We caught up with 18 year old Angelina Barbosa on the phone one late January afternoon on her way to the studio from an audition. After taking a short break following the close of her last show, Angelina was back to work, auditioning for her next role but eager to answer a few questions and share her experiences with the next generation of Joffrey summer dance intensive students.
Rachel Neville Photography
Q and A with Joffrey Success Story Angelina Barbosa
Hustling from the dance studio to the audition and back again just in time for a phone call, Angelina talked fast – recovering from the nerves and excitement that accompanies every audition. But she graciously participated in our question and answer session and provided insight not only into what makes the Joffrey program so unique, but to what life as a new professional dancer is really like.
What was your experience with the Joffrey? What sessions, intensives or courses did you attend and for how long?
I attended the Jazz and Contemporary summer dance intensive for three weeks. Then, a year later, I joined the Joffrey Jazz and Contemporary trainee program. If you do the whole program it is four years, start to finish, and that’s what I did.
I started kind of young. At the time I started, the Joffrey program was mostly dancers 18 and up, with a couple of 18 year olds and mostly 20 year olds and up. I attended my first summer dance intensive when I was 13, and a year later began attending as a year round trainee when I was 14. The four years at Joffrey was basically my four years of high school. I stayed so that I could graduate at 17. After Joffrey I started auditions that summer as soon as I turned 18. And I mean, who doesn’t want to dance all day long?
I ended up being accepted as a year round trainee by trying out for the summer intensive. I was accepted into the Jazz and Contemporary and Ballet intensives, and both year-round trainee programs.
Joffrey Was the Perfect Door
What was your experience before attending one of Joffrey Ballet School’s programs or intensives?
Prior to being accepted into Joffrey, I was a “studio kid.” I am from New Jersey and as a kid I spent all my time at the dance studio when I wasn’t at school. Where I’m from in Jersey, dance is huge. I started at three and by the time I was in school I had a full studio life, attending public school and going back and forth to the studio every day.
By the time I was 11 or 12, I knew I wanted to pursue dance professionally. Joffrey was really my entrance to the life. If I hadn’t gone to Joffrey I’d be a different dancer: Joffrey was the perfect door.
During your time with Joffrey, what specific experiences stand out to you?
So I attended the summer intensive when I was 13. It was a year between that and attending the trainee program.
The intensive is obviously different than the trainee program. In the intensive they’re trying to pack a year of teaching into three weeks. So my experience that first summer was very fun and I learned a ton.
I stayed in the dorms during the intensive and it was my first time being in the city on my own. Being from New Jersey, I had only ever gone into the city on day trips with my family. The intensive was my first time living and being there for three weeks straight.
The intensive was a great introduction to my Joffrey trainee experience. It made me want to come back and attend the trainee program full time. It was really fast paced because it was such a short time. We had classes all day long and learned so much, so quickly.
Our showcase at the end was so much fun, too. I remember one choreographer, Bradley Shelver, was amazing and so intelligent about dance. I loved his piece. I was really happy when he ended up being my ballet teacher later in the program.
Another great instructor in the intensive was Candace Franklin. She’s a well known Jazz teacher, and is just a high energy, fun and sweet woman I’m so happy to still be in contact with, five years later. You can form such great relationships with the intensive instructors, and if you later decide you want to pursue dance professionally, those relationships are only going to help you.
What were your favorite classes or instructors and why?
I mentioned Candace and Bradley during my first intensive. During the trainee program they remained two of my favorites.
The trainee program actually changed while I was attending. I had Michael Blake, the previous Artistic Director, for the first two years.
Under him, the program was more modern-based, less emphasis on commercial dance. But he really focused on a lot of the basics dancers need to practice to get good at their craft.
One of my favorite teachers from that faculty was JoiLynn Hopkins. She taught a lot of classes: hip hop, street jazz, and jazz technique. She was a good mentor and I looked up to her for always being so genuine and kind.
Later the Artistic Directors changed. Angelica Stiskin became director my third year. She’s Joffrey’s current Artistic Director. With her came new faculty. I enjoyed meeting new teachers and making new connections.
Angelica made the program more well rounded with additional emphasis on the commercial aspects while still holding the foundation and basic technique: all the styles a well rounded dancer needs to succeed.
Out of all the schools I know of that have trainee programs, Joffrey is the only one that offers such a well rounded program to make you the best dancer possible.
As I went through I realized Joffrey was the only program where you can get such well rounded exposure to so many styles of dance.
That First Intensive Changed Me
Describe your experience during the summer dance intensive overall in terms of the dorm life, after hours activities, sightseeing, etc.? Do you have any favorite memories, friendships or relationships you developed?
I’ll be honest, it was scary at first and overwhelming, but also exciting to step into the city life, coming from a suburban or small town. I was completely immersed in the classes. After hours, I remember going out for ice cream with other girls at the dorms. We always went with an RA – you’re always supervised if you’re under 18, which is different from some of the other dance intensives offered in the city so it’s great even if you’re a bit younger..
Right away you really feel how in New York City, people are so busy and driven. They have places to go, things to do. It’s different than what I or the other students were used to. I feel that the experience of being a student in that first intensive changed me because before that, even though I’d been dancing for years, I had little knowledge of what it really took to succeed as a dancer. Not just as a dancer – but as a dancer in New York. It made me want to come back and continue to learn and grow.
In terms of friendships, I did make friends at that first intensive, even though I was a bit younger than some of the other students. I’m still good friends with another student now, five years later. She was from Jersey too, so after the intensive we met up. In fact, we kept seeing each other everywhere! I ended up becoming an assistant for a dance convention called Artists Simply Human (ASH) and she was there too. She helped me get that job and we’re still good friends today.
Dance is such a small community and those relationships are so important. She’s in college now at USC but when she’s home I’m sure we’ll still see each other.
What advice would you give to a young dancer considering a dance intensive?
Go for it! If you are able to go, showing up is half the battle.
A lot of people get intimidated walking into that first audition or class and it’s easy to be stressed in a room with others you think have more experience. It can hold you back and is scary because you’re putting yourself out there. But I would say go for it. Showing up is half the battle, and once you’re in the room, it’s up to you to try your hardest. You just have to get out of your own way. Everyone in the room wants you to succeed, especially the people that sit on the other side of the table. You can feel the love and support.
Auditioning or working with a higher level of instructor is not really as much about who is the best in the class as you might think. So just let yourself have the experience. At the end of the day it’s not about who’s first or up in the front, so just focus on you and let yourself become a better dancer. And most of all, have fun!
So what’s next for you, Angelina? You just had an audition this morning…
Well, I just finished the Radio City Christmas Spectacular and took a break. I went home and gave my body a break from doing 16 shows a week, and then 20 shows my last week. It was a super intense schedule and high intensity show so I had to take a short vacation. Now I’m back taking classes, working on my craft. It’s audition season during January and February so for the next little while I’ll be going to every audition I can and trying to find that next perfect role.
And last question: How do you like the life of a professional dancer?
You know, it’s never what you expect. Joffrey’s programs prepare you as much as possible to live this life by making you a versatile dancer capable of working anywhere. But there’s no security blanket. You’re going from job to job.
You’re always hustling and working so hard to get each job. But the dance community is great; we help each other out and we’re all devoted to our craft and passionate about it.
So I guess what I’d say is that it’s never what you expect, but it’s everything you want it to be. I do really love it and the fact that I get to do it as my job is amazing. Even if I have to do a side hustle, it’s okay because I’m living the life I want. It’s stressful but rewarding. And the best part is when you get that yes: that makes all the rejection and hard work worth it.
Dance Into Your Future With Joffrey!
Whether you dream of dancing professionally like Angelina or simply strive to become the best dancer you can be, a Joffrey summer dance intensive can help you take the next step toward your future. Register today to audition for one of Joffrey’s summer intensives in New York or across the United States!