Dancer Spotlight! Melissa Verdecia
Company dancer Melissa knew from the moment she stepped on stage at her first dance recital at age 6, that dance was where her passion lies. She came to Ballet Hispánico eagerly accepting her first contract as a professional artist, and soon realized this was a haven where she could explore her Cuban roots and immerse herself as a Latina woman without constraints.
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Learn More About Melissa
Born & Raised: Miami, FL
Joined BH: August 2012
What experience, mentor, or teacher supported your passion for dance?
A pivotal teacher/mentor in my career was my very first Ballet Teacher for the first 10 years of my classical training. Caridad Espinoza, born and raised in Havana and certified in the Cuban ballet pedagogy started her own ballet academy in Miami in 1995 and I was one of her first students. She instinctively saw a fire and a passion in me and although she knew I was a sensitive soul as a young girl she pushed me to my limits in rehearsals even when I cried of frustration. She knew how to turn my perfectionist qualities into a passionate drive that would propel me to a professional career. Caridad or "Maestra" as her students affectionately called her inspired me to be expressive and fearless like my ballet idols like Alicia Alonso and Alessandra Ferri. I definitely credit her with giving me the foundation I needed as a classical dancer and artist to achieve my dreams of attending arts schools, conservatories and summer programs that eventually would lead me to professional opportunities.
When did you know you wanted to pursue dance?
I knew without a doubt in my heart that I wanted to dance professionally (or as I saw it the night of my very first recital in 1995 to dance on a grand stage every night) when I was a young and vivacious 6 year old. I vividly remember the feeling that swelled inside my chest as I stepped onto the illuminated stage and looked out into a dark abyss. I couldn't make out any faces but I felt the energy vibrating through the audience and instinctively knew without any hesitation that this was my moment to move expressively without fear or hesitation. It was quite an elating experience and after that I was hooked.
What's your most memorable performance?
One of my favorite performances was when I had the honor of returning to the International Ballet Festival of Havana in 2016 with my now husband Lyvan Verdecia and former BH dancer and great friend Mario Espinoza. We had the pleasure of performing the trio version of Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's Linea Recta in the then newly renovated Gran Teatro de la Habana in front of thousands of ballet lovers who greatly admired BH as a company and who are incredibly well versed in the intricacies of the art form. For me it was incredibly emotional because I got to perform for the first time as a principal in a very prestigious festival in the country of my roots and I was dancing alongside my life partner who had only 2 years prior, been living in Havana and dancing with the Ballet Nacional de Cuba. It felt like a full circle moment for the man/partner I love and it felt like a milestone moment in my career.
Why did you choose to come to Ballet Hispánico?
As many dancers who obtain their first contract out of school you take the job with great excitement and pride but aside from these emotions I quickly recognized that forming part of the Ballet Hispánico organization and community was going to bring me closer to my Cuban roots in a way that I formally had not explored. Although I had grown up in Miami surrounded by the Latin vibe of its people, as an artist I had never dared to honestly immerse myself in what the identity of a Latinx woman meant. I saw BH as a place where I could experiment with my registry and technique without fear. It was a home where I could grow and mature in ways that perhaps a larger company could not offer me.
How do you see dance progressing as an art form/what impact do you feel you or your generation of dancers will have on the field of dance?
A year ago no one could have even imagined that our reality as performing artists would be characterized by teaching, sharing, conditioning and choreographing through a virtual platform like Zoom. And now, this generation of dancers has found numerous creative ways to engage and reach individuals across all socioeconomic groups that otherwise would not have exposure to quality dance and instruction. Although these current times are daunting, frustrating and oftentimes depressing I believe that my generation will leave an indelible mark on the history of dance and art because we refused to be defeated by a crisis. We used our natural resourcefulness to make dance accessible for a myriad of people and in doing so I believe that our generation will finally prove to the world and its leaders the necessity for art and dance as a source of emotional and physical therapy.