Patricia Delgado was 11 years old the first time she walked into the Miami City Ballet studios to take class. Her sister Jeanette was nine.
By the last half of high school, Patricia was driving almost 30 miles every day between Coral Reef High School and the Miami City Ballet studios on Miami Beach. She'd hit the road at lunch. She remembers that as a lonely time. She was in a rigorous international baccalaureate program, getting really good grades, and it felt very strange to her not to be going to college. Then she became a company member right out of high school, and she felt like she was doing exactly the right thing in exactly the right place.
That was almost 17 years ago. In the meantime, her sister Jeanette also joined the company. The Miami Herald recently called the Delgado sisters "the soul" of Miami City Ballet. Now, Patricia has decided it's time to move on and try some new things that weren't possible during years of demanding rehearsal and performance schedules and nursing injuries during the down time -- maybe even go to college.
Listen to our conversation above or read it below. Also below, see a video from one of Delgado's last rehearsals with Miami City Ballet.
PD: When I first was doing ballet at a Cuban local ballet school, my grandma was like, "You know, we gotta put the girls in dance." And there was no part of me that even imagined what a professional company would be like. But then I had joined the [Miami City Ballet] school, and I kind of would sit in the hallway and watch the company members rehearse. And, you know, I didn't even say "I want to be a dancer." I was like, "I want to be in this company." I wanted it. I remember really wanting to join this company.
And then Linda Villella, the director of the school, really encouraged me to go to summer programs in New York City. The best thing about those summers, I think, was seeing so many great dancers from all over United States or the world, who all wanted to go to New York to dance there. And I knew I wanted to come back to Miami. Like: I'm a Miami girl. I wanna go back to Miami City Ballet. It was very comforting to know that actually.
How did you know that?
PD: I'm very driven. I'm a very hard worker, and I know that about myself. But I like a supportive environment, and I don't necessarily think I do my best in that competitive, edgy vibe. And I knew something different down here. I knew that there was like a real supportive family vibe. I'm just very grateful that this existed down here. If it hadn't, I don't know -- I don't know if I would have pursued it.
Miami City Ballet has really become one of the great ballet companies in this country. The ascendance of the company has happened over the course of your time with it. What has that been like?
One of the things I think is the best about our company is our repertoire. When I first joined the company, we obviously had a lot of Balanchine and we had some Paul Taylor. But we didn't have much Robbins. We didn't have any Twyla Tharp. We hadn't really worked with choreographers of our time: Alexei Ratmansky and Liam Scarlett and Justin Peck. And the quality of our dancing changed. And even when we started doing Twyla Tharp's work, she came and worked with us. All these dimensions of our art form -- that wasn't what we were when the company started, but it's what we've become. I think that has been the most satisfying for me as an artist.
What was it like for you when the Arsht Center opened, and you started dancing on that stage? Before that, Miami City Ballet had been performing at the Jackie Gleason -- now the Fillmore Theater on Miami Beach.
You know, there are so many theaters in the world that people long to perform in. Like the Garnier, in Paris, and the State [New York State Theater at Lincoln Center in New York]. They have all these ghosts, they have all these incredible pasts. And it hit me that, like, we were going to be part of that legacy.
I feel like in general Miami has grown so much artistically from when I was a little girl to now, and it was such a turning point. And from the first performance we did there, it felt like home. I love performing in that theater. I get choked up.
You and Jeanette, your younger sister, have been dancing together since you guys were like nine and 11, right?
Nine and 11 here at Miami City Ballet, but since I was 5 and she was 3, and probably before that in our living room. I mean we've been dancing forever together (voice cracking).
What is it like to imagine that relationship changing?
I think we're both in denial (laughs). I think I'm still dancing because of her. No, I don't think, I know it. It's that unconditional love that you get from a sibling, a parent. If it wasn't words, if it wasn't a hug, it was just watching her dance that made me see the art form in a way that was so joyous and so free that it would snap me out of whatever challenge I was facing. It's sad. It's sad because we love being in the same city, we love dancing together, but I think she's very happy for the next chapter, and she wants me to be happy.
And your next chapter -- going to New York in part to be with your boyfriend Justin Peck. He's resident choreographer right now with New York City Ballet and one of the really most sought-after choreographers. What do you imagine for that time ... creatively? Do you imagine doing work together or just being able to like talk shop at the end of the day?
Both. I think it's been such a beautiful long distance relationship. You know, for four years we've really been able to do our own thing in our own cities. But I find as an artist, if you're not whole in your life, it's very hard to be whole in your art. And I could sense it taking a toll.
I actually look forward to not only working together, even if it means just kind of messing around in the studio for a project that he's working on at City Ballet or elsewhere, I think also just for me to figure out who I am in New York.
I remember when we did "Romeo and Juliet," [see photo in slide show above] just, I loved digging into the character, and maybe I should think about acting, you know, or maybe I want to do some film -- dancing on film. ... I could never imagine not going to college. You know, my family was like, "Your education is everything." And I would love to go back to school -- I've actually gone back to school, I'm taking some online courses.
I want to find a balance first. I would love to spend some years seeing how much my body can do, you know, seeing how creative I can be physically, and then also planting some seeds for what's next.