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California Literary Review

5 Questions with San Francisco Ballet Dancer Nicole Ciapponi


5 Questions with San Francisco Ballet Dancer Nicole Ciapponi

Lynda Gutierrez and Cason McBride, David Herrera Performance Company

Nicole Ciapponi in Tomasson’s Giselle
©Erik Tomasson

Created in 1870, Coppelia is one of the oldest and most popular full-length ballets in constant production throughout the world. Curiously, though, it has not been a part of the San Francisco Ballet repertory. To remedy this, SFB is presenting this season the company premiere of the Balanchine/Danilova Coppelia. Recently, I had a chance to speak with a new SFB corps de ballet member Nicole Ciapponi about this ballet and her new status as a full-time company dancer.

California Literary Review: The company has a pretty long season with a varied repertoire. Last year you were a company trainee. What has changed for you now that you are officially in the corps? What is your biggest challenge?

Nicole Ciapponi: When I was a trainee with SFB, I had very difficult schedule. As trainees, we faced the challenge of performing both our own repertoire, and at the same time being heavily involved with the company’s repertoire — balancing two different schedules.

Since joining the company this past year, I have found it easier since I only have to manage one schedule. On the other hand, it is more physically demanding because we constantly have to change from one style to another and excel artistically at a professional level.

The biggest challenge I face everyday is always to be prepared and ready to do anything that is asked of me.

Coppelia is your first comic ballet. How do you find this different from the more dramatic ballets?

Although I enjoy dancing both dramatic and comedic ballets, the nice thing about dancing a comedy is that I can have a more light-hearted approach to my character.

You performed the “Friends” section at a showcase presentation in Canada. Has your approach to your part changed now that the choreography is integrated into a complete ballet?

In our showcase, we performed the “Friends” section as just a challenging technical dance, not as if we were portraying a character. Dancing the role as part of the entire ballet, there is the added responsibility of telling a story to the audience.

So far, what has been your favorite ballet this year to work on?

My favorite ballet to work this season (so far) was the William Forsythe The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude. This ballet really pushed my technique, plus it allowed me to present my personality on stage. It was truly amazing to have the opportunity to perform this piece and hope that I can perform it again in the near future.

Do you have a preferred dance style? Dream role? Choreographer wish list?

I don’t have a preferred style. I would say that I am open to all kinds of different movement in any style of dance. For me, the thrill of dancing is that I am challenged physically, technically, artistically — while always striving to reach perfection.

For a dream role, I would say Kitri in Don Quixote because this was the first full-length ballet I saw on video. Becoming the character of Kitri would be an exciting experience on stage.

As to choreographers I am fortunate that SFB has an exceptional artistic staff — one capable of creating world-class choreography in-house. As for choreographers outside of the company, SFB consistently brings in choreographers whose works I am particularly eager to learn.

San Francisco Ballet
Coppelia (Balanchine & Danilova/Delibes)
March 19–27, 2011
War Memorial Opera House

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Former dancer, Geri Jeter, has been editing and writing for over fifteen years, writing on dance, food, music, NASCAR, technical theater, and Italian-American culture. For the past five years, she was the dance critic for the Las Vegas Weekly; in 2007 Nevada Ballet Theatre presented her with the Above and Beyond award. Now living in San Francisco, Geri is excited about covering the entire scope of West Coast dance. You can read more of her dance writing at her blog Dance Blitz ( and follow her Las Vegas and San Francisco restaurant reviews at DishKebab (

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