Today we have an interview Elisa Toro Franky–a 2010 competitor in The USA International Ballet Competition. Representing Columbia, she studies at Dance Theatre of Harlem and credits Arthur Mitchell as the most influential person in her dance career. (Arthur Mitchell is the 2010 USA IBC honorary chairperson.)
4dancers will be featuring other people who are associated with this “olympic-style” competition over the coming weeks, so stay tuned. And now…Elisa…
1. How did you wind up a dancer?
When I was a child, my parents always encouraged my brother and me to explore different activities besides the normal school. Art has always been highly important in my family, and therefore, when I was 8 years old, my mother suggested me to start Ballet classes. I was captured by Ballet from the very first lesson, and as years went by, I chose to pursue the dream of being a professional ballerina.
2. What road has taken you to the USA International Ballet Competition?
Since I heard about the USA International Ballet Competition in 2005, I saw it as a fabulous challenge for a dancer; the ideal scenario to offer one’s talent and hard work, while learning from excellent dancers from all over the world.
I applied for the 2006 USA IBC, without success. Since then, I have had the chance to learn and to gather performing experience during the last 4 years with the Miami City Ballet, then with the Washington Ballet, and now with the Dance Theater of Harlem. This has propelled me into the selected group of competitors for the 2010 USA IBC.
3. How have you prepared yourself for this competition, both physically and mentally?
Physically and mentally go together. I focused on the development of the physical strength required for each solo, exploring every movement transition, every corner of motion. I reflected a lot about the energetic shape for each role. In addition, the encouragement and support I received from my family, friends and co-workers was crucial in the process.
4. Do you have any advice for other dancers who are going to compete in dance?
Be very organized in the preparation process and do not waste valuable time. It is all about self-discipline and love for your art.
5. You have said that Arthur Mitchell is the most influential person in your dance career…can you explain why that is?
He is such an honorable man! He created a company that welcomes all races in one stage, where it is the mere quality of the craft that is important, not the race or the ethnicity. He opened a door for equal opportunities for African-American dancers and for dancers from over the world, and they excelled before a worldwide audience. Arthur Mitchell is respected and truly admired by all of us at the Dance Theatre of Harlem.
6. What is it like to study at Dance Theatre of Harlem?
I believe that the diversity of their repertoire made me a versatile dancer, which is essential in a dance career. The artistic faculty is there to coach us, to guide us toward the greatest dancers we can become. However, they are very strict and demanding, which impulses us to higher levels of performance.
7. Would you share something special from your dance career so far?
I find special the fact that I willingly left my country, my family and friends, in order to pursue advanced studies and a professional dance career in USA. I was 17 years old when I had to go far away from my nest in Colombia, so I could get closer to a professional Ballet environment abroad.
8. Have you had any challenges in terms of your career so far?
Everything has been a challenge, I approach it that way. Earning soloist roles, auditioning, going on tour, experimenting with my own choreography for the first time!
9. Who are your favorite dancers?
Viviana Durante, from the Royal Ballet, to mention one of many dancers I admire.
10. What is next for you?
I am looking forward to continue to dance with the Dance Theatre of Harlem Ensemble. I am looking forward to the concrete projects they have for re-opening the main company. That has been the greatest hope cherished at DTH during the last few years.
About the competition: The USA International Ballet Competition is a two-week, “olympic-style” competition where tomorrow’s stars vie for gold, silver and bronze medals; cash awards; company contracts; and scholarships. The event is designated as the official international ballet competition in the United States by a Joint Resolution of Congress. Presented under the auspices of the International Dance Committee, International Theatre Institute of UNESCO, the USA IBC is held every four years in Jackson, Miss., in the tradition of sister competitions in Varna, Bulgaria, and Moscow, Russia.