This week, Patch introduces you to Vanessa Woods, the newest ballerina to join Chesterfield based Saint Louis Ballet. Woods recently relocated from New York City to the St. Louis area to join the ballet company.
While many young girls dream of becoming a ballerina when they grow up, very few actually do. Vannessa Woods—the newest member of Saint Louis Ballet—pursued her dream from the time she was very young.
“I've been interested in ballet since I was five years old,” Woods, 25, said. “I never lost that interest.”
Her interest kept her studying. As an adult, she attended State University of New York (SUNY) at Purchase, N.Y., Miami City Ballet School, the prestigious STEPS Ballet Studio on Broadway, and others.
While a dancer never stops studying and practicing, Woods did begin to land jobs dancing with professional ballet companies located around the country, including the Colorado Ballet and companies in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York.
It was a job dancing in Washington D.C. that made the biggest impression on her. “I danced with the Susan Farrell Ballet at the Kennedy Center,” Woods said.
“It was really a life changing experience. (Farrell) was George Balanchine's muse,” Woods said. Balanchine is regarded as the foremost contemporary choreographer in the world of ballet.
Woods' break into Saint Louis Ballet came last year mid-season when she was brought in to perform in Swan Lake, and then was asked to stay and dance in Sleeping Beauty. She still was not a permanent member of the company though, and so she returned to New York.
When Saint Louis Ballet held auditions for the upcoming season, Woods was hesitant to come to St. Louis. She had already flown in twice to audition at her own expense and not been hired. This time, she wrote and asked him if she actually had a chance in being hired. Horiuchi not only said yes, he hired her on the spot based on her performances last season.
Woods made a the move to St. Louis to prepare for the 2011-2012 season. While the dancers are not required to take dance classes, they are expected to show up in shape and ready to work. Wood's spends her days working on her own in the Saint Louis Ballet School in Chesterfield Commons and working out at the gym.
“Nobody makes us come in and practice, but we do it on our own,” Woods said. “Everyone wants to be in tip-top shape for our audience next season”
Just like athletes, dancers must think about what they will do once they can no longer live up to the physical demands of professional ballet.
“I'd like to dance for a long time, and then dance on Broadway—after ballet,” Woods said. “I'm also looking at the real business world, working in public relations.”
For a complete 2011-12 schedule of performances, please visit the Saint Louis Ballet website.