Get to know the dancers! Our Q&A series continues with Ilaria Guerra, an alum of the Alonzo King LINES Ballet BFA Program who joined the company in 2018. Read on for fun tidbits such as her favorite book and food, as well as a deep dive into her journey from student to professional…
Ilaria, what is dance?
When the body, mind, and soul work as one, energy is created. That energy manifests itself as tiny vibrations or as explosions of movement. Either way, it is dance. Another way to put it is internal energy/light made external. There is a beat, a pulse, a rhythm, a wave to it, in that dance is also music.
What brought you to dance?
If you ask my mom she will say I was always moving. A few hours after I was born I was already trying to climb out of my incubator. I was put into movement classes around 3 years old in the form of rhythmic gymnastics. When I moved to the US I switched to regular gymnastics but soon realized that my body was not meant to be compressed in that way. I was encouraged to try ballet by an observant eye and started taking ballet classes at age 8-9ish. I was hooked instantly. It was finally in a place where my anxious, detailed driven mind found peace, form, and routine, and where my body felt at home but free at the same time.
You chose dance, why?
I have always been an apprehensive person. I worry about doing the right thing, I am hesitant to try new things, and I am especially wary of change. When I dance, I feel fearless. Dance is organic, natural, safe, like home; I am more able to be myself and not worry about outcomes when I am dancing. Because with dance we are ever-changing and ever-evolving. I can try new things, I can make mistakes, and I can experience newness and wonder every time I step in the studio or on stage. That is why I dance.
When did you know that this was what you were going to give your life to?
I have a clear and vivid memory of when I decided I was going to be a professional dancer. It was when someone told me I probably couldn’t. I like a challenge. To my impressionable 12-year-old brain, having someone tell me I was probably not going to be able to do what brought me so much joy and motivation and passion and drive, was just not acceptable. That was the first clue. I would say that it was in my Junior year in the BFA that I realized how much dancing really meant to me. My body had really changed into what it is now and it started to respond more to my push. I was able to go further, explore more, and not be afraid or timid. It was a blossoming. I know I could not live without it.
What kind of movement would you like to see in the world?
Movement that brings joy. Either to the viewer or the dancer, and preferably both. There is so much pain and suffering in the world that dance can help alleviate and enlighten. I would also say a move towards truth. It’s hard to even watch the news and the dishonesty they promote.
Do you have a favorite book?
One of my favorites is Dan Brown’s “Angels and Demons”
Is there a moment that you can share that changed your life?
Getting hired by LINES Ballet changed my life. It was a goal that I had been working towards for so long with so much rejection and struggle along the way. I had been working two jobs, both of which made me miserable. I was not happy dancing; I felt ignored, stifled, and belittled in the company I was previously with. I was about to even give away my artistic freedom to join Cirque du Soleil when I was given one more shot at auditioning for LINES. Being able to be a part of this family and create work with you has been my dream. When your dreams come true, they change your life. I think it also changed my outlook on my dancing and how I dance in general. It gave me the courage to be even more myself, to really soar.
Is there something invaluable that you would like to share that could help others?
I believe that you only get out of life what you put in it. It is up to us to nurture our dreams, our aspirations, our relationships, and make them work for us. I am a firm believer in hard work and never giving up. I know it sounds like a cliché but time and time again I have seen the power of perseverance manifest itself in the most extraordinary ways in my life and in those around me.
Were you born in Italy and do you have dual citizenship? When you compare the two cultures of Italy and America, what are the strong differences or similarities, and do you recognize the impact of two cultures informing your dancing?
I was born in Italy and moved to the US when I was 5 years old. I grew up in Palos Verdes Estates, California, a beautiful, suburban, upper-middle-class city with excellent schools. It was very different from the urban city of Torino where my parents grew up. They were used to having all types of social interactions right at their fingertips and a part of their daily life. They would see the neighbors on their walk to the grocery store, be on a first-name basis with the bartender of the local cafe, and be able to drop us off at grandmas down the street at any time. When we moved to America, we had no family in the US, we had to do a lot of driving to get anywhere, and the intimacy with our neighbors was not there, partly because of the cultural/language barriers. Through that, however, our family unit actually got a lot tighter since the 4 of all was all we had. I became a dual citizen 10 years ago and am proud of my “dual” heritage. I strive to embody the best parts of both cultures: the warm, welcoming, and passionate Italian part, and the driven, focused, and resilient American part. I would say that like in life, I try to embody these characteristics in my dancing. I have often wondered if I would have become a dancer had I stayed in Italy: was it my experiences that were unique to being in the US that was the driving force, or was dancing in me all along. The age-old question of nature vs. nurture, I guess.
If you could only eat three things what would they be?
Pasta, bread, and cheese. Very Italian.
BIO: Ilaria Guerra was born in Torino, Italy. At the age of five, she moved to Palos Verdes Estates, California where she trained in classical ballet at Lauridsen Ballet Center, performing with their pre-professional company, South Bay Ballet. Ilaria graduated Summa Cum Laude from the Alonzo King LINES Ballet BFA Program at Dominican University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance and a minor in Arts Management in 2013. She joined dawsondancesf under the direction of Gregory Dawson in 2013. With dawsondancesf she had the opportunity to perform in New York, Denver, Southern California, and all over the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2016, Ilaria received an Isadora Duncan Dance Award for Ensemble Performance. Ilaria joined LINES Ballet in 2018.
Photos: © RJ Muna
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