Dancer Spotlight: Balanchine Baby

January 25, 2010

When Miami City Ballet soloist Allynne Noelle dances the “tall girl” in Balanchine’s “Rubies” from Jewels, her long, supple legs and natural vivacity punctuate the jazzy choreography. Her sheer enjoyment of the movement gives the solo an all-American dash of wholesome sex appeal. “I love ‘Rubies,’ ” she says. “I think the solo girl’s personality fits me well. She’s sassy, but classy.”

Noelle never expected her favorite role to be in a Balanchine work, nor to end up in a company where Balanchine remains the lynchpin of the repertoire. “Ironically, I never had formal Balanchine training,” she says. A native of Huntington Beach, California, Noelle began dancing at the Huntington Academy of Dance at age 5. The school focuses on Cecchetti technique, and even when Noelle moved on to Ballet Pacifica’s school, the emphasis was on a clean, uninflected style.

Her first real Balanchine exposure came when she began dancing at Inland Pacific Ballet in Montclair, California. Former NYCB dancer Patricia Neary set Serenade, Concerto Barocco and Who Cares? on the company. Noelle found herself surprisingly at ease in the movement. “In classical ballet, you’re either right or wrong,” she says. “Balanchine has a lot more freedom. You can go to extremes.”

During a production of Coppélia, she met celebrated coach Stanley Holden. He suggested Noelle audition for Edward Villella, MCB’s artistic director, when the company toured California. Noelle took his advice, then went to see the company that night. “I thought the dancers were gorgeous,” she recalls. “ ‘Rubies’ was on the bill and I fell in love.”

She joined the company as a coryphée in 2003. Villella says he values a dancer’s curiosity and ability to “physicalize” music. “Allynne has the powerful mind necessary to drive her immense talent,” says Villella. “You cannot dance Stravinsky without understanding what you are attempting to articulate.” Noelle proved a quick study, moving into the corps midway through her first season.

Dancing under Villella’s direction has cultivated Noelle’s understanding of Balanchine’s work. “Edward knows the ins and outs of the roles so well. He gives us the freedom to explore our own timing and interpretation.” She has thrived on the Balanchine repertoire. “I love plotless ballets where I don’t have to act,” she says. “I can create passion and drama with my dancing.”

In her downtime, Noelle likes to go to the beach and play with her dog, a 4-year-old lab mix named Dolce. Still, she doesn’t like to take much time away from dancing. Even when the company is off, she continues to take class—men’s class in pointe shoes. Before she was promoted to soloist in 2008, she regularly learned not only the part she was assigned, but every other corps part. As a result, she became the company’s unofficial “swing,” able to jump in whenever there was an injury. Ballet mistress Joan Latham singles out that work ethic as part of what has brought Noelle success. “She is very fast and focused,” says Latham. “I love her determination. She helps me remember details of the ballets I’m setting.”

Noelle has also caught critics’ attention dancing Taylor and Tharp. While the Balanchine roles remain her favorites—she would love to dance the lead in “Diamonds”—her dream role is one that Balanchine never choreographed: Juliet. “She’s a hopeless romantic, willing to go to any extreme to find love,” says Noelle. “It’s the quintessential ballerina role.“

Meanwhile, she feels happy to be where she is. “I’m living my dream every day,” Noelle says. “I am a soloist in a company with international acclaim—that’s what I’ve wanted to do since I was 5.”

Susan Fulks contributed to the reporting of this story.