When Boston Ballet resident choreographer Jorma Elo selected Corina Gill to perform alongside three of the company’s best-known dancers—Kathleen Breen Combes, Whitney Jensen and Lia Cirio—in his 2012 premiere Sharper Side of Dark, she did not shy away from the challenge. Within Elo’s dark, intriguingly beautiful universe, Gill created a magnetism all her own. Whether she was bursting into flight or showing off her pristine lines, what you noticed first were her eyes—deep, with an intense soulfulness that drew you in.
“It was a big moment for Corina, and she deserved every bit of it,” says company ballet master Tony Randazzo. “It’s a new step for a choreographer to work closely with her on a premiere. It shows that she has the maturity to really thrive in that capacity.” But this isn’t the first time that Gill, a Boston Ballet corps member, has proven her ability. Just three years ago, she was a critics’ sweetheart dancing one Balanchine lead after another at Los Angeles Ballet, before making the bold move to join the corps in Boston in 2009.
When Gill was growing up near San Diego, California, her mom would drive her to Black Mountain Dance Centre. There she studied an eclectic mix of ballet styles that included Cecchetti examinations. Early on, she became fascinated by Boston and its ballet company, and in her teens she attended Boston Ballet’s summer intensives.
Though Gill was determined to have a ballet career, her father insisted that she attend college, so she studied dance at the University of California, Irvine, with David Allan, director of ballet studies. While in college, she performed with San Diego Ballet. After graduation, she danced with Eliot Feld’s Ballet Tech before returning in 2002 to California to get married. She was 21 and wanted to build a career close to her husband, Cory, who worked for a Los Angeles car rental company.
The next few years were difficult. “There were many times when it seemed like a ballet career wasn’t going to work out for me,” she says. First, she joined Ballet Pacifica during a time when the company was frequently changing artistic direction. Two years later, she moved three hours north to join State Street Ballet, which meant frequent long drives back to L.A. to see her husband.
Then, in 2006, everything changed. A friend told her about a new Los Angeles company founded by Thordal Christensen and Colleen Neary. She auditioned and was offered a contract. From its first season, Los Angeles Ballet thrived. And Gill quickly won the spotlight, dancing principal roles in the company’s Balanchine repertoire. “To be trusted to do that was incredible,” she says.
Three years in, she got a call from her former teacher David Allan, telling her that Boston Ballet needed a new dancer immediately. Gill loved her job, but she had never lost her childhood dream of dancing in Boston. “So I got a plane ticket and took class on Wednesday,” she says. “I was dancing with the company on Friday. And I was onstage the following Thursday.”
After the initial rush, she began to doubt herself. “When I first came to Boston, I almost felt like I was starting over, because I got scared all of a sudden,” she says. “I was in my dream company, and I had everything to lose if they ended up being disappointed in me.” Still, she was grateful to finally be dancing full-time and for the opportunity to be the breadwinner while her husband pursued his own dream, attending seminary school in Boston. (The couple are both devout Christians.) Gradually, Gill’s fears receded.
“Corina has kept improving and adapting and has made a very strong place for herself in the company,” says Randazzo. “There’s an urgency to her approach. She’s not one to wait until the next rehearsal if she can accomplish something in the current one.”
Though her experience in the Boston corps de ballet has been very different from her time as a star of Los Angeles Ballet, Gill is happy. Last year, she danced “Kingdom of the Shades” in La Bayadère—every pinky finger had to be perfect. When the company performed, Gill witnessed the profound effect of their precision. “I tell you, there wasn’t a dry eye on the stage,” she says. “That moment of togetherness and being completely in sync with 23 other girls was the greatest of my career.”
At a Glance
Schools: Black Mountain Dance Centre in San Diego; UC Irvine (Bachelor of Arts in Dance)
Former Companies: San Diego Ballet, Ballet Tech, Ballet Pacifica, State Street Ballet, Los Angeles Ballet
Favorite Role: The wedding pas de deux in David Allan’s Cinderella
Dream Role: Juliet
Dance Idol: Margot Fonteyn