Story of a… Ballerina

Anamarie McGinn, 30, dances through life as a member of the Orlando Ballet company.



ROBERTO GONZALEZ

Growing up, McGinn hated ballet class. “I started dancing jazz and tap when I was three; I was really into musical theater and on track to go to Broadway.” She thought ballet was boring until she took a master class at age 16 with the late revered ballet teacher David Howard. It completely changed her view. “I realized: This is my new goal; I’m going to be a ballerina.”

Starting her career later than most dancers, McGinn practiced tirelessly as a trainee and as an apprentice for Orlando Ballet before finally attaining her goal as a dancer in the company in 2005.

“My biggest accomplishment has been learning to trust myself. I love what I do. I’ve seen so much growth in myself as a dancer, and it’s rewarding.”

Her typical day includes class each morning from 10 to 11:30, rehearsal until 1, an hour lunch break, and then the company dances until 6. “We do this five days a week. I also teach jazz afterward for an hour or two.”

McGinn says that Robert Hill, artistic director of Orlando Ballet, has helped strengthen the program—and her dancing—with more modern, cutting-edge works since he took the creative reins in 2009. “He’s really helped me grow as a dancer—not only technically, but with confidence, acting and character development, as well. We still do the classics and story ballets, but just the way he throws in an edge is wonderful.”

“I’ve had a few magical performances. My most memorable was dancing the lead role of Snow White this past year. It was truly a wonderful experience. I’ve had the opposite, too, where everything is a train wreck. My first season in the company, I played Snowflake in The Nutcracker. In the middle of the performance, I slipped on some of our fake snow and fell flat on my face. I jumped up so fast that even our ballet mistress said she didn’t notice.”

The Nutcracker is a perennial favorite among audiences. “Because I started dancing late, I haven’t performed it as long as most other dancers, but I love it. Other dancers have been doing it since they were five years old, playing baby mice. I think people like it because it’s a tradition—one of those holiday things you do. Plus, the music is beautiful.”

McGinn isn’t superstitious, but she does have a few pre-performance rituals. “I’m convinced that when my hair goes up [in a bun] smoothly, it’s going to be a good show.” And she sometimes gives a small tribute to her grandmother, who passed away a few years ago. “I’ll kind of say in my head, ‘this is for you.’”

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