Arts & Culture

Breaking Boundaries in Ballet: A Conversation with Michelle Palatucci

Ballet is an art form that has been around for centuries, and it has evolved into two distinct styles: classical and contemporary ballet. Classical ballet is the traditional style that focuses on precise movements and poses, while contemporary ballet is a more modern approach that incorporates a wide range of styles and movements. 

Both styles require years of training, dedication, and practice to master, and few dancers are able to excel in both. One such dancer is Michelle Palatucci.

Michelle Palatucci is a highly skilled and accomplished professional dancer who has achieved mastery in both classical and contemporary ballet. Her training and performances have earned her numerous awards and recognition in the dance industry. 

Michelle’s journey in dance began in Sydney, Australia, where she first started her training. She was then accepted into the Joffrey Ballet School in New York City, where she completed their four-year pre-professional dance program. After graduating, Michelle took the dance industry by storm and quickly established herself as a rising star in the world of ballet.

Michelle’s talent and dedication to the art of dance have led to numerous awards and recognition throughout her career. She has been recognized by the Youth America Grand Prix, one of the world’s largest and most prestigious ballet competitions, where she was a finalist in both classical and contemporary ballet. Michelle has also been the recipient of the Outstanding Artistic Achievement Award from the Joffrey Ballet School.

Michelle’s proficiency in both classical and contemporary ballet has allowed her to perform with some of the most respected companies in the dance industry. She joined Flair Entertainment NYC in 2017 under the direction of Lily Cummings, where she performed original works around New York City. Michelle was then hired by BAVA Dance to perform at their debut performance at Bryant Park Contemporary Dance Performances in 2019, followed by numerous other performances with the company, including a show at the world-renowned Apollo Theater in New York City.

Michelle has also been featured in “Dance Academy,” a television show based on ballet dancers. Her appearance on the show highlights her talent and potential as a professional dancer, and her recognition in the industry continues to grow.

In this interview, we will delve deeper into Michelle’s training and performances, her approach to mastering both classical and contemporary ballet, and her advice to aspiring dancers who hope to achieve similar success. 

It’s wonderful to have you here, Michelle! We’d love to know what inspired you to pursue training in both classical and contemporary ballet and how you achieved mastery in both styles.

I started dancing at a very young age with a class that combined jazz and ballet. However, it wasn’t until later in my childhood, while performing the French can-can with my school, that I really fell in love with dance. At this stage, all I could think of was becoming a professional ballet dancer. Even though I was only enrolled in two ballet classes a week, I practiced every day after school.

As a teenager, I danced every day in all styles and even competed with advanced dancers internationally. This is where I found my niche in classical ballet and contemporary ballet. As a very technical dancer, I enjoyed expressing my movements through contemporary while executing them like a ballerina. This is how I achieved the mastery I have today as a professional dancer in both genres of classical and contemporary ballet.

Can you talk about the challenges you faced in transitioning between the two styles, and how did you overcome them?

As contemporary ballet is an extension of classical ballet, I personally did not face any major challenges when transitioning between the two styles. However, it’s important to know how to immerse yourself in both styles and when it’s appropriate to combine them. This comes with the correct training and mentoring throughout a dancer’s training and early years in a professional dance company.

How do you approach your technique differently when performing classical ballet versus contemporary ballet?

As a professional dancer, the level of demand in a performance depends on the specific production. 

For instance, if I’m performing a classical ballet like Swan Lake or Giselle, the level of demand is high as it requires me to fully dedicate myself to portraying the story or theme as requested by the choreographer. On the other hand, when performing a new original work in the style of classical ballet but with a contemporary (neo-classical) twist to it, the demand is also high as I have to apply my technique while changing it to fit the production’s requirements. 

Dancers are required to commit a lot of time and energy to perfect their technique and adapt to the needs of each performance, which is why the caliber is set so high.

What do you consider to be the most important skills and qualities for a dancer to possess in order to excel in both styles of ballet?

Aspiring dancers must possess a certain mindset to succeed in the industry. They need to approach classes, rehearsals, and performances with dedication and a willingness to strive for excellence. With the dance industry constantly expanding, versatility is key, and dancers must be trained in multiple styles to gain extensive knowledge and skills. 

This proficiency enables them to meet the varied demands of different choreographers and productions, increasing their chances of securing a position in a professional dance company.

Can you describe a particularly memorable performance that showcased your proficiency in both classical and contemporary ballet?

The most memorable performance I had was at the world-renowned Apollo Theater in New York City. Here, I performed a highly technical contemporary piece with BAVA Dance. 

The choreography incorporated many demanding skills that only professionally trained classical ballet dancers can execute. This helped me perform the contemporary piece to the expectations of a professional dance company and highlighted my proficiency in both classical and contemporary ballet.

How do you incorporate your own personal style and artistry into your performances of classical and contemporary ballet?

Personally, it took me a while to find my own style as a dancer. It wasn’t until my pre-professional training that I began to develop my own artistry. During my childhood, I mainly competed in dance competitions, which included prestigious ballet-only competitions. In those competitions, everything was given to us, and we were told exactly what emotion and facial expressions to show. 

Our artistry was chosen for us. However, transitioning into a professional dancer gave me the freedom to interpret dance works freely and develop my own unique style. Now, I am able to bring a high level of artistry to my performances.

What advice would you give to aspiring dancers who are interested in mastering both classical and contemporary ballet?

As a standard piece of advice, it’s important not to give up even when times get tough. Keeping personal motivation alive will benefit both the dancing and the mentality in the dance industry. Setting goals for oneself each week or month can help contain the perfectionism that dancers often put on themselves before it takes over their mindset and leads to burnout. The ultimate goal from the start is to achieve the most in one’s career. 

Additionally, allowing oneself as a dancer to fully embrace each genre is important. Don’t hold back because another style might execute similar movements differently. This is a defining moment in a dancer’s career when they can apply all the technical aspects from different genres together.

What are some upcoming projects or performances that you are excited about, and how will you be showcasing your skills in both classical and contemporary ballet?

I’m excited to expand my professional dancing career by performing in new projects with guest choreographers in New York City and around the US, as well as continuing my journey with the Pandora Ballet Company. Audition season is currently underway, and I plan to step out of my comfort zone and audition for companies that can help me become the best and most versatile dancer possible.