On Her Toes: Isabel Cary, Ballet Virginia. Photos by David Uhrin
In a tutu and pointe shoes, balancing on the tip of her toes, arms raised, poised posture, this is Isabel Cary en pointe. Along with her sparkling crown and bodice, Cary will gracefully dance on stage as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Snow Queen in Ballet Virginia’s 12th annual Nutcracker at Sandler Center for the Performing Arts Dec. 20–22. A Christmas classic full of winter wonder accompanied by Symphonicity’s orchestra, it will be the first time Ballet Virginia performs The Nutcracker with their new professional company of 10 dancers, including Cary.
Originally from San Luis Obispo, Calif., Cary took after her mom, a professional dancer, in pursuing her passion. “From a very young age I was always looking at old photos of her and old videos of her dancing, and so I loved it from the time I could walk,” Cary confesses. “I was always jumping around and putting on shows for my whole family.” There, she took lessons at Academy of Dance prior to her family moving to Barcelona, Spain, where she trained with eminent instructor Ion Beitia. At age 11, she was learning to speak Catalan in school while taking three-hour ballet classes followed by two hours of rehearsals, six days a week. “I fell in love with the discipline of it and how precise everything is,” she shares.
Cary attended North Carolina School of the Arts on a scholarship and graduated early from high school as a sophomore to dance with American Ballet Theatre in New York. As a 19-year-old with The Washington Ballet in D.C., she danced with acclaimed director Septime Webre. While trained classically, Cary learned more contemporary styles and has added affectations with her approach. “I trained a little bit in Russian style, a little bit in Balanchine, some Cecchetti. I’ve been all over the map,” she explains, “I’ve done a little bit of everything.”
During a routine tendu exercise, standing at the barre and bending in a plié, Cary tore through all of the ligaments in her knee. Four ensuing surgeries forced her to step aside from ballet for several years. “I actually really thought that I was done dancing at that point,” she admits. She did however meet her husband during her time at The Washington Ballet, whose service with the Navy brought them to Coastal Virginia.
An adult class at Ballet Virginia introduced Cary to Suzanne Lownsbury and Janina Michalski, co-artistic directors, choreographers and instructors, and prompted her to teach and accept a position with their new professional company. Cary adds, “Coming back, it just feels so nice. I had forgotten how much I loved being in a company and getting to dance and doing what I love, and this has brought me back to that.”
The magic will come alive during The Nutcracker, and with aspects that she believes the audience will be able to relate to. Cary says, “Dance doesn’t have to be this foreign thing. It can be very normal and natural. In reality, everyone dances at some point in their life…in some form, everyone dances.”
Making The Magic: Dancing is “when I feel the most like myself,” says Cary, who
stars alongside her Cavalier, Colin Jacob, in Ballet Virginia’s Nutcracker.
For Cary, ballet is where she belongs. “It’s when I feel the most like myself. I love that I can come into class every day and let everything in other parts of my life go for that little bit. It gives me time to focus,” she expresses. “It’s how I see the world and how the world makes sense to me.”