Royal Ballet dancer retiring as Cuba visit ends

Sat Jul 18, 2009 6:51pm EDT
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By Jeff Franks

HAVANA (Reuters) - As Britain's Royal Ballet wrapped up a five-day stay in Cuba on Saturday, it was not just the end of a tour, but the end of a career for dancer Alexandra Ansanelli.

The 28-year-old American who joined the New York City Ballet at age 15, then made the leap to the Royal Ballet in London in 2006, said she was suffering ballet burnout after so many years of performing and was ready to give up one of the top jobs in the world of dance.

"I feel good about what I've done in the field of dance. I'm just ready to grow in a new way, intellectually and emotionally," the dark-haired dancer told Reuters during the Royal Ballet's first visit to the communist-ruled island.

The life of a big-time ballerina requires such complete dedication, so many long hours of practice, that it leaves little time or energy for other things, Ansanelli said.

"The physical demands, every moment, is draining. I would literally work until I dropped," she said. "I would like to find more balance."

Balance in this case means doing something she never had a chance to do while building her dance career -- going to college. She does not know what she will study, but hopes to enroll at New York University or Columbia University in her native New York as soon as possible.

Ansanelli's casualness about her dance career may be attributable in part to the fact she fell into dance at the relatively advanced age of 12 when she really had her sights on a soccer career.

She was already being touted as a possible college soccer player when her mother suggested she take dance classes in summer camp.   Continued...

<p>Alexandra Ansanelli, First Ballerina of The Royal Ballet, London, talks during an interview with Reuters in Havana July 18, 2009. REUTERS/Enrique De La Osa</p>