Dancer Spotlight: Tricia Albertson
We are thrilled to honor Miami City Ballet dancer Tricia Albertson on her 25th season with us. To celebrate this exciting milestone in her career, Tricia shared special and intimate stories about her dance journey and experience at Miami City Ballet.
Please enjoy this exclusive interview with principal dancer Tricia Albertson. You can also follow Tricia on Instagram @triciaalbertson.
Tricia, congratulations on 25 years! How do you feel about this accomplishment?
Tricia: I’m in shock! Where does the time go? Really though, I’m not one to pat myself on the back often, but I feel proud. This career is not an easy one, and I’ve worked hard to maintain a healthy body and mind. I also feel incredibly lucky to have had MCB as my home all of these years. I know it’s not common to have one company fulfill a dancer’s dreams for so long, but this company was the right fit for me, even through its changes. I believe I was meant to be here.
What was your experience when you were offered your first company contract with Miami City Ballet in 1997? How did you hear the news?
Tricia: I had done the open call audition at The School of American Ballet in New York City. One of my teachers had told me that Edward Villella was interested in me. Based on his audition class, which was really fun and lighthearted, and their Balanchine heavy repertoire, I was desperate to dance at MCB.
I waited for several weeks, not knowing how I would even be notified if I were hired. After dinner one night, I got a call from the front desk at the dorms that I had a call from Edward on the line (no cell phones back then, haha). I was so nervous; I really don’t remember the conversation besides him calling me Trish and saying he wanted to offer me a contract. It was one of the best days of my life.
What was your first day like in the company?
Tricia: Slightly terrifying and very exciting. There is this moment of finding a barre spot, kind of like finding a seat in the cafeteria as a new student, not wanting to get in anyone’s way, finding the right people. I was one of 15 new dancers that year, so there were many of us finding new spots, which was comforting.
My first rehearsal was for Swan Lake Act II. I remember being in line behind current rehearsal director Joan Latham and former principal dancer Jennifer Kronenberg and being so intimated by their beauty and ballet fashion! They seemed so adult to me. That day I also started learning corps roles in Paul Taylor’s Company B and Balanchine’s Stars and Stripes from other company members.
Everyone was so nice and welcoming. At the end of the day, I was so exhausted mentally and physically and excruciatingly sore the whole first week. Nothing can prepare you for 6 hours of rehearsal a day!
What was it like working with Edward Villella? Any stories you would like to share?
Tricia: Working with Edward was quite a ride. He had and still has such a passion for this art form, and his emphasis on freedom and musicality always spoke to me. One of my favorite memories working with Edward was on the “Turning Girl” in Who Cares?. I was so nervous to be dancing the part and turning was not something that came naturally to me. So, when I was scheduled to have a private rehearsal with him, I got nervous sweats.
We started, and right away, I messed up the fouetté sequence. He stopped the music and said, “Just listen to the music, Trish. It’s all jazz. It’s all easy and playful.” He put on the music and started dancing around me like he was Fred Astaire, singing along. “Don’t worry!” he said. “No one cares about the turns!” I started over, relaxing little by little, actually enjoying myself.
I had some great shows of that turning section and tried to hold on to that feeling of freedom and speaking the music with my body.
How has it been seeing the growth and development of the company through the years?
Tricia: Pretty amazing! The first major area of growth I saw for the company was moving our studios from Lincoln Road to our Liberty Avenue location. We went from three small studios to eight grand, sunlit studios with a lounge for the dancers and space for physical therapy.
It definitely shifted how we functioned and how we saw ourselves. We went from very long, small-town bus tours to tours to major, iconic theaters across the country and world. Our repertoire has expanded, including original works by the top choreographers of our time. We’re lucky to have a director who understands how to challenge us and the audience in a meaningful way.
MCB has had its challenging years, this past one with COVID being especially scary. But we have an incredible board and so many amazing donors, supporters, and people fighting to keep this company thriving. I’m sure I don’t know half of what goes into it, but I am so grateful.
What were your “breakout roles” or roles you felt brought you to the next level?
Tricia: The first principal role I danced here was “Rubies” from Balanchine’s Jewels. It was my second year in the company, so it was a huge deal for me to have the opportunity to learn and perform it.
I remember rehearsing for about four months beforehand, the rehearsal director at the time fine-tuning every step with me. I danced with former principal Luis Serrano, who helped me a lot with my partnering skills. I don’t think I was ready to dance it at that stage in my career but to be pushed like that was a real gift that taught me how much was needed to be put into a principal role.
Ballo della Regina was definitely a ballet that pushed me to the next level. I was cast as one of the soloists, and after working with Merrill Ashley, she called me to learn the principal as well. With Merrill and Roma Sosenko’s (current MCB principal rehearsal director) coaching, I was able to perform the role to the best of my ability. I was promoted not long after that to principal soloist.
What were the roles that you learned the most from?
Tricia: Anything I’ve gotten to revisit many times has been a great learning experience. Deciding how to approach it differently or just noticing the difference in how it feels in my body. Sometimes I’m surprised that something feels much easier when I remember it being so difficult, but with age, some things feel much, much harder!
Also, dancing pieces choreographed without pointe shoes like Promethean Fire, Jardi Tancat, or In the Upper Room helped me discover new ways of moving and let me get more grounded in my body. I actually have found those pieces to be some of my favorite to perform.
What were the roles you enjoyed most over your career?
Tricia: For me, it hasn’t been about the roles but more about the process. Who you work with on a ballet can significantly impact how much you enjoy dancing that ballet. I have so many beautiful memories of being pushed and inspired by incredible choreographers and repetiteurs; Alexei Ratmansky, Justin Peck, Merrill Ashley, Suzie Hendl, Bart Cook, Maria Calegari, JP Frolich, Patrick Corbin, and of course, Lourdes Lopez and our own staff of rehearsal directors.
What have been dream roles that you have fulfilled?
Tricia: Giselle definitely has a special place with me. Not having been obsessed with the classics, it wasn’t a dream role from my childhood. However, getting to dance it certainly was a dream. It has everything you could ask for in a role: joy, love, youth, tragedy and death, technical and artistic challenges. It’s one I got to revisit three times, and each time was dramatically different for me based on where I was in life and who my partners were.
What are some of your favorite memories?
Tricia: So many! When we’re all exhausted mid-season, traveling from theater to theater, the slap-happy insanity can kick in. And wow, I’ve had some really good laughs with my dear colleagues in the dressing rooms between shows. Lunch-time conversations cramming 10 people at a table that should fit four. Finishing a ballet and having gotten so lost in it that I don’t really remember what happened like it was an out-of-body experience. Making eye contact with my partners, knowing we’re in this together. The moment before the curtain goes up, and you don’t know whether to barf, laugh, or run away! Touring to random cities across the country. There aren’t many ways in life to bond with people this closely. We spend a lot of time together.
How has Lourdes impacted your artistic journey and growth?
Tricia: Lourdes has pushed me in the most generous, life-affirming ways, mainly by helping me believe that I have something unique and worthy to offer. I was convinced that I wasn’t good enough to just be myself. I felt I had to try to dance like other people in order to succeed. She helped me start thinking about how I wanted to dance, not just how I thought other people wanted to see me dance. This perspective opened a world of creativity and self-respect that filtered into many aspects of my life. The roles she’s given me have made me grow beyond what I ever thought I was capable of. I am forever grateful to her.
You are so thoughtful by giving gifts every Christmas to all of the dancers in the company! How did you come up with this tradition?
Tricia: Haha, I don’t even know how long I’ve been doing that! One year I wanted to give a little something to a lot of people in the company, and I thought if I find the right thing, why not everyone?! I love practical gifts since it pains me to give unpractical gifts. So I think of things most people can use like a toothbrush (hopefully!;) ), nail clippers, hand sanitizer, scissors, pens, to name a few… it’s nice to connect with everyone this way during the holidays.
You have been teaching the company this past season! How has teaching the company alongside dancing been for you?
Tricia: It has been so inspiring! First, watching these incredible dancers I know well but don’t get to just enjoy watching often is a gift. To see how everyone works and approaches class is fascinating to me. I also feel like it’s something every dancer should get to do because it makes clear what is actually important, what actually shows. It makes me think about how to approach my own dancing differently. Also, when you’re in the front of the room, you really pick up on everyone’s energy that day. It’s made me think about how I present myself energetically.
During your time here, what advice would you give young people starting their professional journey?
Tricia: Please be kind to yourself. There is a lot of hard work ahead, really good days that make you feel invincible, and really bad days that make you question your life choices! Have faith that you’re meant to share the gift that you have; it really does take a combination of miracles to do what we do. Ask yourself, am I enjoying myself? And do what it takes to make sure you are. I can promise it goes really fast, so don’t waste a minute getting dragged down by toxic thoughts or toxic people. So much easier said than done.
What do you enjoy most, or what do you feel is most special about dancing with Miami City Ballet?
Tricia: I think this company is full of really good, hard-working people, all the way around. You can be the best dancer in the world technically, but if you’re not a good person, it shows in your art. There is a real sense of communal support at MCB that I don’t think exists in every company. Yes, we have ranks, but we all work together to make this company as a whole a great place to dance.
What brought you to dance? When did you know it was what you wanted to do as a career?
Tricia: My mom put my sister and me into ballet instead of preschool as a way to be in classes with other kids. I was four when I started skipping and playing with scarves to music. When I was 12, I went to the School of American Ballet for a summer course. I went to see New York City Ballet and was totally captivated. The theater was so beautiful and lush but also felt accessible to little me. Symphony in C was on the program, 50 dancers in white tutus dancing crisply and full of light. Little did I know until later that both Lourdes and Roma were in Symphony in C the evening I came to see NYCB! I hadn’t understood that this could be a profession, but that summer opened my eyes to the reality of it all and made me a full-fledged “bunhead.”
Photo credit: 1. Tricia Albertson in La Source. Choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo © Daniel Azoulay. 2. Tricia Albertson and Kleber Rebello in Heatscape. Choreography by Justin Peck. Photo © Gene Schiavone.