Sabrina Lenzi, native of Rome, Italy and former principal dancer, was hand selected by renowned choreographer Stanton Welch to be the “répétiteur” for The Joffrey Ballet’s upcoming production of La Bayadère. (Learn more about the ballet here.)

Ms. Lenzi, tell us about yourself and how this shaped your dance journey to where you are today.
Sabrina Lenzi, Répétiteur
I was born in Rome, Italy and left Italy at 16 years old to pursue dancing. I eventually joined the Stuttgart Ballet in Germany for 11 years. After that, I worked with David Bintley at the Birmingham Royal Ballet as a principal dancer in London, where I met Stanton Welch. I got to dance some of the lead roles in his ballets including Powder. Later, Stanton was asked to be the Artistic Director of Houston Ballet and he had asked me to help him with Bayadère.
How does Stanton Welch’s La Bayadère differ from the original Petipa version?
Stanton has an amazing sense of musicality; his ability to hear music is incredible. In this version, Stanton layered the original choreography – making some of the choreography more technically difficult, especially the men’s variations and the corps. He also layered upon the first pas de deux with Nikiya, making it more romantic.
It’s interesting that Stanton has elaborated upon the dancing in the men’s sections. It seems to be aligned with the evolution of ballet in that during Petipa’s time, the man’s role was more to highlight and accentuate the women whereas now, male dancing is becoming more central – establishing more of a sense of equality in the ballets. Do you think this is accurate?
Yes I do think that he is creating a sense of equality in the roles and in the dancing. He added more steps and dancing in the male roles as well as increased the level of technicality in their dancing as well.
What is your favorite part of La Bayadère?
I love the Kingdom of the Shades in Act III. Other favorites are the first pas de deux and the temple scene with all of the ladies. It has such a wonderful energy and atmosphere.
What is the most technically difficult part in regards to either staging La Bayadère and/or the dancing itself?
In staging the ballet, the most difficult part is that it is a classic piece, but has a very specific style, which can be challenging to teach. For the dancer, they have to really become the character and not just “be” the character but build it from the beginning and follow through until the end. It is also challenging for the dancer to remain engaged in their role both technically and artistically from the beginning until the end. La Bayadère is truly an “endurance ballet.”
Our audiences may be curious to know more about the live snakes (yes, real snakes!) and other props that play a role in this production. Can you tell us more about this?
Joffrey dancers Amber Neumann and Temur Suluashvili rehearse with live snakes
This ballet is very exciting – it is a busy, lively production and there are lots of props including snakes. There is a snake handler in the ballet and we are working with a company to decide which ones to use (they are in the 3-5 foot range and in case you are wondering, they are not venomous and have been hand raised, phew!)
From the dancers’ point of view, it can be very challenging to work with all of the props. For instance, in the temple scene, the women dance with large jugs and are wearing veils. Everything needs to be staged carefully so that the scenes run seamlessly. Additionally, in the Kingdom of Shades scene, there is a large ramp with lights involved in the scene, which adds to the effect for the audience, but for the dancers, it is difficult to remain focused and balanced.
There is certainly a lot for audiences to see and enjoy- from the dancing to the props, scenery, costumes, and more! La Bayadère is being performed at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, October 16-27. Click here to purchase tickets.