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5 min read

At Zarely we constantly celebrate excellence and determination to one’s life choices. Zarely Role Models are the world’s most admired principal dancers who in many ways define the modern-day ballet. We watch them on stage and in their studios performing at the level of perfection that seems almost uber-human. And we know that that’s the artistry in its prime. Reaching this point is a life-long process which requires the strength of character and relentless will power that are easily spotted in accomplished dancers. But the truth is that these traits have always been there. And they are no less important in a dancer’s life than physical predisposition or passion for classical dance.

With this interview we start introducing you to Zarely Rising Stars – young ballerinas and dancers who aim big, really big.

Natasha Sheehan, Corps de Ballet with San Francisco Ballet, Taylor Ciampi, Apprentice at The National Ballet of Canada, and Gloria Benaglia, Graduate of Ellison Ballet, are all extremely hard-working and most importantly – determined to become the world class ballerinas themselves. We were excited to have these three young ladies talk about ballet and what is driving them up this challenging path.

Natasha Sheehan


Team Zarely: Our first question is quite standard but we cannot omit it. How old were you when you first started ballet?

Natasha Sheehan:Actually, I started out quite late – at the age of 10.

Taylor Ciampi: I started taking recreational ballet when I just turned 5 years old

Gloria Benaglia:And I took my first ballet class when I was 6 but then after a few classes I stopped because I was too little and wasn’t passionate about it just yet. Then at the age of 12 I started to study ballet more seriously and day after day I would become more and more interested, passionate and addicted to ballet.

Team Zarely: Was it you who came to your parents saying “I want to do ballet” or was it the other way around?

Natasha Sheehan:It was my decision by all means.

Taylor Ciampi:Although my mother swore she would never have her children take ballet, she had a friend from work whose two daughters were doing ballet at that time. After seeing what a ballerina REALLY could look like, she registered me for my first class. I worked very hard and I also had discovered to have what they call “a natural talent”. And I was gifted with nice long legs, too. So we were hooked and haven’t looked back since!

Gloria Benaglia:The reason why I started ballet is not a very common one. I didn’t have any passion and I didn’t know anything about ballet. Since I was a baby I used to roll in my feet a lot. So eventually in the future I could end up with some serious troubles. My doctor said that ballet could help fixing my feet. So that’s how I enrolled.

Gloria Benaglia


Team Zarely: What do you think is the hardest part of being a ballerina?

Natasha Sheehan:Making something look effortless actually takes a lot of hard work and dedication in all aspects of your life. Also, it is hard to maintain proper ballet technique while still keeping your artistry.

Taylor Ciampi:To me the hardest part about being a ballerina is going through long rehearsal days and dealing with possible injuries. Ballet can be very harsh on your body and even when you are doing everything correctly (i.e. stretching, working on proper alignment, strengthening the necessary muscles) overuse-related injuries can still be a threat. So keeping a strong core and doing planks is definitely a must!

Gloria Benaglia:To be honest I can’t single out one thing that is the hardest because everything about ballet is quite hard. But if you love it and you’re passionate about it then everything becomes easier.

Taylor Ciampi


Team Zarely: Who are the role models for you and what would you ask them if you had such an opportunity?

Natasha Sheehan:I would ask Dorothée Gilbert, Danseuse Étoile de l’Opéra de Paris, how has she learned to dance with so much control and grace at the same time and how long did it take her to get where she is?

Taylor Ciampi:Since my training at Dutch National for the 2015-2016 year, I have become inspired by Maia Makhateli. She is absolutely amazing to watch not only on the stage, but in class as well. If I could ask Maia one question, I would ask her if she has any pre performance rituals that help her get ready. I also am very curious to know what she does outside the studio to help with her training. Cardio, light weights, aerobics, etc. I hope that one day I can inspire other dancers like Maia has inspired me.

Gloria Benaglia:And I would ask Iana Salenko and Uliana Lopatkina what or who was their inspiration and who was their favorite ballerina when they were students.

Team Zarely: As the matter of fact we can invite these magnificent prima ballerinas – Zarely Role Models – to our conversation! Iana, who was the ultimate inspiration for you?

Iana Salenko, Prima ballerina with Berlin State Ballet:My absolute inspiration was Sylvie Gulem and of course Maia Plesteskaya and Natalia Makarova. I remember that their grace and stage performances inspired me immensely to keep on working on my technique in the class.

Team Zarely: Maia, what would you say about your pre performance rituals and physical trainings you have outside the ballet class?

Maia Makhateli, Principal dancer with Dutch National Ballet:To be honest, I don’t really have any particular pre performance rituals. But I cannot overestimate the importance of all the preparation work that precedes the actual stage performance. It is essential that you know how to pace yourself, how to build strong endurance, how to stay true to yourself during rehearsals. Think of it this way: if you are working at 150% of your abilities everyday so then you are able to deliver 100% on the day of your performance. Basically on the day when I perform on stage I try to keep focused and relaxed and very excited to meet the public.

Outside the ballet class I also like to train but in a different way. I love yoga and I find it very beneficial and relaxing. And I also like jogging, swimming, doing jumping rope, cardio exercises and all kinds of strength exercises. Generally I am very active so I like any kind of physical activities. It is really the matter of finding what you enjoy the most.

I believe it is important is to be true to yourself first and foremost – keep on working hard on the career you chosen because you are lucky to be doing something you love. Set the goal and never give up!

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