After 17 years as a principal dancer with the esteemed San Francisco Ballet, performing every major role and style possible, Lorena Feijóo is retiring from that company. She'll embark on a new journey of dance possibilities and, maybe her biggest role yet, of single-parenting her 5-year-old daughter, Luciana. It is an unexpected life change for the Cuban-born Feijóo, who has been ensconced in the order and security of SFB.
Miami audiences will have the opportunity to see Feijóo dance with the Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami (CCBM) this Friday and Saturday when the company performs select pieces of Ballets Russes repertoire chosen by CCBM director Pedro Pablo Peña. Feijóo has performed with the company numerous times in her 20-plus years in the United States. She credits Peña with taking classical ballet to fans who moved from Cuba to Miami.
“It has always been a special audience for me in Miami,” Feijóo says. “A lot of the audience members I have known since I was in school in Cuba.”
For the upcoming performance, Feijóo will show off her most classical style as the elegant and mature Taglioni in Pas de Quatre, a jewel of a ballet created in 1845 for the four most highly praised ballerinas of their time. It is a ballet that Feijóo last performed in her native Cuba and one with which the Cuban-Miami audience is familiar. Revisiting Taglioni in a few whirlwind days in Miami is symbolic of Feijóo's maneuvering as she treads new territory apart from the structured existence at SFB.
In a world where perception is “everything is beautiful at the ballet,” Feijóo, with her Cuban accent and Latin temperament, speaks frankly and realistically about her final year at SFB and life moving forward.
Feijóo was surprised when Helgi Tomasson, artistic director of SFB, made it clear that this was her final year as a dancer there. “His words were: ‘This is your last year. What are your plans?’ It was not my idea, and I certainly don’t feel ready to retire from dancing, but you have to respect what people want to do, so I didn’t question it. This was a very difficult year for me, and I would have liked to have had a little more preparation. So, ideal it was not, but I feel very fortunate to have done so much.”
Feijóo is also embroiled in a contentious divorce from a fellow SFB dancer. The mediation is ongoing, and both parties want what is best for their daughter. In her straightforward way, Feijóo says, “I have had my share of relationships. Never again a dancer and never again a younger person... It just doesn’t work for me. And I met him from guesting in Miami through Pedro Pablo!”
Asked by Tomasson to coach and teach SFB during her final year, Feijóo straddled the fence between dancing, teaching, and running rehearsals. “I really enjoyed passing on what I had learned. The company was lacking female coaches, so I also stepped into that role. I was dancing and teaching at the same time. It was hard.”
Regarding her future, Feijóo says, “I’ve never had the time to freelance or explore other possibilities. Now I can actually be my own boss, [do] things that when you’re attached to a daily schedule, you just can’t do.”
Feijóo also has had few injuries in her career. “I don’t know what that is, to be in pain. Maybe my genes, my mental strength, I don’t know. Dancing has always been what I love and what I want to do.”
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Her schedule is already busy. She spends much of her time in rehearsals and performances with the San Francisco Opera, including a world-premiere production of Girls of the Golden West, with music by John Adams and libretto by Peter Sellers.
Maybe the upcoming visit to Miami is finalizing a full circle that will catapult Feijóo into the next cycle of her life.
— Cameron Basden, Artburstmiami.com
The Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami and Lorena Feijóo
8 p.m. Friday at the Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach. Tickets cost $20 to $35 via colonymb.org. And 8 p.m. Saturday at Miami-Dade County Auditorium, 2901 W. Flagler St., Miami. Tickets cost $32 to $62 via ticketmaster.com.