Fresh from high school, Daniela Moya moved to the states five years ago to join Joffrey Ballet’s trainee program and move a step closer to her dreams of a professional ballet career. She joined PBT School’s Graduate Program in 2013 and since then joined the company on the Benedum stage for performances, including La Bayadère, The Nutcracker and Le Corsaire. Next time she takes the stage, it will be as a company member. Read on to get to know Daniela!
Started dancing at: 4 years old
Hometown: Mexico City, Mexico
Family: Parents and 17-year-old brother in Mexico City, plus “two adopted mutts – Moska and Kaya” here in Pittsburgh
Non-dance hobby: “Chill with my dogs and watch TV. I love going to the movies too (all-time favorites include the French film ” Untouchable” and anything Disney). I like painting and baking. I’m a dog lover.”
Favorite Restaurant: Eden. “I recently changed my diet – I’m vegan and gluten-free – so Eden is the place to go.”
Top-played song: Anything, but country.
Favorite Role to Date: “That’s a hard one. I love La Bayadère…But doing Serenade this year has (also) been a favorite so far. They’re even.”
Dream role: “Giselle. It’s one of my favorite ballets; I’m so excited to dance in it next season! I like in the beginning she’s this happy girl and in the end she needs to be so powerful. It just gives me chills.”
Pre-performance rituals: “I like to stretch out. I always ask someone to stretch my arabesque right before I go onstage.”
3 ballet bag staples: “I always have my makeup bag. I always have a roller, any kind, like a ball. And perfume.”
Go-to relaxation activity: “Couch potato (laughs). Go home, eat a good dinner, then just relax on my couch, maybe put my feet on ice, or a foot massage, and sleep it off.”
If I wasn’t a ballet dancer, I would be…“I really don’t know. I’ve always liked medicine – Maybe physical therapy or something with the human body. I really think ballet was my one thing.”
What was your eureka moment for pursuing ballet?
“All my life I always loved it. I would get punished, and it wouldn’t work until my mom would say, ‘You’re not going to ballet.’ And I would be like, ‘No, I am going to ballet. That’s out of the question.’ But “the moment:” It was in a summer intensive in London. I went to the Royal Academy of Dance. For the performance we were just waiting in the wings, getting ready, and – that adrenaline. There were all kinds of dancers, it was so diverse. I was like, ‘This is it. I really want to perform. This is so worth it.’ I went out and told my mom, ‘This is what I want to do.’”
How would you describe the rush of performing?
“It’s such a high. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s really fulfilling. You feel like everything is worth it in that specific moment.”
What makes all of the time, energy and hard work worth it? What keeps you going?
“Just dancing. When you enjoy what you’re doing…You actually go to work or school doing what you like. You know that in the end… I’m just going to dance for myself. When you get to that point nothing else matters and you’re happy.”
How did you first get into dance?
“I have a funny story. I had scoliosis, and my mom said, ‘I can take you to either ballet or gymnastics.’ (And, she thought), ballet will help her more. I just liked it I guess. Then, it became a thing to be better. One teacher told me I would never make it, and I was like, ‘Oh, I’ll show you (laughs).’ It was a place to escape. I went to a normal school, so it was my hour and a half of the day just for me, where I was happy.”
How do you get into the zone for a particularly challenging rehearsal or performance day?
“I make sure I have the right foods. I will always have my smoothies and make sure that I have energy for the whole day, drink a lot of water and just take an hour at a time if it’s a rehearsal day. If it’s a performance, I like to get my things ready, then go onstage and start warming up and don’t think about anything until I’m warm and ready.”
In three (or four) words, what does ballet mean to you?
“Happiness. Love. Joy. Fulfillment.”
Describe how you chose ballet as a career?
“It just makes sense. I don’t see myself doing anything else. Everybody else would say, ‘OK, we need a Plan B.’ And I was like, ‘No there’s only Plan A.’”
What is your personal goal for your first season as a pro?
“Just be in my best shape and keep improving. Sometimes being more artistic and sometimes being more technical and how you present yourself. I take every class trying to improve something different.
“I mean you go to class and have a mindset of, ‘OK. What I’m going to try to work today is to relax my shoulders and breathe more through my movement…or turn better today…and the next class obviously focused on the things you did before but more focused on how you present your feet…you’re working on your technique and your individual style. Then if you have a rehearsal, like Serenade for example, I’m thinking, I’m going to look here, and try to breathe in this part and smile in this part and make it more my own. ”
What is the most valuable lesson you took away from the PBT School Graduate Program?
“Patience and perseverance. What I learned most is just to be your own person and think about yourself in class. There’s so much going on out there, but you just need to be focused on what you want to do with you.”
What are you most looking forward to dancing in the 2016-2017 Season?
“Giselle of course. Giselle has always been in my top two favorite ballets – La Bayadère and Giselle. I got to do La Bayadère as a student and now my first company role is going to be Giselle in the corps, which is cool. That is exciting.”
See Daniela onstage in PBT’s free Ballet Under the Stars performance, Sunday, Aug. 21, at Hartwood Acres. And don’t miss her all-time favorite ballet, Giselle, Oct. 28-30, at the Benedum Center. Subscribe now to claim priority seating and save 20% over single ticket prices.
Top – Artist: Daniela Moya | Photo by: Rachel Neville
Bottom – Serenade | Choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust |Artists: Daniela Moya & Ryan Corbett (PBT School) | Photo by: Rich Sofranko