National Treasure: Uruguayan Ballerina María Riccetto Has Fallen Back in Love with Her Hometown

January 27, 2016

This story originally appeared in the December 2015/January 2016 issue of

Why did you return to Uruguay and join the Ballet Nacional Sodre, after being at American Ballet Theatre for nearly 14 years?

I’d been a soloist for 10 years and had danced a lot of great roles. But there were so many more I wanted to experience. Then Julio Bocca invited me to come down here. I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity being offered while I could still make the most of it. And I knew Julio was doing great things.

What have been some of your favorite roles since your return?

Dancing Kitri in Don Quixote gave me a huge amount of joy. I was so afraid of that role, because I’ve never considered myself a bravura dancer, but I faced my fear and it turned out well. And Swan Lake—it’s the ballet that consecrates a true ballerina. I considered myself more of an Odette, but Odile was a happy surprise; I opened a door to a part of myself that had been hidden away.

What do you like most about being back in Montevideo?

I sort of fell back in love with it. I have a more laid-back life here: I have a car, and my family is nearby. After a day of rehearsals, I can call my sister and go over and visit my niece, even for 10 minutes. And I live a block from the water.

Riccetto in “Don Quijote.” Photo by Santiago Barreiro, Courtesy Riccetto.

What is it like working for your former colleague, Julio Bocca?

People respect him so much. The temperature changes when he walks into a studio. But we have a friendship outside of the company, and I like being able to keep the two things separate, to have that respect for him while also being able to go out and have a beer and talk about things totally unrelated to ballet.

Your father was a rancher, and Uruguay is famous for its asado (barbecue). Do you have a favorite cut of beef?

Asado de tira (strip of short ribs), or a nice colita de cuadril (tri-tip).

What would you like to do after you stop dancing?

I like to teach and coach, and I’ve started putting together dance workshops. But I’d also like to live in a city I’ve never lived in before, for a year. Maybe Barcelona—I love it there.

You’re quite active on social media. What function does it fulfill for you?

At first I was against it, because I thought it was all about promoting yourself. But then I had some conversations with Daniil Simkin, who is very active on social media. I’ve come to realize how important it is to stay connected. Just an example: I went to see a Paul Taylor performance here. I was so happy afterwards that I tweeted about it, and all the dancers responded to my tweet. It brings us all closer together.

Are there things you miss about ABT?

I miss Irina Kolpakova, my coach there. Sometimes I close my eyes and think of corrections she used to give me; I think about her a lot.

Have you had any adventures since your return to Uruguay?

My boyfriend is a nature photographer. He likes to travel all over the country to take photographs. We spent one great summer on the road discovering places I’d never seen before.

Would you ever want to direct a company?

Maybe. I think I may have the right kind of personality for it, but I have a lot to learn.