“The Options Became Endless”: BalletX’s Andrea Yorita on How College Opened Her Eyes to Contemporary Ballet

February 3, 2023

BalletX’s Andrea Yorita is one of the company’s most captivating and powerful movers.  Trained in the Royal Academy of Dance syllabus, she later attended the University of California, Irvine, which opened her eyes to the world of contemporary ballet. Now in her 11th season with BalletX, Yorita continues to pursue new ways to push herself and grow every day.

Before dancing professionally, you went to college at UC Irvine. How did that affect your path? What do you think that added to your voice as a dancer?

I wanted to go straight into a company, but my dad really wanted me to go to school—and I’m so thankful he did. In high school my focus was solely classical ballet, and I didn’t take much interest in other styles. At UC Irvine, I encountered so many people with varied backgrounds. College opened my eyes to the contemporary world, and as much as I loved ballet, this world spoke to me even more. I could explore myself—I could explore the human qualities of dance. It made me more well-rounded and changed my mindset. In classical ballet, there is a right and a wrong; it’s either turned out or turned in. When I learned about contemporary, the options became endless.

What drew you to BalletX?

The rep and the dancers. I saw [choreographer and company co-founder] Matthew Neenan’s work before I joined, and I’d never seen anything like it—I particularly remember his The Last Glass. While it was still ballet, it had such a unique way of telling a story, and such a strong human quality. No two dancers were the same, no one had the same body type. I loved that.

Andrea Yorita stands on her right foot on pointe and kicks her left leg back behind her, in parallel with a bent knee. She arches back and to her right with her upper body, curling her right arm in so that her hand touches her cheek and reaching her bent left arm across her chest. She wears a black leotard and tan pointe shoes.
Photo by Steven Vandervelden, courtesy BalletX.

It’s your 11th season with the company—what keeps you there?

It’s a combination of the dancers and the choreographers. It’s a small company, so we all work tightly together. I am continually learning from my fellow dancers, because we are all so different. Also, the choreographers, especially the ones I’ve worked with regularly, like Matthew Neenan and Nicolo Fonte. Their works continue to evolve and change through the years, while the original ones are still timeless for me.

What do you enjoy more: performing or being in the studio?

As weird as it sounds, I feel a little more safe onstage. The mirror isn’t there, and with that the self-criticism that comes in and clouds my view of what I’m doing. Onstage, whatever I do right now, it’s done. You can’t change it—you can’t un-ring the bell!

Do you prefer being a part of new works or finding your own voice in existing ones?

What I love about having something created on me is that it’s tailored to me. I’m not a turner, so most likely it won’t have turns in it. But I also love when those works come back. When we bring back old pieces that were created on me, I feel like I can grow more or better because I’ve had some time away for it to seep into my bones.

Andrea Yorita performs onstage in front of a black backdrop. She stands upright on the toe of her sneakers as if on pointe, and reaches both arms up as she looks towards the floor. She wears a pleated blue skirt, a gray short-sleeved top, white socks and white sneakers.
Yorita in Justin Peck’s Become a Mountain. Photo by Vikki Sloviter, courtesy BalletX.

What qualities do you admire most in other dancers?

Dancers who are confidently themselves—having an opinion, a sense of who they are, rather than just replicating what they see. 

Do you have any pre-performance rituals?

I like to put my Spotify on shuffle and, whatever pops up, I improv and warm up to it. It brings me back to zero, to my most grounded self.

What is your favorite part of life in Philadelphia?

I love all the characters. There are so many different types of people—I love people-watching.

If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be?

Michelle Obama. She seems very awesome.

What’s your biggest indulgence?

I love burritos. I grew up in Southern California, so I really just love Mexican food. There’s nothing like it.

What’s your favorite thing to cook?

I’m not much of a cook—my husband does most of the cooking. But I do make Japanese curry!

What advice would you have for students wanting to be professional dancers?

Be open to being uncomfortable. I always learn the most when I feel uncomfortable, whether or not I felt like I succeeded. Expose yourself to as much as possible—experiences outside of dance, styles within the dance world. It creates a good balance in life.

To whom or to what would you attribute your success?

It’s an army of people! My family is my number one support, always. My teacher, Merle Sepel, was like a second mother. And my husband [former company member Zachary Kapeluck]—he’s a constant.

What’s your best memory onstage?

There’s a duet in Nicolo Fonte’s Beautiful Decay that I do with my husband that has always been special to me. We did it early on and when we’ve revisited it later, it just felt like it was ours. It was a shared experience.