Watching The Nutcracker often sparked dreams of becoming a ballerina in many of us when we were young. However, as we grew up, most of us shifted our aspirations. Theresa Farrell, on the other hand, is living that childhood dream. Having danced since she was a child, Theresa developed a strong determination to pursue ballet professionally when she was just 14.

Currently holding the roles of Executive Director and Dancer at the American Contemporary Ballet, Theresa has been pivotal in shaping the vision and direction of the company from its inception. She delves into the mission and storytelling of the ACB, provides guidance to aspiring dancers, and shares her experiences performing in commercials and TV shows, such as appearances on Facebook and unique roles like dancing around a nose!

Name: Theresa Farrell, Executive Director & Dancer at the American Contemporary Ballet
Age: 33
Location: Los Angeles
Education: multiple ballet schools

What was your first job, and how did you land it?

My first job was pet sitting for my neighbor’s bunny! Growing up with a cherished golden retriever, my love for animals was well-known around the neighborhood.

How long have you been dancing? What got you interested in dance?

I’ve been dancing for 25 years! With boundless energy since birth, I’ve always been passionate about movement, even organizing my own shows as a child.

When did you know you wanted to pursue ballet as a career rather than just a hobby?

By the age of fourteen, I was certain that I wanted to pursue a career as a ballerina, performing in the style of Balanchine ballet.

You went to school for ballet. How did that prepare you for your current role?

Attending various ballet schools refined my dancing abilities, but it was seeking out exceptional mentors, reading extensively, and learning through observation that prepared me for founding and managing a ballet company. The journey involved a significant amount of trial and error.

Attending multiple ballet schools developed my dancing capabilities, but the knowledge and skills required for founding and managing a company were acquired through seeking mentors, extensive reading, and closely observing practices I aspired to adopt or change. The process also involved a substantial amount of experimentation.

When did you realize you wanted to start your ballet company instead of joining another one?

Meeting choreographer Lincoln Jones sparked a deep belief in his vision, compelling me to bring it to life. Any other career path seemed inconceivable next to this pursuit.

What was the process of launching the American Contemporary Ballet like?

Establishing ACB was a multifaceted process that had been envisioned for years before coming to fruition. My main role in this journey was, and still is, to assemble a team of individuals, from funders to artists to staff, who could collectively actualize our vision. Being a people person, I find immense joy in sharing my passion and building a strong team to propel the company forward.

How does ACB’s mission differ from other companies?

ACB’s primary aim is centered around producing and showcasing high-quality choreographic works that emphasize dance as a musical art form. Notably, ACB’s performances are accompanied exclusively by live music, a rare practice in contemporary times. Additionally, our unique presentation style involves presenting both original and classic ballets in a setting like no other, a skyscraper location with 360-degree views of L.A., offering audiences an immersive experience of ballet’s artistry and athleticism.

What is the most fulfilling part of your job?

My role at ACB involves being both a dancer and an Executive Director.

The pure exhilaration I feel while dancing is unparalleled. Losing myself in a new repertoire piece or a classic masterpiece elicits a deep sense of truly being alive.

As an Executive Director, the familial and communal bond I share with our dancers and patrons is incredibly rewarding. Whether it’s witnessing our audience’s enthusiasm after a performance, being backstage with the dancers pre-show, or experiencing the unwavering support people have shown for the company, the love and unity that envelop me daily are extremely rare.

What advice would you offer to aspiring dancers aiming for a career in dance?

Reviewing your dance performances on video is essential to ensure you are honest with yourself about your abilities. Avoid dedicating too much time to a “plan B” that it detracts from giving your best to your “plan A” – time is a finite resource.

You’ve participated in various ballets with ACB! Which were your favorites to be part of?

Each ballet performance at ACB is an exciting experience, and witnessing the growth of the company each season is truly exhilarating. However, if I had to choose, I would say Burlesque and Inferno are my favorites! In Inferno, set in Dante’s Hell, I’m transported to another realm when I perform. With three distinct roles, each challenging me in unique ways, the ballet pushes my boundaries. Meanwhile, Burlesque offers a role that combines swift footwork with a sensual flair, a character I thoroughly enjoy embodying. The music for both ballets, composed by Charles Wuorinen, provides an avant-garde sound akin to Stravinsky’s compositions. Notably, ACB’s inaugural score commission was for Burlesque.

Avoid dedicating too much time to a “plan B” that it detracts from giving your best to your “plan A” – time is a finite resource.

You’ve featured in ballet performances on TV shows and commercials! What was that experience like?

Moving from company performances to TV and commercial work introduced me to a different aspect of dance. Often, directors unfamiliar with the ballet world would focus on the emotional impact of a piece rather than specific movements. It’s been a thrilling journey, from doing pointe work on a kitchen table in a Facebook commercial to pirouetting on a helicopter pad for Fruit of the Loom’s Olympics spot. I’ve also had unique experiences dancing around a giant nose in a red unitard for Virgin Mobile and reenacting Abbey Road for a Rock Band commercial.

What’s next for ACB? What are your goals for the company?

Our future ambitions include launching an ACB school, expanding our performance season, and relocating to a larger venue to accommodate our growing audience and productions.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

“The world you desire can be won. It exists… It is real… It is possible… It’s yours.” —Ayn Rand

Theresa Farrell is The Everygirl…

Favorite workout playlist consists of…

Last book you read?
Book of Haikus by Jack Kerouac

Go to dinner spot?
The District — it’s located just below our studio.

Best way to relax after a long day?
Relaxation for me involves cooking and indulging in lengthy baths!

If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and why?
Suzanne Farrell — as a girl I dreamt of being her and she is the greatest ballerina I’ve ever seen.


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