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.
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)
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