Crossroads: Meet Dancer Gabriela Gonzalez

Crossroads: Meet Dancer Gabriela Gonzalez

“Every day I learn something from watching my colleagues.”

A native of Mérida, Mexico, Gabriela Gonzalez joined SF Ballet’s corps de ballet in 2017. Her training began at Centro Estatal de Bellas Artes in her hometown, and her career has since landed her at Miami City Ballet, Balletto del Sud in Italy, and Tulsa Ballet.

Who are your favorite choreographers?
I love William Forsythe and Jiří Kylián. Also, while I’ve only worked with Justin Peck and Liam Scarlett once, I love their sensitivity to the music. They make steps that fit every single note; they listen to every single instrument. The way they make you move your body is just like the music. It’s sharp, slow, fast, or fluid.

Who are you favorite composers?
It’s hard to pick just one. I like Stravinsky and Philip Glass, but I also like a bit of everything.

What’s your favorite thing about being an SF Ballet Company member?
Everyone’s a beautiful artist here. During my first week, Arthur Pita was rehearsing Björk Ballet and he made us improv in front of everyone, one-by-one. I remember Joseph Walsh’s delicious movement. He was also roaring. My jaw dropped—I was so excited to see what I was getting into. Every day I learn something from watching my colleagues. Also, I love the artistic freedom we get to explore. That’s probably my favorite thing about dancing for SF Ballet.

How does being a professional ballerina differ from your idea of it when you were a child?
I didn’t think about how athletic ballet dancing is. You have to be so strong in order to make everything look effortless and beautiful. It’s even more athletic than some sports, the way we jam our joints – it’s intense. We look soft and delicate, but we’re super strong. We have to be.

What’s your favorite part of your day?
I’m a bunhead, so my favorite part is when I’m in class, in rehearsal, or in performance. When I’m dancing a lot, I’m happy. When I’m not dancing, I’m miserable and cranky. I need to be dancing.

Gabriela Gonzalez and Ulrik Birkkjaer in Peck’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming // © Erik Tomasson

What do you like about San Francisco?
People seem more accepting and open minded in San Francisco—you can go out in your pajamas and no one cares. Also, there is never a dull moment in this city. It’s very stimulating. In terms of my favorite places around the Bay Area, I especially like the Palace of Fine Arts, Dolores Park, and Sausalito. 

When did you begin your ballet training?
I started ballet when I was 5 years old, but it wasn’t until I was 7 that the serious training began. I’d also started swimming when I was 4, and eventually traveled all over Mexico to compete. My team would do triathlons, even. Sometimes I would be at the pool, take off my swimsuit and put on my leotard, and run to ballet class. It was hectic. I was a very active child.

I stopped swimming when I was 13 or 14. My ballet teacher said, “The musculature is different for each activity.” I had to pick between the two, so I picked ballet.

What other workouts do you do now?
I do cardio to strengthen my heart. I do weights for my legs, gyrotonics, and yoga. I do acupuncture and massages to recover. So, basically, I have no social life. When work is finished, it’s not actually finished.

How do you prepare your pointe shoes?
I like my pointe shoes pretty dead so they mold to my foot and I can articulate better. When they’re too new I feel like I’m wearing cereal boxes on my feet. When they’re dead and soft, I have more control.

What’s a must have item in your ballet bag?
A towel because I sweat a lot, especially in class, and headphones because I need to warm up to music.

What do you like about class?
Class is for me to get to know my body better, to get stronger, and to be in control.

What’s your favorite step?
Fondu. Personally, it reminds me of how I need to approach ballet technique. It has to be juicy and elastic, but also strong. It works the plie and the lengthening of the legs. Articulation, elasticity, lengthening – you need that for everything in dance, and it’s all in the fondu.

Header Image: Gabriela Gonzalez // © Erik Tomasson