Mason dancer makes young debut on big stage

Juliana Discher | Staff Writer

For Alyssa Manguiat, life without ballet is pointe-less.

Ballet is not just a hobby or sport for junior Alyssa Manguiat. At 17 years old, it is becoming her career. Manguiat has already performed on the big stage, starring in The Nutcracker and King Arthur’s Camelot, both performed at the Aronoff Center. Manguiat said her training with the Cincinnati Ballet has allowed her to reach the next level.

“I’ve been in 26 shows all together with Cincinnati Ballet,” Manguiat said. “I dance in the academy there, so whenever the company needs younger people they ask me and others. My biggest role was playing Clara in The Nutcracker.”

Manguiat said playing Clara was special because it was the first time she was able to stand out in a show.

“It was really exciting, in eighth grade and freshman year I played Clara,” Manguiat said. “I loved that all those people at the Aronoff were watching me, especially a lot of my family that hadn’t seen me dance very much before. It’s hard to describe what it was like performing because it was really a blur, but the entire experience — the stage, the costumes, the dancing — was really unforgettable.”

In King Arthur’s Camelot,” Manguiat was a Lady of the Lake and said it was a unique and challenging role for her.

“I was a Lady of the Lake along with two other girls and we were on the shoulders of guys and wore a giant dress made out of two parachutes,” Manguiat said. “That was a different role because it wasn’t classical ballet and you could only use your upper body. It was a bit difficult because it was kind of restricting. That was (a) role where the other two performers were professionals.”

Training at the level of a professional ballerina requires a heavy time commitment. Manguiat said she trains six hours a day before a big performance and practices two and a half hours every day. The commute to her studio is thirty minutes.

“For my flex credit, I had to count up all the hours I have danced this semester alone and it was already over 200 hours,” Manguiat said. “People get that I dance, but I don’t think they get how much time I put it in or how important it is. I have to miss a lot of school.”

To help alleviate the stress of missing school, Manguiat said she is considering online schooling for her senior year.

“My academy is trying to start a new program where we would come in during the day so we would be able to work longer,” Manguiat said. “It is a professional company, so performers rehearse during the day since it is their job. I think it would change my experience as a performer because it would give insight on what it is actually like to be a professional dancer, which is what I want to do as a career. “

After Manguiat graduates high school, she said she she hopes to get a professional job right away.

“A dancer’s career is really short,” Manguiat said “You have to retire in your mid-thirties. Next year, I would start auditioning for different companies and try to get a job straight out of high school. I would also want to take online college courses as a back-up plan.”

Performing is physically challenging, and Manguiat said she is lucky to have not been injured before.

“Ballet is making your body do things it’s not supposed to do,” Manguiat said. “Nothing about ballet is natural; you’re standing on your toes. It’s really hard to get the stamina to make it through certain things, which is why we practice so much.”

According to LIVESTRONG, a 130-pound person burns 525 calories in a 90-minute ballet class, while a 150-pound person burns 600 calories in that same class. With the intense calorie burning, Manguiat said she takes advantage of it by eating whatever she desires.

“I eat a ton of food,” Manguiat said. “There is a stereotype that all ballet dancers are anorexic. There are some that are because there is a focus on body image. I think I have like five cupcakes on Fridays at school.”

Manguiat said she hopes to achieve her dream of becoming a professional.

“This summer I am going to Seattle to train at the Pacific Northwest Ballet and that’s a dream company,” Manguiat said. “Also, the Miami City Ballet in Florida is a dream for me. I am excited to see what the future holds.”