BFW Stories: Get to Know Cincinnati Ballet’s Melissa Gelfin

Cincinnati Ballet‘s Principal dancer Melissa Gelfin spoke with BFW about inclusion, balance, and passion needed in the ballet world. Learn more about her thoughts here:  


BFW: When and how did you first fall in love with ballet?

MG: I grew up in Philadelphia, PA. I was the girl who wanted to play in the dirt, run around at the park, and scoffed at anything pink or glittery. My mom signed me up for ballet classes as a way to gain discipline, culture, and an artistic mindset. After participating in ballet classes for many years, and on the brink of quitting, I was lucky enough one winter season to see the Pennsylvania Ballet perform Nutcracker. As I watched the grand pas de deux for Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier I can still remember getting goosebumps, and I was hooked. I was wholly aware of what it meant to be a ballet dancer. What we work so hard for in class has a purpose. There’s strength and beauty and passion. I decided that night I wanted to be a professional ballet dancer and never ever looked back.


BFW: Tell us a little bit about your story in the world of ballet

MG: I began my training at the Metropolitan Ballet Academy and the Barbara Sandonato School of Ballet in Philadelphia, PA. I moved to New York City when I was 16 years old to train at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School for American Ballet Theatre. I spent two incredible years in New York immersed in a constant world of love and passion for this art form. I received my first contract with Orlando Ballet where I spent my first four years as a professional ballet dancer. I then joined Cincinnati Ballet where I currently am a principal dancer.



BFW: What is your favorite thing about dancing ballet?

MG: I have a few favorite things about dancing ballet. One of my favorite things about dancing ballet is the never-ending quest to conquer challenges and fears. This world of ballet is based on that perfect picture and we all know that perfection is unattainable. But we are here, every day, ready to push ourselves further than we have before, learn more than we knew yesterday, and constantly drive our bodies physically and emotionally to places we didn’t know existed. Another one of my favorite things is performing. Stepping on stage and sharing the joy and love of this artform with the audience is euphoric.


BFW: What is your favorite classical ballet?

MG: My favorite classical ballet I have had the privilege to perform is Romeo and Juliet. My favorite classical ballets I have yet to perform, but dream of doing, are Manon and Giselle.  


BFW: Who is your favorite dancer?

MG: I find influence and inspiration from so many dancers and choreographers today. It would be impossible for me to pick just one



BFW: What’s your favorite cross-training workout?

MG: I love to swim, take Pilates classes, and Gyrokinesis! I also love to work with the bosu ball for stability and balance.


BFW: What advice would you give to adult dancers just starting out in ballet and who have never been exposed to it?

MG: Firstly, I think it’s so wonderful to see people jumping into ballet who have never been exposed to it before. My one piece of advice would be to enjoy the discipline and artistry that ballet offers. Those are such beautiful aspects that can be enjoyed far beyond what the classes have to offer. It’s not about being perfect in a moment and comparing yourself to others. There’s beauty in what ballet can bring to your life beyond the walls of the studio.


BFW: What advice would you give to dancers returning after a long time who feel like they’re starting from square 1?

MG: Be patient with yourself, be kind to your body, and find strength and determination in any struggle that is presented to you.



BFW: What would you like to achieve next within the practice of ballet?

MG: Every day I want to make sure that I have taken something away from my hours of work. For me in this moment of my career, I am searching to push myself as far as I can each and every chance I get. Learning and growing as a dancer and also as a person. Finding that honest balance of human and dancer.


BFW: What do you think is next for ballet?

MG: My hope for what is next within the world of ballet is inclusion. Being a professional ballet dancer is highly elite. It is a very hard job to attain and even more difficult to maintain. But my dream is to open our world to the masses and educate all on what ballet really is; share the culture and beauty of this athletic art form. I hope to make ballet accessible for everyone to experience and enjoy. I want the world to understand how strong, how resilient, how passionate and how talented ballet dancers are. 



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