By Noriko Zaragoza

I am a classically trained ballet dancer, but I’ve had many opportunities to dance in different styles such as contemporary, modern, and jazz. My ballet studio back home, “Sasaki Mika Ballet Academy,” was wonderful and exposed me to many of these styles. They taught me to be diverse and that I would need to learn many different styles/techniques in order to be a successful dancer in today’s dance world.

San Diego Ballet has a wonderful connection with local jazz musicians and we collaborate with them every year. So far this season we have had a chance to bring back one of our favorite collaborators Gilbert Castellanos, San Diego’s hottest Latin Musician! This jazz ballet is difficult technically and it needs to be performed with a high level of understanding of both ballet and jazz technique. When I teach or help clean up choreography, there are a lot of movements that I can’t be described with words and I have demonstrate them in order to get the point across. It is also a different story when dancing on pointe and it can become very tricky. For example, you need to be able to transfer your weight on pointe to off pointe very quickly.

Dancing with a live Jazz band is very different compared to dancing with live orchestras. I believe it is harder to dance with jazz music than classical music. You can’t really listen to melodies and dance according to the musical phrases because it is not guaranteed that the band will play the same every single show. However, it’s fun and I get to play with different expressions every single night I go on stage, but can get confusing sometimes and it requires a strong ability to adapt, similar to the improvisation of the musicians.