Brittany Cavaco is ‘The Ballerina’
Brittany Cavaco is the ballerina. No, really. On Instagram, she is The Ballerina (@TheBallerina), and with over 200,000 followers of course. But beyond the Instagram handle, she is a stunning dancer, an inspiring role model, a hard worker and a spokesperson for being true to yourself and finding happiness in your body. The professional ballerina (she is a demi-soloist with Ballet Theatre of Maryland) is not only a performer; she is also a Pilates instructor and business student at Northeastern University. In addition, she is an ambassador for popular dancewear brand Só Dança. She certainly knows how to ‘wow’ a crowd.
Here, we get to know a little more about The Ballerina.
When and why did you start dancing?
“I started dancing at the age of three in Rhode Island. My mother was the one to encourage me to start dancing. She had always wanted to do ballet but never got the opportunity. In college, she had a poster of a ballet dancer on her wall and said that if she ever had a daughter, she would put her in ballet classes. I loved dancing from the moment I started, but the ballet technique did not come easy to me at first. I was not naturally flexible, I was extremely clumsy, and I loved to talk during ballet class, which was a big no-no!”
What was your dance training like? When did you realize you wanted to be a professional?
“I trained in the Russian Vagonova Method. I was blessed to train under the direction of Vera Kurmesheva and Zhanat Balidarin, who are two previous dancers and teachers at The Vagonova Academy. I had a very normal upbringing, and my parents were insistent on me getting a good education and going to college after high school. However, I couldn’t imagine my life without ballet and without dancing. At about age 14, I realized that if I wanted to be a professional dancer, it would take a lot of focus, commitment and dedication. I danced six days a week after school and worked privately with my teachers to help develop my technique and artistry. During my senior year, I applied to colleges as a nursing major, and I also auditioned for professional ballet training programs. My parents agreed to let me defer college for a year to continue my dance studies, and if I received a job offer in a ballet company I could continue dancing; if not, I had to go to college. During my first year in a professional training program, I developed a cyst that ended up bursting and tearing my calf right near audition season. My parents valued my commitment and determination to become a professional ballet dancer and allowed me to recover and train for another year before starting my professional career.”
Where are you dancing now?
“I am currently a Demi Soloist with Ballet Theatre of Maryland, as well as a freelance guest artist in my off-season.”
For you, what’s the most rewarding part about being a dancer? And what’s the hardest part?
“As cheesy as it sounds, waking up every day and being able to continually pursue my dreams and passions is endlessly fulfilling. I really love and live to perform. For me, the stage is where I feel the most at comfortable, the most free and yet the most vulnerable. It’s such a beautiful feeling being driven by the music and leaving every part of yourself, emotionally and physically, to the audience. I love learning a character or a role and divulging into it. I usually do a lot of research to see how other dancers from around the world interpreted the steps, emotion and character in order to develop my own personal qualities.
Another rewarding part about being a dancer is sharing my art form with people all around the world. I created my social media in hopes to expose ballet to people who would never have had interest or access to the art form. It is so amazing to have people both locally and internationally tell me that they went to go see their local ballet company, took a beginner ballet class or signed their children up for ballet all because they were inspired by my social media. This means the world to me!
The hardest part of being a dancer is staying optimistic and not overthinking. The perfection desired in this art form can make you go a little mad. Dancers can try to fixate over a small and seemingly simple step for months, and the feeling of failure when it isn’t executed right every time can be diminishing. If I had a bad rehearsal the day before, I do my best to stay optimistic and treat every day as a new chance.”
We hear you like to promote a notion of a healthy body image. Why is this important to you? Why do you think it’s important to be healthy and happy in your body?
“I think it is so important as a person of influence to promote a healthy body image to not only dancers but to every one of my followers. In today’s society, people, especially younger children and teens, are influenced by social media and advertisements that make them feel like their natural body is not good enough. This mentality breaks my heart. We instead should be embracing how incredible our bodies are, all that they do for us and how unique they are. Young dancers today have such a negative outlook on their body and the way they look. On social media, I often see young dancers have captions on their pictures like ‘I look fat here’, ‘Wish I was skinnier’, and ‘I’m not good, but…’, and this is something I want to change. As a person who has spent so long hating the body I was given, I want people of all body types, shapes and sizes to know that they are beautiful, and the way they were created should not limit them from anything they want to do. If I can help positively change the mindset of even one person about their body image, then all my efforts would be worth it.
With that said, I still think a healthy, balanced lifestyle is important. I think it is necessary that people eat balanced foods and find ways to incorporate exercise into their lives.”
Did you ever go through any hurdles to get to a healthy relationship with your body?
“I had a great relationship with my body image until I was 13, and was told that I needed to lose weight at a summer intensive. From that moment on, I began to constantly pick apart my body and became very ashamed of what I looked like. As my training progressed, I was met with multiple people who told me that my body was not a ballerina’s body, and this killed me inside. My parents were very big on nutrition and eating properly, so after being told I needed to lose weight, I felt very self shameful about eating. It was a constant back-and-forth struggle because good food is something I am very passionate about. Eating a tasty, balanced meal would make me really happy, but then the second I got into the ballet studio, I would instantly regret everything I ate. This developed into me constantly criticizing and picking apart my body. I would feel that I was not worthy to be a dancer because I was not the skinniest person in the room. It took away from my passion and love for the art form. When looking in the mirror during ballet class or rehearsal, I would look in disgust at parts of my body that I thought were not perfect or skinny enough instead of looking at my technique and what I needed to fix.
It was only in the last few years that I have been able to accept my body shape that I was blessed with and turn my main focus to my dancing. However, even today I get remarks on how my body is different. At a photoshoot a couple of months ago, in front of everyone, a woman announced that I am not a good representation for a ballet brand because of my natural body type. She said that no one would ever consider me to be a classical ballet dancer because I was too fat. In that moment, I felt embarrassed, ashamed and thought that she was right. After a lot of thought and reflection, I came to the conclusion that she was entitled to her opinions, but I wouldn’t let her opinions influence my career.”
You model for Só Dança. What do you like about the brand?
“Só Dança is truly one of the best companies I have ever had the privilege of being a part of. I had always known Só Dança to be a brand of quality. I have religiously worn their SD16 technique shoes and leotards for years because they were made of such great quality and because they looked great! When I got asked to model for Só Dança last summer, I was overjoyed that I not only got to wear products that I loved but also got to now represent them. When I arrived to the shoot, I was warmly greeted by everyone from the Só Dança family, and I was amazed at how quickly they made me feel a part of their company’s family. They are truly so genuine, so kind and all have such passion and love for their brand and customers.
This past May, I got the opportunity to go to Santiago Dominican Republic, where one of the Só Dança factories is located, with Só Dança representatives from all around the world. It was incredible to see the factory, how it is run and how each shoe, each leotard and every piece of dancewear was made. I talked with the factory workers, and I was so touched and proud to hear about their appreciation for Só Dança. The factory workers are compensated well, they are each personally trained, they are encouraged to continue their education, and, if needed, Só Dança will work with them to create a schedule that works with their schooling schedule. They also are given optional overtime if they want to make more money, and there seemed to be a lot of room for growth within the company. One of the shoemakers has been with the company for I believe over 15 years! He started out as a factory worker and grew within the company and is now an elite shoe designer.
I also got to see the upcoming collections, and they are stunning! I mean this with the utmost sincerity that they have designed some of the most beautiful leotards I have ever seen. I’m counting down the days until that collection’s released!
What are some of your favorite Só Dança products?
“Some of my favorite Só Dança products are the SD16 technique shoes, the SD40 pointe shoes and the fashion leotards! I love their technique shoes because they perfectly mold to your feet, are extremely comfortable and allow you to work through your feet with ease.
I have always struggled to find my magic pointe shoe. I probably have tried on almost every single style of pointe shoe from every major brand. For this reason, I was really surprised with how much I loved Só Dança’s SD40s. I did make a few small changes to make them perfectly custom to my feet; I lowered the vamp and box and made it V-shaped, cut down the sides and added a cup for my heel. The shoes fit like a glove, and my balance en pointe and my articulation of my feet in pointe shoes has really improved.”
What do you hope to be doing in the next five years?
“In the next five years, I have a lot of goals and ambitions. I hope to still be dancing and for a company that does amazing and diverse repertoire, and I would love to dance for a company in Europe at some point. I also hope to establish a Pilates-based exercise regimen for dancers and athletes to cross-train in. This method I am developing will help prevent injury, and promote strength and hopefully career longevity. In addition, I would like to create a leotard line that would feature leotard designs for dancers of all shapes and sizes.”
What advice do you have for aspiring dancers?
“My best words of advice for aspiring dancers would be to never give up and make sure to find balance in your life! I have had so many of my friends devote their whole life to ballet. There is no doubt that to make it as a professional ballet dancer, you need to work and train hard, but many dancers burn out if they do not have balance in their life. There is a lot of stress that comes with ballet, whether you are a student or professional. Having a great support group of friends, having hobbies and passions outside of ballet, and an optimistic outlook will help you stay healthy and allow you to be the best dancer you can be.
Remember, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but that doesn’t mean that their opinion is right. If you love something, if you are passionate about it and if you’ve worked hard for it, don’t ever give up. It may take time and the time frame may be different for each person, but I can promise you, if you give it your all and you never give up, you will get there!”
What do you like to do when not dancing?
“During my season when I am not dancing, my free time is usually filled with teaching and doing reformer Pilates, playing with my bunny and doing school work. I’m a Business Management and Marketing double major at Northeastern University. In my off-season, my free time is filled with doing photoshoots, traveling and dancing all over the world with my boyfriend, guesting for different ballet companies and schools, and eating a lot of ice cream!”
Follow Brittany Cavaco on Instagram:@TheBallerina. Só Dança products are available at your local dance retailer.
By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.