Sterling Baca, American Ballet Theatre
Where did you grow up and how did you get interested in dance?
SB: I grew up in Larkspur, Colorado. I was homeschooled through high school and was involved in many competitive sports and musical theater. I started ballet after my parents forced me to see Colorado Ballet's Nutcracker instead of a professional indoor lacrosse game. I was enthralled by the masculine power and feminine beauty of the art form. My family has always been involved in art and always offered me opportunities to express myself artistically. They had me try ballet as another expressive outlet. Ballet is an athletic performing art, so my sensibilities were attracted to it very quickly. Over the next years it became my primary focus and has lead me to a career that I love.
What career would you have chosen if you could not have been a dancer?
SB: I have always been interested in the natural sciences - insects - especially spiders, so if I hadn't become a professional ballet dancer I may have pursued a career in Arachnology.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started dancing professionally?
SB: I don't know anything now that I wish I had known when I first began my career. I believe this career, just like life or anything else, is a process. Even if you aren't doing something right you must go through a process of evolution to become the person and artist you want to be.
Of all the roles you have performed, which role helped you grow the most as an artist?
SB: My greatest growth as an artist came during my preparation and performances of my first Principal role with ABT. I performed Von Rothbart with ABT for the first time on a tour in Australia in 2014. Performing this role provided me with the opportunity to develop the ability to tackle and appreciate how much goes into a Principal performance and has improved my dancing in all roles. It took me from the back left corner to being front and center.
If a child told you they wanted to be a dancer, what advice would you give them?
SB: My advice to anyone pursuing a professional career in dance would be that you first need to be very passionate about what you do. You must be willing to put in the incredible amount of time and effort it takes to be the best artist you can be. If you always work for this, you will be satisfied with yourself and able to maximize what you give to the audience and your colleagues. This should lead to a successful career.
How has social media changed a dancer’s status and what is required of them?
SB: Social media has provided dancers the ability to share their art form with many more people than they previously could. I think it has inspired many dancers to evolve and improve because they can now see extraordinary talent and expression from around the world. Art is about communication, so having the ability to share with more people is an incredible opportunity.
Do you have one moment in your career that you remember most fondly? Or one moment that you feel really defined your career or the trajectory of it?
SB: At 13 years old, in 2006, I attended my first ABT Summer Intensive in NYC. I met so many interesting and talented people from around the world. This is when I decided for certain that ballet was what I wanted to do as a career. I fell in love with the art form and the amazingly diverse world that is ballet. That summer has in many ways determined where I am, where I'm going, who I am, and who I want to become.
Who would you like most to have a coffee with (could be dead or alive)?
SB: I would love to have coffee with the legends Angel Corella and the late Fernando Bujones. Seeing Angel dancing with the alphabet on Sesame Street was my first image of ballet. Videos of him and Fernando have always inspired met to be the dancer I want to be and were the reason I wanted to dance with ABT. After meeting Angel and reading Fernando's autobiography, they both also became the kind of person I aspire to become.
What do you most value in your friends?
SB: Empathy and generosity.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
SB: Happiness to me is experiencing all emotions in their place with balance.
If you could be an animal, what would animal would you choose and why?
SB: If I could be an animal I would be a jumping spider. I've always been fascinated by spiders and jumping spiders are my favorite. Also, being able to jump one hundred times my height would be helpful in ballet.
What is your greatest indulgence?
What is the one thing you wished more people knew about dancing?
SB: I wish more people understood how much work goes into being a professional ballet dancer, that men dance too, and that you can have a career being a dancer.