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The Secret Life of a Professional Ballerina: Exclusive Interview with Dancer Ivy Canapa

April 4, 2017 Jessica 0 Comments

A professional ballerina doesn’t live a “normal” life; she has a secret life that the average person only sees weakly portrayed in movies. Her reality is awakening before the sun rises, dancing until her muscles threaten to give out, and opting out of social events to make more time for practicing. In the secret life of a ballerina, specifically in her youth, ballet barres take the place of boyfriends, and self-discipline becomes a best friend. This is not the life most would choose, but those who do choose it are rewarded richly with breathtaking skill and an incredible ability to express emotions through dance – just ask Ivy Canapa. Better yet, watch her dance.

Ivy, a dance professor at Palm Beach Atlantic University, is no stranger to the secret life of a professional ballerina. She is intimately acquainted with sore muscles and bloody toes. More so, she is keenly accustomed to the uncomfortable-yet-beautiful process of uncovering raw emotional vulnerability during performances. None of this would she trade for anything.

Recently, we had a chance to interview Professor Canapa. Our goal was to understand this incredibly passionate dancer not just as a person, but as an artist. We succeeded.

Exclusive Interview with Dancer Ivy Canapa

13_IvyQ) Tell us a little bit about your dance education. Which of your teachers was most influential on you? Why?

A) The majority of my training was at the Atlanta Ballet. I’m thankful for the excellent training I was able to receive in a professional environment. However, the teacher that influenced me the most was one of the directors of the company I performed with (Ballet Magnificat). Jiri Sebastian Voborsky pushed me more than any instructor I ever had. There were evenings I would go home in tears, but those tears transformed me into a true artist. I can credit Atlanta Ballet and my other schools for making me a good technician, but I credit Ballet Magnificat for making me an artist.

Q) You were involved in a professional ballet company called Ballet Magnificat. At what age did Ballet Mag recruit you? How did they find you? How long did you dance with them?

A) I joined Ballet Magnificat at 18. They were kind enough to allow me to audition during the summer program, after they had already held auditions for the 2003-2004 season. One of the best things that ever happened to me was joining them that season. At 18, I was introduced to dancing for a purpose beyond simply performing. All of Ballet Mag’s pieces have deep passion and purpose. My six-and-a-half years there were incredibly fulfilling.

ivy canapaQ) Describe your first year of professional dancing. What aspect of it took you by surprise? Was it more intense than you expected?

A) My first year of professional dancing was more challenging than I expected. I was technically challenged, but as I mentioned before, I really had to push out of my comfort zone to be able express some of the deep emotions that were required by the pieces I was cast in. Being on my own for the first time was also challenging. All three of my roommates had been with the company for a year and helped me out. Thank God for them! I was still a little girl in so many ways.

Q) How many countries have you danced in? Which country/city was your favorite?

A) I have danced in eleven countries. Prague, Czech Republic was definitely one of my favorite cities because it’s so romantic! The architecture is breathtaking. I seriously considered going to school for art history in Prague. The city definitely left a mark on me. However, my favorite city was Jerusalem, Israel. Unexpectedly, as soon as I got there, it felt like home. So many of the people I met were friendly and family-oriented. Of course, not everyone was like that, but the main thing I appreciated was the authenticity of every person I met. It was actually difficult transitioning back to the USA after being in Israel, because U.S. culture felt so fake.

Q) Your favorite ballet you have ever danced is The Hiding Place. Tell us about it. Why is it your favorite?

A) The Hiding Place is based on the life of Corrie ten Boom. She was a Christian woman who lived during WWII and hid several Jewish people in her home. She and her family ended up getting caught by the Nazis, and her father and sister did not survive the concentration camps. After the war, she came face-to-face with the very person that executed her beloved sister, and she chose to forgive. In her latter years, she traveled the world, sharing her story and preaching forgiveness. Being a part of this story being told was one of the greatest honors of my life.

ivy canapa the hiding place ballet

“The Hiding Place.” Ivy is pictured in the front.

Q) You danced The Hiding Place in multiple countries. One of those countries is Israel. Tell us about that experience.

A) Dancing The Hiding Place in Israel was precious beyond comprehension and extremely humbling. Several of our audience members were holocaust survivors. It was intimidating being cast as a Jewish character portraying something that these unbelievably strong people had really been through. Our company was relieved to see that our audiences in Israel felt honored by our portrayal of the story, because that was our desire.

maxresdefaultQ) What is your most precious dance-related memory?

A) My most precious dance-related memory was captured when I was 18 at the Ballet Magnificat summer program. In the evenings, they would have “Creative Worship” nights where space was given for dancers to improv however they felt led. It felt so refreshing because I was used to being told exactly how to dance at my ballet schools. As I was dancing, I felt God’s joy as a Father who created me to move and express myself in freedom.

Q) In your perfect world, what does the future hold for you career-wise?

A) In my perfect world, I would have a beautiful balance of teaching and performing. It would be wonderful to be a part of (or to form) a touring company similar to Ballet Magnificat, but a bit more contemporary. I want to create more pieces in collaboration with musicians, poets, and other artists. I would also love to do more music videos.

Q) Last question: what is something you wish people understood about you as an artist?

A) Right now, I don’t feel there’s anything I wish others understood about me. However, I wish I understood myself in a greater capacity and saw the beauty of my artistry more. I have committed to growing in that area, and as I do, I know I’ll feel increasingly content.


Like a piece of cloth sewn snugly and permanently into a quilt, an ability and love for dance have been stitched into the deepest caverns of Miss Canapa’s heart. Such un-erasable passion gives talented dancers the fiery dedication it takes to become professional dancers. Ivy Canapa is a shining example of a person who submitted herself to the sometimes-painful process of becoming the dancer she was born to be, and came out golden.

Want to connect with Ivy? Email her at canapin@pba.edu. Also, feel free to leave a comment or question for her in the section below.

Read more Segmation featured-artist blog posts:

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See Personal Color Analysis (PCA) Through the Eyes of Color Analyst Cate Linden

How to Live an Artist’s Dream: a Tale of Two Brothers

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