Dancer Spotlight! Shelby Colona
Shelby Colona never gave up on her dancing dreams. She auditioned three times before landing a spot on her local studio's competition team proving to herself at an early-age that if she put in the work, this was something she could pursue. This dedication has come to fruition during Shelby's six years with Ballet Hispánico over time getting the opportunity to perform some of BH's most iconic solos in CARMEN.maquia and Con Brazos Abiertos while inspiring audiences all over the world.
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Learn More About Shelby
Name: Shelby Colona
Born & Raised: Houston, TX
Joined BH: March 2015
What experiences or mentors did you have that helped drive your passion for dance?
When I was 7, I auditioned at a local competition studio in my hometown. It was a long weekend of learning different combinations, across the floor exercises, and showing a one-minute solo you choreograph on yourself. I was so excited because all the girls and the one boy who were in my studio classes growing up were auditioning as well. After the weekend was finished, on Sunday evening they would post the results on the door of the studio. I remember pulling up seeing all my friends elated because they made it. When I walked up to the window, my name was not there. I was completely devastated and embarrassed. I held myself together, walked back to my moms car, and burst into tears. But from that moment I was determined to try again.
After training as hard as I could for a full year until the next audition, the time had come. More combinations, more across the floor exercises, and another solo, I felt more prepared than ever. Only this time was a little different. My sister was also a dancer, and my mom had convinced her to audition with me just to boost my confidence in the room. Sunday evening came along and the three of us went up to the studio. My stomach had butterflies, and the thought of my sister and I being able to compete together made me so excited. My sister and I walked up to the window together. Her name was there and mine was not. I cried the whole way home and didn’t talk to my sister for about a week because I was so upset thinking she could have taken my spot.
I decided I would audition another year. Dance is what I love, and I couldn’t let any opportunity pass me by. I wanted, and needed, to be a part of this group to prove to myself I could do it. After my 3rd audition I finally made it, and I made it into the level with my friends. Whenever things get tough, I’m always reminded of that little girl who had so much passion that she would never give up on anything. No matter how many times she was denied.
When did you first know you wanted to dance?
The second I started dancing when I was three, I knew dance was something really special. I knew I wanted to dance for as long as I possibly could. I did not know anyone in my life who was a professional dancer, or a professional in any art form, so when I was younger I did not realize it could actually be a career. But when I was entering high school and auditioned for The High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA) in downtown Houston, I knew it was for life. I would do anything in my power to make sure I became a professional dancer!
Do you remeber your first performance? What was your favorite performance?
My first performance was my local dance recital when I was about three years old. I do not remember much of it except there was an assistant in the wings doing the whole piece with us to make sure no one forgot. I remember working hard enough that I never had to look over at her and could do it on my own.
My favorite performance was performing CARMEN.maquia by Gustavo Ramírez Sansano for a week in Scotland. It was an exhausting week but filled with love and adrenaline. Each night felt so different, but always in a positive way. To be able to do the same piece every night for a week and find a new goal to focus on is challenging, however, when you dive your heart and soul into it, the reward is meaningful.
Why did you choose to come to Ballet Hispánico?
This seems quite cliche, but I truly feel Ballet Hispánico chose me. As an Asian-American woman, when I was looking for companies to audition for BH seemed to be a far reach for me. I thought, "I'm not Latinx. I don’t 'fit the mold,' and that can’t be the place for me." I had gone to The Ailey School’s Certificate Program and had gone back to Ailey to do some freelance work. While I was there, I ran into the former BHdos Rehearsal Director, Nicholas Villeneuve, who had mentioned to me that a BHdos audition was coming up next week, and he would love to see me there. Before this run-in, the first time I met Nicholas, and last time I had seen him, was at a summer intensive 8 years before.
When I showed up to the audition, I changed my mind set of why I would not be a good candidate for Ballet Hispánico. I wanted to dance, I loved the overall mission, and why couldn’t I be a part of the Latinx culture? I gave it my all, and I got the job with the second company! After that, it was almost like perfect puzzle pieces. I had an opportunity to perform with the main Company while still in BHdos. Then came the main Company audition when I was offered an apprenticeship, but things began to speed up. Before the next season started, I continued having opportunities to perform with the main Company. I loved every piece of work we were doing, I loved all the people I was surrounded by, and I loved the environment and culture that filled every room. If I never had that run in with Nicholas, I’m not sure I would’ve ever auditioned for Ballet Hispánico soley based on what I thought they wanted. But here I am; six years into the main Company. Things don’t always happen as planned; sometimes they come out better.
How do you see dance progressing as an artform? What impact do you feel your generation of artists will have on the field of dance?
We are a society that relies on technology for almost everything. I believe that gives dance and other art forms a lot of pros and cons. Our generation has been able to bring dance to the rest of the world via social media and other platforms. Before, we relied on some advertising and people physically coming to our shows. Thankfully, during this time, technology is thriving and has kept most dance companies and dancers continuing to grace the world with art and inspiration. Dance has been able to reach people that may or may not have had the opportunity to see or experience a dance performance otherwise. Dancers now rely heavily on social media to self promote, share, educate the world on who we are, how much work is put into our art form, and that being a professional dancer is a valid career.