Dancer Spotlight: Swan In The Making

ABT's April Giangeruso blends maturity and musicality.
Published in the April/May 2010 issue.

Photo by Nathan Sayers

For a dancer who looks so at ease in the air, 19-year-old April Giangeruso earns compliments that could be mis­taken for complaints: “She’s got both feet on the ground,” or “She’s well-grounded.” Now an apprentice with American Ballet Theatre, Giangeruso has always had exceptional focus. The praise from admiring teachers and coaches is a tribute to her unswerving dedication to meeting ballet’s stern demands.

 

As a child, Giangeruso wasted no time getting to work. At age 5, after seeing her first performance of Swan Lake, she informed her parents that she wanted to be a dancer. “I loved taking class,” she says. “The studio was like a second home for me.” At 9, having exhausted the training opportunities offered in her hometown, Ellicott City, Maryland, she transferred to the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington, D.C., studying under a full scholarship from 2001 to 2005. She then moved to New York City, acquiring more Russian training from Valentina Kozlova, and became, at 15, the youngest female finalist at the 2006 USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi.

 

Many young women her age would be eager to earn more medals, but not Giangeruso. “I wasn’t interested in entering competitions; working on a solo for one or two years did not appeal to me. That’s not what ballet is about.” Returning to Maryland to become an all-American teenager and join a class of graduating seniors was ruled out as well. (One reason: She had found the time to graduate from high school two years early.) Asked if she resented ballet’s depriving her of the rite—and some would say the rights—of girlhood, she says, “No. I love ballet. Dance class also got me out of having to take P.E.”

 

Attending American Ballet Theatre’s summer intensives as a National Training Scholar was a more practical use of her energies after her Jackson triumph. She had no difficulty qualifying for admission to ABT’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School in 2007, but she didn’t stay there long. Within four months, she was taken into ABT II. She has been dancing professionally ever since, doing everything from fusion ensembles to excerpts from the classics. At 5’7”, she already possesses the long, unfolding line essential for the Act II Swan Lake pas de deux, as she demonstrated last April in ABT II’s New York City performances. Through an effortless musicality, she revealed Odette’s tremulous but trusting nature, an unusual accomplishment in someone so young. 

 

ABT II artistic director Wes Chapman describes her as the easiest young dancer he’s ever worked with: “She can do almost any style, even contemporary, and anything she doesn’t get right away, she works on until she does. She’s already well on her way to performing the double role in Swan Lake. Giving up is not an option with her.”

 

For Giangeruso, attitude covers more than just a step you practice in class and perform onstage. Attitude is also what you bring to class and to performance. “I know dancers who approach class as a time to work only on steps they already do well,” she says. “Those are what you practice. What you work on is whatever you can’t do now, frustrating as it is to repeatedly look less than your best. And don’t be discouraged if the person next to you looks really great. Class is the time for competition. Enjoy it.”

 

“I love jumps,” she continues, “but they don’t come as easy as pirouettes and adagio. Jumping from a dead stop is really hard, so that’s what I concentrate on, no matter what I look like doing it. I don’t beat myself up if I’m not perfect. Practice makes less imperfect, someone said.”

 

If that sounds somewhat philosophical, well, philosophy is what Giangeruso happens to be studying at Long Island University when she has the time. Attending college is a logical step for a dancer to take. “With ballet you never know what the future holds,” she says. Both feet on the ground, as usual.

 

At A Glance
Name: April Giangeruso
Age: 19
Company: ABT
Training: Kirov Academy of Ballet, Valentina Kozlova, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School
Favorite Ballet: Swan Lake
Dream Role: Odette/Odile