Cupcakes & conversation with Monica Pelfrey, Los Angeles Ballet

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 Cupcakes & conversation with Monica Pelfrey, Los Angeles Ballet

Monica Pelfrey, Los Angeles Ballet, dance, ballet

Monica Pelfrey

What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ?

I love the idea that I have a new beautiful day ahead of me. I love the challenge of working on new things and improving myself every day. I feel that no one can inspire you like yourself.

Why ballet ?

I started dancing when I was two years old, and even after quitting dance for a year in college, I realize now that I have a talent that I cannot waste.

What are you looking forward to dancing in the new season ?

I’m very excited for our Balanchine program in March. Balanchine’s ballets are always such a joy to learn and perform.

Who would you most like to dance with & what would you dance ?

I’ve always been inspired by my colleagues. I wish I had an opportunity to dance with former Los Angeles Ballet dancer Andrew Brader, he is such an inspiring artist. And there are so many wonderful dancers out there that I don’t know who to begin to choose. I’m inspired by Lucia Lacarra and Marianela Nuñez. To be in their presence would be a gift. I loved performing as principal stomper girl in Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room at Corella Ballet, and I would love to get a chance to dance that again.

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Photograph : Adriene Hughes

If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance ?

I love touring in general. I would love to get a chance to dance in my hometown in Galicia in Spain, or in the bay area. 

How do you prepare your pointe shoes ?

I usually cut them to a 3/4 shank. I step on the box as well as stepping on the box upside down to really break it in. I also put water on the box when I’m first breaking them in to make them softer. 

What is your daily routine at the moment ?

I am not a morning person, but I usually get up around 8:15 am, eat breakfast while I’m half-awake, warm up before company class at 9:30. Then I usually rehearse until around 4 or sometimes 6. I live in LA. I can’t complain about how beautiful the weather is each day. I’m never bored.

You can ask six famous people to dinner – who would you invite ?

Lucia Lacarra, Marianela Nunez, writers of LOST, JK Rowling, Joel Mchale, and Dwight Shrute      

What would surprise people about you ?

I love to cook. I can peel potatoes with a knife. I love to write poetry. I love scary movies. I’m half Spanish (my mother is from Spain), and my first language was Spanish, which I speak fluently. I have a younger brother and a twin brother. I graduated from the University of San Diego with a double major in Psychology and English with an award of Summa Cum Laude. And I definitely never thought I would be a professional dancer. 

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Photograph : Adriene Hughes

Who inspired you to dance ?

I had so many wonderful and supportive teachers growing up. I always had teachers who really inspired me to dance with and from my emotions. I am blessed that I learned very early that ballet is not just about technique. I’ve always wanted the opportunity to thank my mom. She has made everything possible for me in my life. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for her.

What is your best piece of advice ?

Stay positive. Everything happens for a reason.

How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?

I usually put on my makeup a good while before the half hour call, and I like to warm up or just listen to music to relax. I get very nervous before performing so I try and focus on relaxing, knowing that I can do this, that this moment is what I live for.

Which role has tested you the most & how ?

In my first season with the Los Angeles Ballet last year, I was given the incredible opportunity to dance First Ballerina in Balanchine’s Piano Concerto No.2. It was some of the most beautiful and exhilarating choreography I have ever danced. My director, Colleen Neary, described this ballet as being a full-length ballet condensed into 20 minutes. Once I started, I never got my breath back for the rest of the ballet. I remember being so nervous before each show that I couldn’t help crying. But I loved it. I loved it and hated it all at once. It was the most rewarding feeling as the curtain was going down at the end and I was sitting on my partner’s shoulder, knowing I had made it. At the end, I was so out of breath that I no longer knew if I was crying or laughing.

If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create ?

I like something simple. Even something like a white-leotard ballet would be inspiring. As inspiration from Balanchine’s Serenade, I would love to have the girls dance with their hair down.  

Photograph : Erich Koyama. Travis Wall, choreographer and dancer from So You Think You Can Dance is coaching Monica in this picture

What do you look for in a dance partner ?

Strength, communication, and passion.

What is your favourite quote ?

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Do you have a ‘signature step’ – one that comes naturally to you ?

I love to jump, and I love anything in an arabesque.

A phrase I use far too often is … ?


What’s been your best on-stage moment so far ?

Every moment I have on stage is a treasure for me. One moment I especially loved was performing in Travis Wall’s contemporary piece at the end of the season with Los Angeles Ballet. I felt the character he created for me was actually me, and his piece really spoke to my life personally. There was a moment at the end where I walk into the light, and I open my closed fist on the last note, signifying that I let go of everything. Every time I danced his piece, it was healing, and I never wanted it to end. 

Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about ? 

I have special telepathy powers because I am a twin.    

In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now ?

In ballet, you can’t think too far ahead. I love taking a step back every day and realizing how blessed I am to just be dancing right now. I like to live in the moment. That’s why I’m dancing

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10 Responses to Cupcakes & conversation with Monica Pelfrey, Los Angeles Ballet

  1. Dancing Branflake November 24, 2010 at 2:49 pm #

    Great interview! I love that she loves Dwight Shrute. Gorgeous lines.

  2. Debra Schubert November 24, 2010 at 4:40 pm #

    I loved this post. What an inspiring dancer with a fantastic attitude towards life!

  3. May November 24, 2010 at 8:18 pm #

    Brainy girl! It’s also refreshing that she does her best to answer every question with her own ideas instead of being coy with the questions about costumes and secret skills that some other respondents have been.

  4. Martha Millard November 24, 2010 at 10:50 pm #

    Great interview with the gorgeous Monica! She was AMAZING in Balanchine’s PC2 and I love that she’s a twin and that she is inspired by the profound Serenity Prayer. Have a great season with LAB Monica!

  5. Andrew Fry November 24, 2010 at 11:31 pm #

    I hope someday … one or more of my children will meet Monica … her simple straightforward expressions are … foundational … a few minutes with her would be worth more than a year at middle school.

  6. Ballet News November 29, 2010 at 4:10 pm #

    Dancing Branflake – thank you !

    Martha – thank you !

    Debra – many thanks – that’s the idea behind cupcakes & conversation…

    May – I do my best to choose dancers who can articulate well

    Andrew – thank you ! I hope so to

  7. Jamie December 16, 2010 at 2:23 am #

    Monica is actually my cousin and I am so proud of her. Love for Balanchine, Psychology and Dwight Shrute must run in the family!

  8. Kathy O' December 22, 2010 at 2:59 am #

    Monica you are a beautiful amazing Dancer. Great article : )

  9. Susan Pelfrey Willett February 6, 2011 at 11:31 pm #

    Great interview, would love to be able to see Monica dance personally in LA. Maybe one day. Remember going to her dance class when she was like 6 and even then new she was destined to be a star. Keep up the good work. 🙂