Jessica Conniff was born in Staten Island, New York and began dancing at the age of 3. She started training at the Staten Island Ballet in 2006 at the age of 7. In 2011 she attended her first American Ballet Theatre Summer Intensive in New York. She spent her next few summers there on full scholarship and was accepted into the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre each year. She began her training at the JKO School under the direction of Franco DeVita in 2013. In 2016 she signed a contract to join Houston Ballet II and also attended the Houston Ballet Summer Intensive on full scholarship. She toured around the country performing various works and also performed corps de ballet roles with the main company. In 2017 she joined Charleston City Ballet. Jessica has had the privilege of performing world-renowned pieces like an original Alexei Ratmansky piece at the ABT 75th Anniversary Fall Gala, an excerpt from Giselle at the ABT 75th Anniversary Spring Gala, and she was an original cast member of Stanton Welch AM’s brand-new production of The Nutcracker in 2016. She has performed many classical and contemporary works by choreographers including George Balanchine, John Neumeier, Marius Petipa, Alexei Ratmansky, Ethan Stiefel, and Stanton Welch AM.
Who influenced you most to become the dancer you are today?
I have had the privilege of working with so many amazing teachers it’s hard to say that one person influenced me most. However, without the constant support, both financially and emotionally, from my parents and sisters I would definitely not be where I am today. Ellen Tharp, director of Staten Island Ballet, was my first ballet mentor and gave me the best foundation of technique and artistry to go from student to professional. While at the JKO School under direction of Franco DeVita I learned to push myself in order to get to the next level. Mr. DeVita is another mentor that influenced me and gave me the opportunity to experience life in a large professional company. Without him I would not be anywhere near the dancer I am today.
What was the funniest episode(s) you’ve experienced in your career?
One of the funniest moments of my career was during my first real performance on a big stage on pointe. I was 11 years old and had a solo with a lot of pirouettes. Everything went really well until I finished the last pirouette and my foot slipped and I landed in a full split. I had to lean forward laying on my stomach in order to roll back up to standing. This is definitely a moment I like to look back on and laugh about.
Who would you most like to share the stage with (living or dead)?
There are many people I would love to share the stage with however I think it would be amazing to get all the dancers I’ve performed with in different places over the years in one place and have a big performance.
What goes through your mind just before you perform?
Before a performance I’m very superstitious and always do the same makeup routine, check all my costumes, and think about the corrections we’ve been receiving for that particular ballet. Then right before I go on stage I take a deep breath, clear my mind, and prepare to let go and just enjoy being on stage.
What do you like/admire most about San Diego Ballet?
San Diego Ballet has a very welcoming and accepting environment. That is one thing I admire about the company. They give us time in class to push ourselves and make mistakes in order to improve. This is important because then your muscle memory is stronger which allows you to let go without losing technique on stage.