WILLIAMSBURG — Thanks to a mom who wanted to live vicariously through her children, Sandra Balestracci was exposed to the world of dance and started on her journey to center stage.
Balestracci, a Williamsburg resident, has an unbridled passion for ballet. She’s been on the stage since the age of three and has never looked back. After training in the greater Boston area, she was encouraged by a teacher to head to New York City for an audition. That audition changed her life.
“I got a call from my teacher in Boston to tell me that there was an audition at Radio City Music Hall. They were looking for someone great at turns and leaps and jumps and so she called me and said “Sandra, I have an audition for you at the music hall”. I went there all prepared to go and I realized that there was a cattle call of 100 people. People kept coming out and they turned around and said “What are you doing here?” and I told them “I have a private audition” and so I went into the audition and the director and his assistant were there. He asked me to show him what I could do so I did. I was told that the director liked me very much but they had a few other auditions to look at and was told they would call me,” Balestracci said.
The call came a few days later, after Balestracci had gone home to Massachusetts.
Landing a spot as a principal soloist at Radio City at the age of 19, Balestracci moved to New York City and began her career. Throughout her time in New York City, Balestracci trained and danced alongside ballet greats and worked with some of the top choreographers of her time. Notable names include Debbie Allen, Agnes DeMille, Harriet Hoctor, and Peter Genaro. She never looked back.
“Everyone in my life had told me to go to New York and do not come back to New Bedford, Massachusetts, so I didn’t,” Balestracci said.
Balestracci even had the opportunity to dance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Dancing in a few shows a year at Radio City, Balestracci danced mostly for the New York City Opera ballet shows.
A particularly fond memory for Balestracci was receiving a citation from the president of Radio City Music Hall for her work depicting Charlie Chaplin. That citation was the first ever citation given in the 60-year history of Radio City Music Hall at the time.
Known for her infamous one hand lift, Balestracci wowed crowds of balletgoers as she performed in La Belle Helene in 1977. The show would ultimately tour the United States, and throughout her career, she performed in and toured the United States, Europe, and South America.
Only after years in the art form herself did Balestracci begin teaching the next generation of ballerinas. After opening the Eastern Virginia School of Performing Arts, Balestracci worked tirelessly to train her students in the art of classical ballet technique.
When it comes to kids interested in beginning ballet, Balestracci encourages proper training early on.
“In my teaching experience, I teach everyone as if they are going to be a professional dancer. I can see that some of them will not but I would not treat them any differently. In case they have a hidden talent and it might come out sometimes, they would work more for it than people who had the physical attributes. I’ve seen those people develop into pretty good dancers so I always gave everyone a chance,” Balestracci said.
Staying involved in the art form today, Balestracci is still called upon to critique, teach masterclasses, and more. She also finds time for another art-related hobby — creating decorative pointe shoes.
Overall, she never could have imagined all the success she had throughout her career on center stage.
“I never had to ask for a job. I was always in the right place at the right time. People are always looking for something different and your reputation got around really quickly. I was versatile and would do whatever was asked of me. I never said no to an opportunity that was in my favor,” Balestracci said.
For more information on Balestracci, visit evspa.org.