “I take a modern or contemporary class once or twice a week, but I'm 100 percent focused on ballet."
That focus has paid off: In 2014, Gabriella won the gold medal in the pas de deux category at the Youth America Grand Prix finals in NYC and placed in the Top 12 in the Junior Women's Division. She was also chosen as the Grishko Model Search winner. “I like competitions because they get you noticed," says Gabriella. “And I just love the opportunities to perform. If I could, I'd perform every day."
Gabriella has only recently recovered from a stress reaction in her foot. She missed audition season due to her injury, so she plans to train at her home studio this summer. “I think it was my body's way of telling me to rest," she says. Now that she's back in class, Gabriella will continue to pursue her goals with her usual discipline. “I'm obsessed with American Ballet Theatre," she says. “I love the elegance of classical ballet. And some day I'd like to dance the title role in Giselle, or Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. That's been my dream since I was little."
“Gabriella is a star in the making. Her potential is very clear. She's always giving 100 percent and her desire to be onstage drives her to be who she is. When she performs, she gives everything she has—her soul." —Ariel Serrano, co-founder of the Sarasota Cuban Ballet School
Birthday: September 28, 1999
Favorite food: Frozen yogurt
Favorite dance movie: Center Stage. “It's a classic."
Adagio or petit allégro? Petit allégro
Contemporary or classical? “Classical. But I do love Wayne McGregor's choreography."
Dance idol: “Maria Kochetkova. She's flawless. And Christina Ricucci, because she's so strong and sweet."
Hidden talent: “I'm a great cook. I cook dinner for my family and prepare my food for ballet."
Dream pas de deux partners: Daniel Ulbricht, Marcelo Gomes and Daniil Simkin
Most cherished thing in her dance bag: “A card I received from a very close classmate. It has lots of nice things written on it."
If she weren't a dancer, she'd be… “An actor!"