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2 days in the life of Alexandra: portrait of a young dancer.

Alexandra Gonzalez is a seventeen-year-old from Colombia, South America, enrolled at San Francisco Ballet School. Like most American teenagers, she attends a local high school, but Alexandra goes only to morning classes and spends the rest of the day in the ballet studio. For the past two years she has lived in a dormitory at the University of San Francisco. To realize her dream of joining San Francisco Ballet, Alexandra has given up the comfort and familiarity of her home, family, language, and culture. From May 15 to 17, she and her classmates prepared for the school's annual workshop performances. Her daily routine provides a glimpse into the intensity of the daily life of a dancer working to become a professional.

6:25 a.m. University of San Francisco, Phelan Hall

I wake up at six every day, and when I am rehearsing for performances, like Nutcracker or the school performance, I don't get home until 8:30, so it's a really long day. I was born in Miami, but lived in Bogota until I came to San Francisco.

My ballet teachers in Colombia knew that San Francisco would be a really good place, because their son, Felipe Diaz, is in the company here. I came first for a summer program in 1992, and again for the summer in 1994. The second time I stayed into the fall.

7:30 a.m. George Washington High School

I love math. I know it's weird, because usually people don't like math, but it's one of my best subjects. I'm also taking biology and English. Because it's not my first language, English has been hard, especially writing papers and reading books. Next year, I might study by correspondence. This year, I thought it was nice to meet people and to have a teacher help me while I got used to English.

A friend of mine knows Spanish, but we always end up speaking English because I have forgotten some words in Spanish. When I went home, my dad said I have a Spanish accent, like from Spain. So I've totally changed. And I know I have a little accent in English too.

12:50 p.m. Advances Class, SFB School

I love adagios because I am a really sentimental person, so I like to express what I feel. And I love jumping, I guess because it's not too hard for me. Turning is harder for mer because of the shape of my legs. They're hyper-extended, and it's hard to control your balance when you have hyperextended legs. But I mostly like the whole class, until turns. Sometimes I just have to get through them.

1:20 p.m. Advanced Class

I really like my teachers, like Ricardo [Bustamante], and I think that the training in the school is really good. I'm hoping to get into this company; that's why I am here.

2:15 p.m. Rehearsal, Christensen Studio

Sometimes my friend Leah [Slayen] and I give each other a massage while we're waiting to rehearse. Usually I am really close to my friends, but sometimes when one person gets chosen to do better parts or more than someone else, it's hard. But I think that is really natural. It doesn't only happen in ballet, it's everywhere. If you get a better job than your friend or you're doing something better, someone will always think, "Oh, I wanted that."

When I first got here I didn't have trouble making friends, but it was a different kind of friendship than I had with my friends in Colombia. I was in the same school for seven years, a private all girls school, and we'd known each other since we were really young, in first grade. We grew up together.

But Colombia is really far away, and it's really expensive to go there. I got to go last year after the summer, but this year I can't go because I'm going to Pacific Northwest Ballet for the summer. I hope that it will be fun: Lola [de Avila] said it was a good place to go. In the brochure, they said that they would give modern, character, and jazz, and I like to take those classes. I hear it rains a lot in Seattle though.

I might go to see my mom in Miami before going to Seattle. I have a sister who is twenty-one and goes to university, and a brother who is turning eleven this Friday. He takes karate and violin. He started taking ballet, and he liked it and had the perfect body for it, but one day he had an accident in class! He didn't want to see the other kids again, so he stopped dancing.

6:45 p.m. Tech Rehearsal, Palace of Fine Arts

The three pieces we are doing for the workshop performances are really different. I love Helgi [Tomasson]'s piece. Sometimes it's the last rehearsal I have and I can be so tired, but when it comes to that rehearsal, I find more energy. The music and the choreography and the energy all come together. It's a little bit more modern than the other ones, but still classical. The lifts that I do with Nick [Adel, they're different and I'm not used to doing those steps, so I get nervous about that sometimes.

11:00 p.m. Phelan Hall

After rehearsal I go home to my dorm. My room has sunflowers everywhere because I love sunflowers.

The dorm has rules that at a certain time the doors will be closed, but I have keys so I can come in later. Usually I close the door and do my assignments. I have to discipline myself. I like the dorm; it's pretty comfortable, but next year I think I'm going to live in an apartment with friends from ballet.

I don't have much time to do stuff outside of dancing and school. In school I know a few people, but I don't get to know them well, because I am only there for three periods. So I just go out with my ballet friends on the weekends. We go to the movies, and I usually spend the night at their houses, or they come to the dorm, which is something different for them. I went bowling once, and sometimes we go out and eat fast food. Last year, for my birthday we went to Great America.

1:10 p.m. Advanced Class

I really like taking classes onstage. It's really different because you know that you are going to perform there soon, so the classes are much more fun. I took class with the company onstage this spring when I danced in Swan Lake. I was treated as a corps member, and I was doing all of the same things that they were doing. I had to go to rehearsals and take class with the company, and I went with them on tour to Orange County. My friend and I noticed that on every other block in Orange County there is a McDonald's. Even in the airport there's a McDonald's, it was so funny!

I love seeing how the company members work in classes. They work really hard, but they laugh and make it fun; they're not totally stressed with the atmosphere and pressure.

Among the principals, I love Elizabeth Loscavio; she is my favorite. I think that she's perfect. I like Evelyn Cisneros because she expresses a lot on the stage. Julia Adam makes me laugh; she makes jokes out of everything.

Dancing with San Francisco Ballet is my first choice. If that doesn't happen, I think I'll audition for other companies, or I will go to Europe. But I don't think that I will go back to Colombia for now.

1:55 p m. Dress Rehearsal, Palace of Fine Arts

The hooks on my costume were supposed to be fixed before the rehearsal. I put it on, and they aren't fixed! My friends say they can't hook it. Ricardo just came in and said, "You're late, hurry up, hurry up!" and then Lola came in and called, "Five minutes, hurry up." Everyone is saying, "Hurry up." It really got to me! They had to sew the costume on to me.

After rehearsal, we get corrections from the choreographers. I like working with Helgi. At first I was really, really nervous, but he is nice to us; he treats us very well.

7:00 p.m. Backstage

I'm not really nervous yet, although I know when I start hearing people in the audience I will be. The performances are important because they are a way that you can show the audience and the teachers and yourself how much you have improved, or not. Usually dancers are really different in class than when they dance in front of the audience.

My solo variation is hard because it depends all on me. Ricardo told me that this variation is more about expression than technique, so I just try to feel and to let other people know what I am feeling. When I started rehearsing this piece, I would only express what I felt, but Ricardo told me that it's not just what you feel, but also what the audience sees. I've had to work a lot on that.

9:00 p.m. Performance, Palace of Fine Arts

I love performing! In Ricardo's piece, I try to breathe a lot and calm down, and then go with the music and remember everything he told me. I was really, really happy with the performance. I tried to do the best that I could; some things went better than others. The most important thing is that I had a lot of fun. My teachers and a couple of friends from my dorm and from school came backstage to say congratulations. After the performance the dancers are getting together, but not for too long because I have to go to school Friday morning. Helgi told me that he wants to talk to Dalene Bramer and me Friday afternoon. I really hope it will be something about the company.

Friday: 3:00 p.m. San Francisco Ballet

Helgi asked me to join the company! Dalene and I will be apprentices. I have to call my parents and tell them. I don't know how they'll feel because it means I'll be staying here. But I'm so excited!
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:San Francesco Ballet School Student 17-year-old Alexandra Gonzalez of Colombia
Author:Sims, Caitlin
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Illustration
Date:Nov 1, 1996
Previous Article:Patricia Wilde passes the torch.
Next Article:Madeline Cantarella Culpo.

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