Ballet as an art form has been lucky to have several important and passionate people that live for it.
Wonderful choreographers, excellent teachers and mostly, faithful dancers.
Watching other dancers will always inspire you to improve. When I watch them, I do not only see how amazing they are on a technical level but also how amazing they are as human beings. When I love to learn from them.
I think my list will be different from others' lists of role models. I tried hard to get 10 dancers but had to expand the list to 15.
(The list represents my favorite dancers with no specific order. It does not represent who is better than who, since I cannot compare them).
15. Mary Carmen Catoya
Catoyita, as I call her, had to be on this list. This versatile, sweet, and humble dancer from Venezuela was the one I look at in class every day. I was very lucky to have her as the Principal dancer in Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida for the time I was an Apprentice. Catoya began her professional career when she was 13 years old in Caracas and has become a brilliant dancer passing through Cleveland Ballet, 16 years with Miami City Ballet, guesting along with other huge ballet stars and now with Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida. Thanks to her and her wise advice, I am able to stay inspired on a daily basis. I am lucky to call her my friend.
14. Misty Copeland
Misty is becoming more and more famous. Although, it was not easy for her to get where she is. Starting dancing late, fighting with early economic, racial, and body stereotypes are a few things with which Misty has been through. She demonstrates that anyone can reach their dream. Her story inspires everyone, especially those who are told they are not good enough. I had the honor to have taken a class with her at Steps, New York. She can even take two classes a day, working as if she is still a student while staying incredibly humble.
13. Roberto Bolle
Oh, the God! Roberto has broken many barriers, dancing and guesting around the world and with many incredible ballerinas as his partners. Roberto even has his own tour with which he invites many wonderful dancers from all over the world. You can see his sweetness in and outside ballet while showing the best of his technique and artistry in every role he dances. Roberto, as Catoya once told me (since she met him), is an international star, yet he keeps being humble and a true human being to his fans and fellow dancers. Besides, who would not want to have Roberto as their Romeo?
12. Sylvie Guillem
Ah, La Belle Sylvie. She definitely had a long career being a Ètoile since she was 19, having an incredible ballet career followed by modern and contemporary works to finish her career. The stunning French dancer is also the perfect example of having everything and still work as you don't have anything. On every interview, Sylvie tells is that it does not matter if you have the best feet, extensions, and body, you still have to work hard. I had the huge honor to watch her dancing in her last performance in the US: Second NYC Trip: Watching Sylvie Guillem
11. Sara Mearns
We cannot deny that New York City Ballet stands out for being different. George Balanchine did an amazing job on creating a new style for dance, but Sara Mearns created a different type of ballerina for NYCB. I admire Sara's dedication to her job, which she does not call it a "job", it is her life. She is a lyrical ballerina, the one I would enjoy so much to watch on Diamonds Pas de Deux or in her famous role of Peter Martins' Swan Lake. She stands out from being delicate on the strong Balanchine world and besides all the injuries she has gone through, she still works focusing primarily on her body, making it a priority to strengthen it within the tight NYCB schedules.
10. Natalia Osipova
Talking about being different, I can say that Natalia Osipova is included in the "different" list. Growing at the Bolshoi Academy, she became a great ballerina with the Bolshoi Theatre, but a few years ago she agreed to join the Royal Ballet, wanting to try new repertoire. I admire her strength when dancing, and I think we can all agree that Natalia can jump higher than some guys. But most of all, I admire her bravery. Every time I listen to one of her interviews, she always mentions that she is proud of being a Russian ballerina, but at the same time, she loves to try different things and challenging roles. Imagine if we all had Natalia's fearless personality!
9. Carlos Acosta
The Legend. Carlos came from a very humble family growing up at the poor streets of Cuba. The strong, versatile Cuban dancer became a star at a very young age, and I cannot imagine how many stages he has stepped on or the number of ballerinas he has danced with! Everybody in Cuba knows who he is, as Carlos represents the country as no one else, making them proud. Carlos also has a very fun personality, and his choreographic works are full of life adding his great artistry. I think we all have been lucky to have seen him and his path because he is another man that demonstrates we can reach high.
8. Ulyana Lopatkina
A lot of people may admire Svetlana Zakharova, Diana Vishneva or Alina Somova, but I admire Ulyana the most from all the ones passing through the Mariinsky Theatre. From all the Russian ballerinas, she is definitely my favorite. Even though she is at the top of the Mariinsky, I can see that she keeps being sweet and humble, always working as if she was at the Vaganova Academy again: non-stop. Her lines, long arms and beautiful presence are a few things that describe Ulyana. She is a jewel in St. Petersburg, and a joy to watch.
7. Jurgita Dronina
Many of my close circle of friends still don't know Jurgita. I heard about her just three years ago when a friend from Poland came for a Summer Intensive. He showed her to me. I realized I was missing out! Jurgita is beautiful, there is no other word for her... a unique, undoubted artist. Her dedication, artistry, and sweat (because she likes to really sweat in ballet class) are just a few things that have taken her to be principal on four brilliant companies. Now in The National Ballet of Canada and the English National Ballet, she keeps reaching our hearts.
6. Evgenia Obraztsova
I first knew about Evgenia when I watched the movie Ballerina, and I can also say that she is another Russian jewel. Genia has proved others wrong many times, winning one of the most prestigious ballet competitions (Moscow IBC) is just one of those achievements that took her far. Proving others wrong is something we should do all the time, especially when they tell us we cannot do something. Genia's example of simple beauty is what I like the most about her: nothing is too big or too little. I would have loved to watch her dancing with Steven McRae at the Royal Opera House!
5. Marianela Nuñez
The Queen, as many people call her. Nela is one of a kind, not only because of her fearless technique or her unique artistry but also because she is a wonderful human being. Technically, what I admire the most is her control: foot work, balance, controlled turns... Sometimes I found myself shocked by her videos: "how did she do that?!" and then I proceed to repeat the video maybe 3 more times. On every interview, you can feel her emotions, she is so inspired all the time, and that is what inspires us. I have been so, so, so lucky to have seen her three times live on stage.
4. Alina Cojocaru
I am very surprised that the majority of people I know do not know Alina. One cannot get enough out of her. She is one of those dancers that besides being short, looks tall onstage. This is because she interprets every role, at least the ones I have seen, with a lovely presence. Alina is very special for me because she was the one I got to watch dancing La Sylphide the first time I visited the Royal Opera House. Being 8 years old, she was the one that made me decide I wanted ballet as my main career, being my first Royal Ballet inspiration. Now at English National Ballet, she keeps getting to me, just as the first time I saw her.
3. Tamara Rojo
There are so many things I can say about Tamara! The Spanish, fearless, and incredibly smart dancer is an example of a strong ballerina, and she came to this ballet world to surprise us more and more. Tamara flawlessly dances her roles, particularly in the roles with more personality. I mentioned that she is also smart, and she proves it on every interview: Tamara is where she is right now because she knows herself, she knows what she can do, and she knows how far she can go. Many times, she had to take steps back in order to go forward. Also, she always describes herself as a woman who does not have the "perfect body" for a dancer, but besides the case, she still works over her limits to achieve anything she wants. Gracias Tamara, for teaching me many things.
2. Darcey Bussell
Darcey is my role model and has been ever since I can remember. She has been my ultimate favorite since I discovered her, probably 12 years ago. I was very sad when I heard she retired, especially when her farewell was on 2007 (and I left London on 2006). When I left London and first knew about her, I was obsessed and began watching her documentaries and videos, and I fell in love. Darcey started late at White Lodge, and she was told many times she was too tall or too much of this, too less of that... Besides all that, she had spectacular 20+ years of career with The Royal Ballet, and she still represents it even though she retired 10 years ago. No matter what, Darcey always kept me inspired even at my most awful moments.
Oh, Steven. He is my version of the rock band I will always love, follow, and admire. Steven is an incredible dancer, and every role is interpreted with his heart and soul. Technically impeccable, Steven is now of the superstar of The Royal Ballet, and he is a true star to me. Every day I get to see his pictures, videos, tweets, and Facebook posts; and all of them make my day. What is best about this red-haired Australian dancer is that he enjoys his life to the most: he loves his family and his job, and he is proud to be a ballet dancer (and a tap dancer) spreading the love with his audiences, fans, and colleagues. I have been fortunate enough to interact with him twice online and one in person. Let me tell you, meeting him, talking, and listening to his advice was shocking and lovely at the same time, and watching him onstage was a wonderful yet shocking experience. He gives 200% in each class, rehearsal, and performance, and I am willing to watch him much more for as long as he dances.